Brush Mate Review by a professional decorator

Updated May 27, 2024 | Posted May 8, 2020 | Product Reviews, Tools | 30 comments

A Brush Mate is a box you put your oil-based paintbrushes in to stop them going hard. They come in two different sizes, a Brush Mate 20 is the biggest one and can hold up to 20 paintbrushes. The other size is a Brush Mate 4 which can hold up to, you guessed it, 4 paintbrushes. As a professional decorator I use both sizes of brush mate and have for many years. You can buy these products online, click here to see latest prices. This is my Brush Mate review.

 

The Old way to Store your Paintbrush

 

A Brush Mate is quite an expensive bit of kit, so when I first started out on my own, I made do without one. The alternative “old-school” method of keeping your oil-based brushes in good nick in between jobs is to throw them in a pot with just enough water to cover the bristles. If you want to save a few quid, this might still be a viable option, but it does come with a few drawbacks.

First off, you will have to clean your brushes every time you use them anyway, simply to get all the water out. Oil-based paint floats on water and clogs up the ferrule of your brush too. Oh, and your brush will rust after a short space of time. If you leave them for any length of time, the water will evaporate, and your brushes will go hard. The last thing, any time you moved your pot of water and brushes, the water would spill all over the van. Thinking about it now, those days were hell! So messy! The Brush Mate is a Godsend and easily the best way to stop your paint brushes going hard.

 

Bring on the Brush Mate Review!!

 

It was like a revelation when I bought my first Brush Mate!! It does take up a bit of space in my van, but my brushes are kept in perfect condition in between jobs. The only two things you need to remember are; keep the bottle of Brush Mate fluid topped up (if you want to save a few quid you can use thinners), and don’t sit on your Brush Mate!! If you do sit on it, you’ll bend the lid and the seal won’t be air tight any more. They’ve switched back to metal lids which are a lot more robust than the plastic ones.

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There are a couple of other drawbacks as well. You hang your brushes on metal hooks inside your Brush Mate, however they will fall off from time to time in transit. This is an absolute pain in the backside and you end up having to fish your favorite brush out of a sloppy horrible mess at the bottom. The only other issue is the paint brushes tend to touch each other when the box is full, so it’s no good if you keep different colours in one box.

It feels as though I’m being too negative which is unjust because I genuinely believe the Brush Mate to be brilliant!! They are well made, last an age and keep your oil-based paint brushes in amazing condition without the need to clean them. We are a two-man decorating team and I have 3 brush mates. One for white brushes, one for colours and a small one for my stain and varnish brushes.

You’re looking at around £100 for the Brush Mate 20 and £20 for the smaller one. You can pick these up from almost any trade paint counter, but it may be cheaper to buy Brush Mate products online. Click here to see online prices.

 

Review Summary

Brush Mate Review by a professional decorator - Decorator's forum UK

A storage box used to keep paint brushes after applying oil-based paint. The brushes stay soft until you next use them.

Product Brand: Brush Mate

Editor's Rating:
4.3

Pros

  • Neat and tidy.
  • Saves you cleaning your brushes after every use.
  • Genuinely regarded as the best solution.

Cons

  • Sometimes they make changes to the Brush Mate Fluid, and it stops work as well for a period. They then rectify the issue.
  • People are switching to water-based nowadays.
  • Brushes can fall off the hooks in the box and make a mess. This is only really a problem in transit.

What do Other Decorators Think?

Brush mate boxes are great to keep your oil-based brushes in. Most of my paint is water-based now, so I’ve gone from three brush mates down to one. It isn’t ideal keeping more than one coloured brush in a box as the paint runs from each brush and can contaminate the others. Still, it’s a lot better than the old way of keeping your brush in water.

Kelly

Professional Decorator

When brush mates came out; I remember scoffing at them. I’d kept my oil-based brushes in water up until that point, why would I spend big money on a box that does the same thing? Then I bought one, and realised how good it was, but couldn’t work out why they are so expensive.

They’re essentially a metal box with an airtight lid. I could only think that someone had been very clever, put together a simple solution, patented the idea, and are now sitting back getting rich of it.

That might still be the case, but the point remains; a brush mate is the best solution for keeping oil-based brushes after use. Nothing else comes close! When you look at it like that you can’t really argue against it.

