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How to Properly Clean Your Brushes & Rollers 

September 1, 2021

Any experienced painter will tell you that investing in high quality painting tools is the first step in getting a professional and crisp-looking final product on your walls, ceilings, and trim. These quality brushes and rollers tend to be more expensive, so caring for them after each use is critical to preserving and extending the life of the tool. 

How you clean and store your brushes and rollers will determine what shape they are in for your next project. To ensure that your painting equipment stays in good working order, here are a few tips to properly clean and store them. 

paint roller

Use All Remaining Paint

Whether the tool is a brush or roller, use all the remaining paint that has been loaded so there will be less to wash off in the sink. Either use the excess paint on the surface you are painting or scrape it against the lip of the paint can to return it for storage. 

This process should all be done immediately after finishing for the day so the paint doesn’t dry on the brush or roller. Dried paint can cause clumping and other quality issues next time you start to paint. The more paint you can remove before washing, the easier the overall clean up will be. 

Washing Equipment 

The type of paint used, either latex (water-based) or oil-based paint, will determine the way the equipment should be washed after each use. 

According to Purdy, a nationally recognized professional painting equipment provider, washing paint equipment that uses latex paints requires “any mild bar soap or dishwashing detergent.” 

For oil-based paints, however, the solution for washing should be considerably different. “Closely follow the manufacturer’s instructions to select the proper cleaning solvent (mineral spirits or paint thinner for paint and varnish, denatured alcohol for shellac, etc.).” 

In either case, do not place the brush into a jar of water or solvent as that could bend or damage the bristles. Rather, rub the water or solvent through the bristles with your fingers and swish around in the water to remove excess paint. Use gentle movements to maintain the health of the bristles.

paint equipment

Remove Excess Water or Solvent 

Once all the paint has been washed off the equipment, now it’s time to dry the brushes and rollers so they will be ready to use the next time you plan on painting. 

Painters use several methods to dry the equipment including shaking vigorously so excess water is removed or patting dry with a cloth or towel. Others hang the rollers or brushes up to dry before placing them in storage. 

A Word on Proper Storage

Now that you have a better idea of how to care for your paint equipment upon completing your project, you should also be aware of some caveats for storing brushes in particular. 

Brushes should never be stored with the bristles facing down. Rather hang them or lay them flat so that the bristles do not split, bend, or break. Having well-cared for bristles will make a huge difference next time you pick up the painting bug. 


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