How to Clean Paint Brushes and Rollers

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If you’re planning on working on your painting DIY, you’re going to need to know how to clean paint brushes and rollers. 

Sometimes using a paint brush or a roller is the best situation for your painting project.  Maybe it’s a super small area, or you aren’t equipped yet with a paint sprayer. 

Whatever your situation is, let’s go over the right way (and some new ways) to clean up after you’re finished. 

how to clean paint brushes and rollers
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How to Clean Paint Brushes and Rollers: Paint Brush Cleaning  

There are a few ways to get those brushes nice and clean after your painting project is finished.  The way that you clean your brushes depends on 2 things: what kind of paint you used and if the bristles on your paint brushes are natural or synthetic. 

How to clean paint brushes and rollers is made simple with our easy to follow instructions below.

Method

Works On

Vinegar Latex and Oil
Fabric Softener Latex
Oil/Soap/Water Oil
Water & Soap Latex
Thinner Oil
Mineral Spirits/Stripper Oil

How to Clean Paint Brushes: Latex Paint  

Paint brushes covered in latex paint are a dream to clean.  That’s because latex paint is water based.  That means the color or pigment of the paint is carried by water, instead of oil.  Latex paint has minimal odors and even comes in an environmentally friendly formula. 

Our method of cleaning paint brushes is simple and works with synthetic or natural bristles because it only uses soap and water.  Here it is step by step: 

  1. Rinse your paint brush off with warm water 
  1. Make sure to get into all the bristles, even close to the base of the brush and handle 
  1. Get out some gentle soap 
  1. Working your way from the base of the bristles upwards, gently massage the soap into the bristles and work all the paint out 
  1. Rinse your brushes out completely 
  1. I like to shake the brushes to get rid of extra water 
  1. Stand them on end with the bristles up while they dry 

How to Clean Paint Brushes: Oil Based Paints 

Oil-based paints are more difficult to clean up than water based. There are several ways to clean paint brushes if you’ve used oil-based paints.  They mostly involve chemicals and should be used with caution.   

If you’re using natural vs synthetic brushes, you'll want to skip our method using harsh chemicals and try our natural method for cleaning oil-based paint off paint brushes. 

Method 1: Cleaning Oil Paint off Your Paint Brushes 

  1. Fill a small jar or container (a pickle jar works great here) or the bottom of your sink with paint thinner or mineral spirits 
  1. Make sure you’re in an area that’s well ventilated  
  1. Put on gloves and some safety goggles 
  1. Put your paint brushes into the container filled with thinner/mineral spirits 
  1. Swish your paint brushes around in the thinner 
  1. Once the paint is out of your brushes, use a paper towel or clean rag to soak up the extra thinner 
  1. Stand your brushes with the bristle end up so they air dry 

8. Dispose of thinner and rag at your local hazardous waste facility

Method 2: Natural Ways to Clean Oil Based Paint off Your Brushes

  1. Get out your linseed, safflower, or coconut oil
  1. Rub the oil onto your brush bristles and massage it in
  1. Wash your paint brush with gentle soap and hot water   
  1. Repeat above steps if needed, until the water runs clear and all paint is off your brush
  1. Once the paint is out of your brushes, use a paper towel or clean rag to soak up the extra water
  1. Stand your Brush with the bristle end up so they are dry or hang them from a peg

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How to Clean Paint Brushes with Vinegar 

Vinegar won’t remove oil-based paints from your brushes all on its own.  But, it will work with latex paint.

You heat up the vinegar in the microwave and then let you bristles sit in the vinegar for at least 10 mins.  Give it a rinse and it there’s some paint still on there, use the comb to remove it. 

For oil based paints, instead, try using safflower, linseed, baby oil or coconut oil.  This is a great method for cleaning and preserving your natural bristles brushes.  Since oil paints are oil based (thanks Captain Obvious!) these oils should mix with the paint and remove it.   

You cover your bristles with your chosen oil and gentle massage it in.  Then you use soap and hot water to remove all the oils and paints.  You might have to do this a few times until the water runs clean.   

How to Dry Paint Brushes Fast 

In a hurry to get those brushes dried and put away? Before leaving them to air dry, shake the heck out of them to remove extra water.  

Also, squeeze the bristles with a rag, paper towel etc to really get the excess water out of the bristles.  Another method is to hold your paint brush in an old container and spin it around and around so the excess water comes flying off.

Dry them in a well ventilated and/or heated area.  Use a ceiling fan or floor fan to blow air directly on your brushes. 

These methods should dry your paint brushes faster than if you just left them to air dry.