Alan Marks

Professional Decorator

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A brush mate does everything you need it to do. No way it costs fifty notes to manufacture though. Someone has made a serious amount of money off the back of that invention.

Ste Whittam

Professional Decorator

The new brush mate buckets are good. There’s a clamp than goes around the bucket to protect the seal. I reckon you could leave we brushes in one of those for a thousand years and they’d still be fresh when you opened it.

Mike Ryan

Professional Decorator

Updated May 27, 2024 | Posted May 8, 2020 | 30 comments

About the Author

About the Author

Mike Gregory is a Professional Painter and Decorator who works in the Northwest of England. He mainly sub-contracts for large decorating firms and works on a wide variety of projects.

30 Comments

  1. Dermot O Callaghan

    The brush box is a brilliant tool for any decorator, only downside was when they introduced the orange plastic lid for the big box, it never sealed the vapour in and you end up buying a lot more of the fluid, I’ve had 3 over the last 20 odd years and bought 2 plastic lids (throwing my metal lids away) but I have now bought 2 metal ones again and thrown the plastic ones away, expensive mistake…

    Reply
    • Sarah

      Just wish they’d make the brush mate boxes taller to accommodate the longer brushes-

      Reply
  2. Gary

    Handy when i used to sub on council redecs , used the small one with probably 2 or 3 brushes at most. Saved a lot of time cleaning up.Sits empty now as ive gone over to solely domestics and waterbased.

    Reply
  3. Steve

    Is that discount code for all products and what is the percentage

    Reply
    • Mike Cupit

      Hi Steve. The discount is 8% but it doesn’t work for any of the sanders or sprayers

      Reply
    • MR MARK A CRUICKSHANK

      Unfortunately brush mate is now so weak, all my brushes start to go hard… most infuriating!!

      So now instead of saving me time and money it is now costing me time and money!!
      Brush goes hard, try to clean it in white spirit, can’t get all the bits out, oil paint now full pf bits, sand down again, clean brush again paint again and still effing bits in the paint!!
      Get a brand new brush and after one use same thing starts to happen again!
      I understand they probably need to become more environmentally friendly but now it’s become a pointless product! Back to watet unfortunately!

      Reply
      • PAUL RAINE

        used to be excellent , but now brushes going hard after about a week , the formula must have been changed.

        Reply
  4. Dave Fegan

    Your using your brush box wrong do not leave your brush box in your car or vans it tends to explode inside leaving a mess at the bottom of your box get a metal lid for it as this will keep the box tightly sealed use the correct fluid as this does last slot longer than substitutes get an empty plastic box ie a used washed out butter box or a small Tupperware box and keep your rad rollers in it if you use this method your fluid will last you about six months and you wont have all that gunch in the bottom

    Reply
  5. Robert james

    My brushes went hard as nails in mine lost a lot of money so no to brushmate waste of money

    Reply
    • Tony - Corona

      Hi,
      If your brushes have gone hard, rub some of the brush mate fluid onto the hard’nd paint and leave in your brush mate.
      After a while the hard paint will soften and you will be able to clean up with warm soapy water and a brush comb.

      Reply
      • Stewart

        I have this problem now for the last year in fault finding at the minute my brushes are going hard after 3 to 4 days .I’ve serviced them new pads and fluid I’m stuck at the moment I don’t no what to do . Do I go back to staggy water lol. Is they a customer service number for brush mate as I have two boxes and in both brushes are going hard. Need help I’m going crazy

        Reply
        • Daz

          I’ve now given up with the brush mate system and gone back to good old stinky water
          I’ve spent a fortune on new fluid service kits the whole lot nothing seems to work with the modern oil based paints

          Reply
          • Nick

            Think it’s down to changing fluid formula. Make sure you buy old bottles. On eBay

  6. Phil

    Have 2 x 4 brush boxes & 1 x 20,
    Agree about the plastic lids, better seal with metal.
    Full clean out every Christmas leaves them ready for the season.

    Reply
  7. Joe

    I have the same Brush Mate box for the last 20 years and it never lets me down great bit of kit.

    Reply
  8. Will

    The design of paintbrush handles has changed over the years, Brush Mate metal clips have not. I have brought this issue up with them several times and always get fobbed off. It is now 2020 Brush Mate.

