When applying water-based finishes like Lifeline™, use brushes made from synthetic nylon/polyester, or blends of bristle and polyester. Ever since the industry started moving away from oil-based coatings, brush manufacturers have designed brushes specifically made for the application of water-based stains and clear coats. These brushes are durable, so they’re great for staining rough surfaces. They maintain their stiffness when exposed to water and are easy to clean. You don’t want to use a 100% natural bristle brush for applying a water-based coating, as natural bristles absorb water. You’ll end up with a limp brush that won’t work very well. Also, rough surfaces will quickly wear out a pure bristle brush. Since transparent stains are typically much less viscous than paints, if you use a normal paint brush, the brush won’t hold much product and you’ll end up having to constantly dip the brush after just a few strokes.
Some Features of Quality Brushes
Bristle Quality – As previously stated, choose brushes with bristles made specifically for applying water-based stains. Using less expensive all-purpose brushes will result in drips, runs, and other defects in the finish.
Bristle Retention – There is probably nothing more exasperating than trying to pick loose bristles off of a surface that you just finished. If the finish has dried, it becomes virtually impossible to remove them without removing some of the finish also.
Ergonomics – The brush will be in your hand for several hours at a time. An ill-designed handle will quickly become uncomfortable to hold and work with.
Threaded Handle – Some high quality brushes come with a removable threaded handle that can be removed and replaced with an extension pole. This comes in handy when working on high, hard-to-reach areas.
Choose the Correct Brush for the Job
Use the largest brush suitable for the surface you are coating. You’ll probably need small brushes for narrow surfaces like frames and trim, but when coating logs and siding, larger brushes carry more finish; there will be less dipping to refill the brush, and fewer strokes to cover the surface. Larger brushes also do a better job when back-brushing a surface that has had a finish applied with an airless sprayer.
Properly Using Your Brush
Never press too hard on your brush. Stains and topcoats should be applied with the tips of the brush, not the sides. Don’t try to load too much finish on your brush. A heavily loaded brush will result in more drips and runs. If your brush becomes messy, don’t be afraid to stop and occasionally wash it out. One of the advantages of using quality brushes is that they can be repeatedly washed without harming the brush. One tool that you may want to consider purchasing is a brush and roller spinner/dryer. It will quickly spin most of the water out of a brush after washing.
Care and Maintenance
If properly cleaned and maintained, a good quality brush will give you many years of good service. If you take a break even for just a few minutes, rinse your brush out with clean water and shake out the water. If you are through for the day, thoroughly wash your brush with a mild soap or detergent, shake or spin the water out and return the brush back into its original storage sleeve. Don’t just throw it into your tool box. You don’t want to pick up any contamination like small particles of steel and the sleeve will help retain the brush’s shape while it dries.