How to Store Paint Brushes Overnight 

If your paint brushes are clean, you’ll want to store them with no pressure on the bristles.  That means you store them either standing straight up until they dry completely or get fancy and hang them from the hole in the brush handle.   

We use large glass jars from the recycling to hold our brushes with the bristles pointing up.    

Now, if you haven’t finished your project, you really should clean off your brushes following our instructions above and them store them clean and dry until the next day. 

But, it won’t hurt to wrap it up in saran wrap and put it in the fridge overnight, honestly.   This is more environmentally friendly and you save money on paint and water.

Just make sure you wrap them up air tight and then let your paint brushes come back up to room temperature again before using them. 

How to Clean Paint Brushes and RollersCleaning Paint Rollers 

There are a few ways to get your roller nice and clean after your painting project is finished.  The way that you clean your roller depends if you’ve used water based or oil-based paints. 

Some people wonder if they should clean their paint roller or just throw it away.  You don’t throw away your paint brushes so the same goes for your roller.  

Waste not want not.  It's better for the environment to not throw things away that you can reuse!

So, how do you clean a paint roller quickly?  You give it a good clean using one of our methods we talk about below and then dry and store it for your next painting DIY. 

How to Take Apart a Paint Roller 

You’ll have to take your roller off the handle and roller cage to clean it.  To do that, you simple use your hands to push the roller off the frame by holding the handle with one hand and pushing the roller off the frame with the other hand.  Be ready, you will get paint on yourself if you use this method.

Another method is to push the roller off the frame with your putty or utility knife while you hold the handle in your other hand.

How to Clean Rollers: Latex Based Paint 

Remember from before, latex paint is water based.  All you need is water and gentle soap to clean up your paint roller in your sink. 

Taking a putty knife, scrape all the extra paint back into your paint can from your roller and your paint tray.  Then follow our easy step by step below to get it done fast. 

  1. Remove your roller from the handle/cage 
  1. Start rinsing it with warm water 
  1. Scrape the roller with your putty knife while you’re rinsing 
  1. Once the paint is out of your roller, wash it with gentle soap and water 
  1. When the water and soap run clean off your roller, you’re done! 
  1. Work the extra water out of your roller with your putty knife then squeeze it tight with a clean rag or some paper towels 
  1. Stand your roller on end while it dries overnight 

How to Clean Paint Rollers: Oil Based Paint 

Just like with an oil-based paint brush, a roller that you’ve used to apply an oil based paint will need to be cleaned using  thinner or mineral spirits.  

Cleaning Rollers and Oil Based Paints 

Our method below is best if you’ve been using oil based paints.   

  1. Remove your roller from the handle/cage  
  1. Fill a container, 5 gallon bucket or the bottom of your sink with paint thinner or mineral spirits 
  1. Make sure you’re in an area that’s well ventilated  
  1. Put on gloves and some safety googles 
  1. Put your roller into the container filled with thinner/mineral spirits 
  1. You can scrape off the paint with your putty knife to speed up the process 
  1. Once the paint is out of your roller, use a paper towel or clean rag to soak up the extra thinner 
  1. Stand your roller on end while it air dries overnight 

Does a paint roller need to be dry before you put it away?  No, you store your paint rollers by standing them on their ends so they dry will they are in storage.  Your paint roller can be a bit wet when you go to use it.   

PRO TIP

To reduce the amount of lint that comes off your roller and gets onto your project you can do two things. 

 

#1.  Use duct or masking tape and squeeze your roller.  This pulls some lint off.  

#2.  Get your roller a bit damp before painting to prevent extra lint from coming off.   

How to Clean a Paint Tray 

How to clean a paint roller tray is super easy.  There are 2 schools of thought on cleaning a paint tray.   

The first one is to just let the thin layer of paint dry in the tray.  Then peel the paint off.   You end of with a perfectly clean tray.  This is our preferred way of doing it.  No hassle, no fuss, no mess, no work really!  This also saves money and water and is better for the environment.

The second method, is to fully clean the tray out using soap and water for water-based paints and using mineral spirits or paint thinner for oil-based paints.  Why waste your supplies when you can just let it dry in the tray and peel it off later? 

How to Store Paint Rollers

Paint rollers are stored by hanging or standing them on their ends to prevent the roller from flattening or degrading the nap on the roller.  This also keeps grit and random pieces of gunk out of your roller fabric.

Protect them from moisture to keep mildew and mold from growing on them and don't put them away until they are fully dry.

Conclusion

How to clean paint brushes and rollers is a must after each use and is easy enough to do, especially when you've been using water based latex paints.  

We've done some testing and nailed down the best paint rollers for walls.  Click the button below to check them out and find out which "nap" size is best for your next painting project.


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