    Reply
  9. mark Gooch

    Hi All
    Just wondering if any decorators have had problems with some of there brushes going a bit hard in there mate, my mate is always topped up with fluid, metal lid, sealed well not left in sun at all. For many years it was fine it seems since some of the paint formulas have change it do not affect all brushes. These do soften up once clean out a bit with white sprite.
    My brushes are all good makes.

    Reply
    • Tony Corona

      Hello Mark, You are right paints have changed, the trade did not like the early waterbased paints. They had to work quicker and they were less forgiving. They also hung onto the old natural bristle brushes, which absorbed moisture and become mop like in time. To over come this some pain manufacturers added an alkyd to some products. These were more forgiving, however alkyds are vegetable resins for the great part and will not necessarily wash out with water so every couple of weeks a white spirit or propriety brush cleaner will return them to better usages.

      Reply
  10. Miles Newby

    So pleased to find this forum and losing patience with my trusty brushmate. I agree with the leaky plastic lids were a mistake, invited you to sit on them and all to allow more vapour to escape.I bought a new plastic lid and made sure it was not sat on or had anything stacked on it.It duly warped on its own ( possibly vapour attack from inside) so replaced lid again with a metal one, and now use masking tape too for good measure.Seems to working better.
    The vapour fluid by the way is an anti-skinning agent added to new paint and besides being expensive is not as efficient as it was pre-legislation.

    Reply
  11. James evans

    The new fluid does not work unfortunately brushes are now going hard, all of us on site have gone back to storing in water

    Reply
  12. Oral Angus

    Been to Brewers today to get some fluid for my box. None in stock was told there has been a recall as the fluid is contaminated. Could not understand why my brushes and rollers were going off within three days of not using them and I started blaming all these paint companies. I do not think the fluid is as good as it was before. Had to chuck a lot of rollers and have loads of brushes that have gone hard.

    Reply
  13. Pascal

    This reads like a review from about 10 years ago because that’s exactly how I felt about Brush Mate back then. I loved it and it used to be one of my go-to brands, like a religion for my trade! Recently though, especially the last 2 or 3 years, I’ve stopped using it because what can I say… It just doesn’t work any more. I assume it’s because of VOC rules changing or maybe it’s just cost cutting. I know several deccys feel exactly the same and even some have raised complaints with the company, which I may do myself. Really hope they get this sorted because it was an indispensable product a few years ago.

    Reply
  14. Joe Gibvs

    Like others have said … The last year or so this product has basically stopped working. Simple as that. I guess something to do with a change in the chemical. I have given up using it to be honest. Really hope they get it sorted because it used to be a staple of my tool set.

    Reply
  15. Paul Smith

    Yes something has changed , I had to throw out a microfibre roller yesterday, I had used it in Dulux satinwood on the Friday before , now it’s gone hard. The brushes I used in the satinwood I managed to save. All the other brushes in the box , in crown paints were all fine. I was using the old brush mate fluid. Is the new one better?

    Reply
  16. Zammo

    Had a brush box for over 25 years…
    Metal lid etc works fine n dandy.
    Untill now just b4 crimbo spun out my brushes fresh n ready to go…
    Full service pack aswell!
    All my brushes were like a brick wall…
    The fluid formula no longer works.
    Gone back to water

    Reply
  17. Zammo

    The fluid has stopped working.
    No reply from brush mate….?
    After 25 plus years gone back to water.

    Reply
  18. Zammo

    I’ve gone back to using water (sadly)
    For the first time in 30 years.
    The new fluid formula is useless

    Reply
    • B

      My 30 yea old b/m with metal lid, no probs until last couple of years, new service pack and fluid, brushes I`d used in Dulux Weathershield were going hard in days, contacted Brushmate, sent me a new b/m box and fluid/ pads to make up for the half dozen brushes I had to throw out, same thing happened, got `new formula` from Dulux decorator centre, same thing happened again. They have taken anti skinning agent out of fluid, due to legislation so it is basically useless. Back to putting brushes in polythene bags and water after 30+ of `progress`.

      Reply
  19. S Cranenburgh

    Used to be a great product but the fluid has been changed for health and safety reasons. It used to contain what they called Miso. It’s short for something.
    Brushes now go hard in just two days. I still use it but now I wash brushes in white spirit first. If I didn’t have one, I wouldn’t bother. I’d just use the old school water system.

    Reply
  20. Dave

    New fluid is the problem, brushes OK till I used New formula

    Reply

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