Cleaning Brushes and Rollers

Quality brushes and rollers are expensive, so it pays to take good care of them. Fortunately, water-based latex paints have taken most of the hassle out of clean-up–all you need is a few minutes and a little soap and water and you can return your applicators to as-new condition at the end of every paint job.

Brushes
Start by brushing the excess paint out of the brush on a piece of newspaper or cardboard. Then rinse the bulk of the paint out under a faucet. Mixing a little dish soap with warm water in a container large enough to submerge the brush. Don’t be afraid to work at a kitchen or bathroom sink, paint splatters will wipe right off without a trace. As the brush soaks in the water, work the bristles against the bottom of the container or with your hands to release any remaining paint, then rinse the brush under the faucet while squeezing the bristles. Repeat this process a few times until the brush releases all of the paint stored in the ferrule and the rinse water runs clear. Separating the bristles with your hand as you rinse will allow water to wash away the last bits of soap and paint from the brush.

If the brush was used previously and not cleaned properly, some of the bristles may be glued together in clumps with dried paint. Instead of throwing the brush away, use a brush comb (available at most hardware and paint stores) to separate the bristles and comb out the old paint while cleaning the brush as described above. Even when a brush has been properly cleaned, an occasional brushing is still a good idea to remove loose bristles and debris.

brush comb for cleaning paint brushes

A brush comb is handy for removing dried paint.

After the brush is clean, shake it vigorously to remove excess water (best to do this outside) or a paint spinner, then store it in the box or sleeve that it was packaged in. This will help the brush hold its shape and keep it clean. If the original packaging is not available, wrap it in newspaper or a paper towel and hang the brush by the handle (most handles have holes) so that water can drain out of the ferrule. This will help the brush maintain is original shape. Never stand the brush on its bristles–this will deform them and ruin the brush.

Rollers

5 in 1 tool

Use a 5-in-1 tool to scrape excess paint from a roller sleeve prior to cleanup.

A roller takes a little more effort to clean than a brush and won’t last as long, but the expensive ones are still worth saving and re-using. Begin by rolling out all of the paint that you can off the roller or scraping it with a 5-in-1 tool so that the sleeve isn’t saturated with paint. The roller sleeve will be easier to clean if it is removed from the handle. Start by running the roller under the faucet to remove the bulk of the paint. Then place the sleeve in a container of warm soapy water and massage the nap to release the remaining paint. Repeat this process several times, rinsing the sleeve with clear water and squeezing it with your hands each time to remove all of the paint. If there’s any paint left in the sleeve, the sleeve will be nappy, matted, and unusable after it has dried. After the final rinse, dry the sleeve with an old towel or chamois, or give it a whirl with a paint spinner to remove as much moisture as possible. Then store the sleeve in its original packaging or a plastic bag to keep it clean until you are ready to use it again.

Helpful Hint: If you are going to use the roller later in the day or the next day, simply wrap it in plastic wrap, put in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator rather than cleaning it.

paint roller spinner

A paint spinner can be used to quickly dry rinsed roller sleeves.
Slide the sleeve onto the spinner and spin it into a bucket or cardboard box.

These steps apply to water-based paints only. If you’re using solvent-based paints, brush clean-up procedures are similar, but you must use mineral spirits instead of water (most painters don’t bother cleaning roller sleeves when using oil-based paints). Mineral spirits must be disposed of according to local regulations and should never be dumped down the drain or poured out onto the ground.

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4 thoughts on “Cleaning Brushes and Rollers

  1. Place the roll on the edge of the painting. Scrape the paint roller cover in the box with a knife 5-in-1 putty. Turn the roller lightly scratch each time. Wash the residue of the product with water. Allow the pickup roller to dry.

  2. As an artist, it is also important to learn the proper way of cleaning your tools such as paint brushes. This will help maintain the quality of your work.

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