New brushes are protected for shipping by being dipped in gum arabic, the binder in watercolor pigments, and/or covered with a tight, clear tube. When you get a new brush, discard the plastic tube. Don't be tempted to replace it on the brush for protection. It's too small, and you'll end up bending back hairs and damaging the brush.
If the brush is stiff with gum arabic, dip the hairs in water and gently roll the brush on a table surface (not your good cherry dining furniture, but something you can wipe up liquid from like a kitchen countertop) until all of the gum arabic stiffener is removed. You may have to dip and roll several times until all the hardener is soft.
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