New brushes say "Not for shellac or lacquer"

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Forum topic by RobinDobbie posted 05-29-2015 05:46 AM 5043 views 0 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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147 posts in 1975 days

05-29-2015 05:46 AM

I bought a 36 pack of foam brushes from Amazon thinking I could use em for just about anything. So, what’s the worst thing that could happen if I applied shellac or lacquer with these? Has anyone had experience with brushes that could only be used with certain solvents? I’ve got a project coming up that’s going to involve india ink, but I usually use oil-based polyurethane. From what I can tell, india ink is an alcohol-based product that supposedly has shellac in it. I believe shellac’s solvent is denatured alcohol, and polyurethane’s solvent is mineral spirits. According to wikipedia, lacquer’s solvents could be nitrocellulose, butyl acetate and xylene or toluene.

As an aside, the usual brushes I get from Home Depot do not stay glued when applying oil-based poly. After about 10-15 minutes the foam just slides right off the holder. I just applied about 30 square feet of poly tonight and the new brush held together just fine.

21 replies so far

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 4134 days

#1 posted 05-29-2015 06:22 AM

some people fail chemistry

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View mahdee's profile


4045 posts in 2008 days

#2 posted 05-29-2015 11:12 AM

I use the foam brushes to apply lacquer all the time despite the warning and never had a problem with it. They swell up a bit and can’t be reused since you have to use thinner to clean them. I sometimes use an office stapler to staple the foam to the plastic holder when using poly. Since lacquer melts into itself, the foam will begin to melt and come off in little balls when putting a second coat of lacquer on. So, better to used something else.


View altendky's profile


169 posts in 2450 days

#3 posted 05-29-2015 11:13 AM

I don’t know about these particular combinations but I would expect the worst thing would be the foam melting and goobering all over your project as part of the finish… I would guess noxious fumes would be an unlikely result simply because the warning isn’t more serious (use of the word danger, etc).

View RobinDobbie's profile


147 posts in 1975 days

#4 posted 05-29-2015 11:46 AM

I was thinking as cheap as these are, it’s not even worth the effort to try and reuse them. Even if solvents were free(and they’re not), considering these are 30 – 40 cents a piece, I figure it’s better to toss them. If they last one coat, perfect, because I’m not worried about a second coat. The only brush-saving techniques I think I’ll take advantage of in the future is to pour just the right amount of finish into a glass jar, then seal the brush in the jar between coats, handle and all. I guess if the solvents don’t melt the foam into the project but the pads start to come off, I can just staple them.

View Redoak49's profile


3744 posts in 2229 days

#5 posted 05-29-2015 11:46 AM

I use them for shellac all the time. If you use them too long they start to deteriorate.

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Fred Hargis

5242 posts in 2734 days

#6 posted 05-29-2015 11:49 AM

They dissolve the foam, leaving little globs of black in your finish…not worth the risk, IMHO. Buy some chip brushes and use them,. Better yet, for shellac, just buy one and use it over and over….don’t clean it, let it harden after use. Then before the next use suspend it in DNA or shellac for a few minutes, ti will soften right up and be ready for use.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View distrbd's profile


2252 posts in 2687 days

#7 posted 05-29-2015 12:40 PM

pure hog bristle brushes are the best in my opinion for applying shellac, I bought a 1” years ago,still have it and use it for shellac only and nothing else.paid $6 five years ago so approximately a dollar per year is not much .
It brushes shellac very evenly with practically no bubbles, cleaning it with household Ammonia after use is easy although I could just leave it in the shellac jar but I like the brush thoroughly cleaned after each use.

-- Ken from Ontario, Canada

View RobinDobbie's profile


147 posts in 1975 days

#8 posted 05-29-2015 12:47 PM

If I ever do get more bristle brushes, they will be of a good quality. Tried the $1-ish ones from HD and the bristles came off into the work immediately. I’ll keep hog bristle brushes in mind if I do a huge shellac project.

View johnstoneb's profile


3072 posts in 2413 days

#9 posted 05-29-2015 12:57 PM

The quality of the finish is in direct proportion to the quality of the brush used to apply it.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

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19628 posts in 2097 days

#10 posted 05-29-2015 01:03 PM

I have had no problem using these with shellac. It’s oil based poly that has unglued them, which there is not a warning for. Save the handles. Never know when you’ll need a small length of 1/2” dowel.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View BurlyBob's profile


6032 posts in 2506 days

#11 posted 05-29-2015 01:41 PM

Agree with a lot of these comments. Get the best you can and you’ll be happier in the long run. Also when you get ready to thro the foam brush away, rip the foam off and use that plastic tab end as a glue spreader. Works like a champ.

View RobinDobbie's profile


147 posts in 1975 days

#12 posted 05-29-2015 02:22 PM

Yeah, I save the dowels, but the ones I’ve collected so far aren’t standard sizes, and they’re not even round! I haven’t measured these new handles, yet. I’ll save them anyway, might be useful to make toys or whatever.

Never thought about using the plastic pieces as glue spreaders. I bought a couple of cheap silicone baster brushes for that purpose, but I still use my finger way more than I should. And I have about 3 of the little 1” foam brushes I use for glue, as well. They’re quite reuseable, only problem is they pick up little wood fibers that are impossible to get out. So once a glue brush, always a glue brush.

View PaulDoug's profile


1724 posts in 1944 days

#13 posted 05-29-2015 03:17 PM

The only thing I like the foam brushes for is to pull off the foam and use the plastic thing for a glue spreader. I’m a good brush fan.

-- “We all die. The goal isn't to live forever; the goal is to create something that will.” - Chuck Palahniuk

View bbasiaga's profile


1242 posts in 2235 days

#14 posted 05-29-2015 05:31 PM

I’ve gone over to mostly rags For applying finish. I tealize not every dinish can go on this way but i like it a lot better than brushes or foam pads when I can.


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View bobasaurus's profile


3549 posts in 3424 days

#15 posted 05-29-2015 05:40 PM

The polyurethane foam on those brushes will apparently dissolve in alcohol or lacquer thinner, but not mineral spirits. I use mine for oil finishes and they work great.

-- Allen, Colorado (Instagram @bobasaurus_woodworking)

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