MAU Art & Design Glossary

Brush Cleaner (Japanese Painting/Watercolor Painting)


Hissen (Nihonga/Suisaiga)

A brush cleaner is a container used to wash paint and dirt from brushes for Japanese painting, watercolors, acrylic, and other water-based paints.

There are several types of brush cleaner available. They vary in capacity and portability, depending on what you require them for. When working indoors, you can wash many different types of brushes if you fill a household bucket full of water. Tabletop brush cleaners are generally divided into two or three sections. There are plastic and white ceramic versions available for Japanese painting brushes, but these are basically the same in terms of application. Sectioned cleaners can be divided up by warm colors and cold colors or by dirty water and clean water. Portable brush cleaners used for sketching are relatively compact and easy to carry, coming in fold-away plastic versions, plastic versions that can be dismantled (collapsible type), bellows-style fold-down versions (accordion type), and so on. If you are working in an area where water is not available, you can bring water along in a wide-mouthed bottle with a lid, for example, and the container does not have to be an art supply; you can use any container that holds water. It is important to use water that is as clean as possible in order to avoid soiling the paints. Therefore, replace the water in your brush cleaner when it gets dirty.

Brush cleaners are available for purchase at general art supply stores.


  • Plastic brush cleanerPlastic brush cleaner
  • A bucket for home use (L) and a ceramic brush cleaner (R)A bucket for home use (L) and a ceramic brush cleaner (R)
  • Portable brush cleanersPortable brush cleaners