How to Clean Dried Paint Rollers

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How to clean dried paint rollers involves a bit of know-how and even more elbow grease. Can you save a dried paint roller?

Have you ever been painting and gotten so busy that your forgot to rinse and clean your paint roller? Leaving your paint roller to dry can be a big disappointment the next morning when you go to finish off your project. 

We'll show you how to rescue your sad, dried up paint rollers so you can reuse them and get back to painting. 

how to clean dried paint rollers
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    How to Clean Dried Paint Rollers: Water Based Paint

    This is going to be the easiest clean of the whole post.  Water based paints, whether you are using them with paint brushes, rollers or a paint sprayer, are a breeze when it comes to clean up.  Soap and water and you’re laughing.  Not so much when the paint has dried hard as a rock. So, how do you clean dried paint on rollers?

    Basic Tools and Supplies for Cleaning Dried Paint Rollers 

    How to Clean Dried Oil Paint Rollers 

    You might think that cleaning oil-based paint out of dried paint rollers was impossible and thrown away your old stiff dried up rollers.  You can actually get those rollers nice and soft again without too much hassle. 

    You will need an old glass jar or container that can hold liquid, like a big pickle jar.  Then, you grab your mineral spirits or paint stripper and fill the jar.  There are also natural citrus and soy-based paint strippers you can try, but we haven’t used them yet to remove dried paint from a paint roller.   

    Place your rollers in the jar and soak them, checking every few minutes to see how it's progressing.  Keep soaking your roller until all the paint is removed. 

    Massage dish soap into your roller, work in through and then rinse thoroughly with water once all the paint is removed.  You might need to do this a few times until the water runs clear. 

    Cleaning Paint Rollers with Fabric Softener: Fake News? 

    Is it true that you can use fabric softener to clean dried paint rollers or is it just a myth?  Can you reuse a dried paint roller?  We are happy to report that using fabric softener actually works!  Here is our step by step method for cleaning up your dried paint rollers.   


    Please note that this only works when you’ve been using water-based paints like latex/acrylic.


    For oil-based paints you need to use paint stripper or mineral spirits and follow our directions above.

    Mix about 1/8 of a cup of fabric softener with 4 cups of water in a bucket or old glass jar.  Stir to mix it well.  Put your roller into the jar and let it sit for a few minutes.  Then, start swishing it around in the fabric softener solution.   

    You should see the fibers on your roller start to become soft and loosen, and the paint start coming off the roller.  Continue dipping and swishing your brush around in the solution until it comes clean. 

    Wash your roller off with gentle soap and water so fabric softener residue doesn't end up in your paint the next time your use your roller. 

    How do you Fix Stiff Paint Rollers? 

    A stiff paint roller is usually the result of not rinsing your paint roller with enough water once you’ve clean off wet paint.  Some of the residue from the paint stayed on the roller and it dried, making the bristles stiff.   

    Good news is that it’s way easier to fix stiff paint rollers than dried paint rollers covered in paint.  So, how do you make a paint roller soft again?  You will have to follow our directions above for water or oil-based paint to fix your stiff rollers. 

    How Do You Keep Paint Rollers from Drying out Overnight? 

    Die hard painters will say you must clean out your roller every night.  That’s just not practical for everyone.  It’s also a waste of paint, water and cleaning supplies.  

    Instead, wrap your roller up in aluminum foil, plastic wrap or an old plastic bag and put it in the fridge.  The world won’t come to an end if you do this once and awhile. 

    Just make sure to let your roller come back up to room temp before you start painting the next day. 


    Follow along with our tried and true methods of how to clean dried paint rollers and you’ll restore those dried up paint rollers in no time. 

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