Watercolor is pretty gentle, so you don't need to wash brushes using soap very often, if at all. Rinsing with water is usually sufficient. Simply swirl the brush in water to rinse it, and then lay it flat to dry. Do this in between using colors. At the end of your painting session, do this really well. You want the brush to air dry, so don't cover it with anything.
Never leave a brush standing in water. When brushes are wet, they are at their most vulnerable to damage. Prolonged exposure to water may damage the handle and loosen the ferrule. And, if you leave a brush in water for a long time, the hairs adapt to the shape of the bottom of the container. Result? Bent brush.
When dry, your brushes should be stored where they will be safe. You can buy storage containers like brush quivers, canisters, and rolled pouches. Quivers are like an arrow quiver; they're usually a box with a carrying strap and a hinged lid. Canisters secure the end of the brush so the hair end doesn't touch anything. Rolled pouches can be bamboo mats (or other fabric) that hold brushes in a pocket; they can be rolled up to take less storage room. These are great for travel because they allow the brush to breathe if wet and still protect the hairs from mashing. I store my brushes in the studio in a nifty jar filled with sand. The hairs point up, and the handle end is in the sand.
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