Reviewing paint brushes would normally be very subjective, all painters have their own preferences for different aspects of a good brush. But Eco Union needs to be included here simply because it's the only really environmentaly friendly brush on the UK market. And their eco credentials are very good with sustainably sourced handles and recycled bristles and steel ferrule. Everything about the bruses is eco even down to the packaging and inks.
So what that means is, if you want to use eco friendly brushes, this is your only option. Therefore, we need to know how well Eco Union brushes are going to work and if they can compete with the quality of the main brands some of us are using. In all honesty, it's not really fair to compare them side by side but what I wanted to do was decide for myself, if I would be able to use these brushes for most of my work even if I had to revert to other brands for specific tasks.
So, for me to want to use them there are a few things that I would be looking for in a brush, aside from the eco part, and I will look at each in turn.
A few years ago I bought a couple of Eco Ezee (the recent ancestors of Eco Union) brushes to try and at that time I must admit I wasn't impressed so I gave up on them for a while. Clearly the manufacturer has done a lot of work on improving the design and listening to feedback and Eco Union brushes are a significant improvement in many ways.
What we need to remember is that, in order to make these brushes eco friendly, there are going to be compromises because the manufacturer isn't able to utilise the new components and construction materials that other makers use. Recycled bristles may never be as perfect or resilient as new ones but the question is, in spite of looking a little untidy after a few washes, do they still do the job?
They certainly don't shed the way they did before and I have only had a couple of bristles drop out in the wash.
It may be that over the last few years, I have changed the way I paint and now prefer a much softer brush than I liked before. So now these Eco Union brushes suit me better - I'm not sure if they have changed them to be a little firmer but I like the way they flex now. I also felt they were too springy before which meant the occasional drop of paint flying off in the wrong direction, but that also feels different and doesn't feel like it will be a problem. Most excellent!
This new range includes the MIB and Pro brushes. the MIB is more of a standard sized brush and comes with synthetic bristles and I guess is more suited to painting trim and furniture. The Pro brushes are much thicker, much much thicker! Perfect for walls because of the amount of paint they can hold but no reason they couldn't be used for trim paint.
Modern brushes used by professionals these days, are shaped and the tips flagged either by chemical or mechanical means. The flagging is very important because it leaves the very tips of the bristles fine and soft so a painter can 'lay off' the paint properly. I don't know what method Eco Union use for flagging the tips but it works well and they feel really soft. I've used one for testing some eggshell paint going on wood and the finish is very good with no brush marks at all.
In spite of fairly full stocks, the tips are shaped well and can be pressed into a fine, flat tip which makes cutting in more controllable. My only critisism here is that a lot of us use a 2.5 inch angled brush for cutting in walls but Eco Union only make an angled brush up to 2 inches. Which means I either need to use a 2" angled brush to cut in or I work with a square brush that does come in a 2.5 inch size. But the angled brush make corners so much neater so I shall either have to adjust my working method or these guys will need to start making a 2.5 inch angled brush just for me (and a load of other decorators of course)!
Cleaning up? Well due to the fact we are in an eco friendly business here, my paints are water based and less likely to punish a brush than less 'green' paints. Having said that, I am quite good at leaving dirty brushes bagged up for a few days before I get round to cleaning them. Yes I know!! From my past experience with these brushes I thought I should be a bit gentle with the cleaning - it's good practice anyway. They weren't any more difficult to flush out than any other brushes I have and all it takes is a bit of warm soapy water. I do spin the brushes to help them dry and these brushes don't like that very much. But, they can be combed out and tidied up and when they dry they are not too bad. Never as neat and tidy as non eco brushes but as long as they don't get worse after each subsequent wash, they will be fine. I put this down to the nature of the recycled bristles and this is one of the acceptable compromises. When the brush is dipped in paint again it soon comes together and works just as well.
I'm planning on getting a few more of these in and try really try and work with them as much as I can. I do like them and I am confident they can do a good job as long as I make a few small adjustments to my methods - and if we are to make progress toward fixing the damage we have been doing to this planet we all need to be prepared to make a few changes right?
Priced at significantly less than most professional paint brushes. Check out the Eco Union website for stockists and pick some brushes up before I buy them all.
Both types are available in 1", 1.5", 2", 2.5", 3" and 4" with angled versions in 1.5" and 2".