The Pros Share How to Clean a Paint Roller

Ever wondered how to clean a paint roller? Yeah, us too. So, we asked our paint experts for pro tips on keeping your paint rollers and brushes in prime condition.

Keep Your Tools Clean And They’ll Last Longer

It’s like mom and dad always said: Keep your tools clean and they’ll last longer. That applies to paint brushes and rollers, too. And if you buy quality ones, you’ll get the most mileage out of them: up to five cycles for paint rollers and up to 10 years for paint brushes. Proper cleaning is the key to maximizing their lifespans, but there are some things you need to know before you plop your brushes and rollers in a bucket of water.

How to Clean a Paint Brush

Cleaning a paint brush isn’t hard – it just takes the right cleaner and a little elbow grease.

Latex and acrylic paints are water-based, which means you can clean your brushes with warm water and mild soap. For this job, you’ll need:

  • Mild detergent
  • Warm water
  • A bucket
  • A paint brush comb
  • Mineral spirits (for stubborn paint)

The first step is to mix the detergent and water in the bucket. Then dip the brush into the water, working the soap through the bristles with your hands. Rinse with clear water and repeat as needed until the brush is as clean as you can get it.

If you’re cleaning up oil paint, varnish, lacquer or shellac, use a cleaning solvent made for the material.

Pour the solvent into a glass jar and dip the brush in. Work the thinner through the bristles, dipping the brush in and out of the container as you go. When it’s mostly clean, pour new cleaner in a clean jar and repeat the process.

Whether you’re cleaning up water-based paint or oil-based, you can use a paint brush comb to clean the paint from the center of the brush and remove residue near the edge of the ferrule (the metal band around the bristles of the brush).

When your brushes are clean, spin the paint brush to remove extra solvent or water, then comb the bristles back to their original shape and let the brush dry.

What About Dried Paint Brushes?

Knowing how to clean a dried paint brush can save you money and keep brushes out of the landfill.

Pour some brush cleaner into a glass or metal container big enough to hold your brush. Put the brush into the container and cover it with a plastic bag (to contain the fumes). Soak overnight, then pour new paint cleaner in another container and swish the brush in the cleaner.

Then follow the same steps as above, depending on whether you used water-based or oil-based paint.

How To Clean a Paint Roller

Rollers take a little more work to clean than brushes, and you need a special tool called a 5 in 1 tool to restore them to paint-ready condition.

Pro tip: Rather than cleaning rollers daily, you can cover them with plastic bags or paint roller covers overnight.

To clean a roller, you’ll need:

  • Running water (for water-based paints)
  • Solvent (for oil-based paints)
  • A paint tray (for oil-based paints)
  • 5 in 1 tool

Run the curved blade of your 5 in 1 tool down the roller to remove excess paint. If you’re cleaning up water-based paint, pull the roller cover halfway down the frame and run the whole thing under running water. Use your hand to clean the paint out of the fibers until the water runs clear.

For oil-based paints, pour solvent into the paint tray. Then remove the roller cover and dip it in the tray, repeating with clean solvent until the roller is clean.

Stand up your rollers to dry them, rather than putting them on their sides – that will crush the nap and make them lopsided.

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