I have a confession to make: I’m rubbish at cleaning my brushes. I never wash them with anything more than water and if they start drying up, I’m quick to relegate them to drybrushing, basecoating or glue spreading. I’m sure I’m not the only guilty one – you probably have a few of those brushes that you really, really used to like, but which are all but useless as they’re clogged up with old paint. Every now and then (once every six years or so) I get the idea of trying to revive my old brushes, dunk them in turpentine for very little result, gag at the stench and eventually chuck the old brushes in the bin.
On one forum or another I ran into a product called Zest-it. It was labeled “Acrylic Brush Cleaner and Reviver”, and piqued my interest, especially as a lot of positive things were said about it. Why not, I thought, and put in an order for a small, 125ml bottle.
In a week or so, a plastic bottle filled with clear, yellowish liquid arrived, and a trip to our summer cottage (hence the phone camera photos) provided me with some extra time to try it out. I chose an em-4 synthetic brush, that I had been using for a year or two, subjecting it to some pretty harsh conditions as it has been my go-to brush for basecoating, inking/washing large surfaces and painting sandy bases. As a result of this loving treatment, the brush was clogged with dry paint from the ferrule up, leaving only a few millimetres at the very end pliable. In other words, it had one foot in the brush grave already.
I poured out some Zest-it into a glass jar, and was surprised with its fairly pleasant odour. Zest-it is made out of orange terpenes, making it basically a sort of orange turpentine. While it’s not something you’d want to spread around your room as a refresher, it’s far more pleasant than turpentine or mineral spirits.
I started by simply sloshing the brush around in the liquid for a while. Sadly, this did nothing – either more time was needed or I’d bought something completely useless. Hoping for the former, I built a high-tech brush cleaning setup from masking tape, allowing me to submerge the whole of the bristles in Zest-it without crushing them against the bottom of the jar:
An hour or so later, I removed the brush and wiped it on a piece of tissue paper. I was happily surprised to see streaks of black paint left behind, so proceeded to wash the brush with shampoo and warm water. There was significant progress, as half of the brush had gone from stiff-dry to soft and pliable. Encouraged by this, I left it in Zest-it overnight. Here’s the result:
As you can see, the difference is huge. While any semblance of a sharp tip is long lost, 24 hours ago this was a brush on the verge of being thrown out, basically a lump of dry paint, and now it looks like it will serve for another year or two. Based on this small sample, I can say with conviction that Zest-it works and is well worth its price, especially if you have a lot of old dead and nearly dead brushes. As a disclaimer, I haven’t yet tried it on non-synthetic brushes, and will amend this review if there’s a big difference.
I bought mine through Amazon UK, and the 125ml bottle which should last me a while was a little under £7. Larger quantities are much cheaper per litre, but I wanted a small bottle to test the product. Do note that there are several different Zest-it products, so be sure to choose the one for acrylic paints.
Overall verdict: Zest-it Acrylic Brush Cleaner and Reviver is very useful for the miniature painter and you get good value for your money. It revived a brush that I thought was long gone, and I assume it will save me plenty of money in the future in terms of getting more service out of my brushes.
For more information, you can visit the manufacturer’s site.