Easy tips for cleaning paint brushes & accessories

The best painters will tell you that a good clean-up at the end of the day is essential. Not only does it keep your tools in top shape, which means easier application and cleaner lines, but it also prolongs the life of your paint rollers, trays and brushes.

Easy tips for cleaning paint brushes & accessories

1. Remove as much paint as possible

  • Start by putting the excess paint back into the paint container.
  • Squeeze as much paint as you can from your brushes (wrap them in newspaper and press them between your hands as firmly as you can), empty your roller trays and also scrape paint off your rollers with the curved scraper on a five-in-one painter's tool, which is available from specialty paint and hardware stores.
  • Then wipe off as much of the remaining paint as possible using something disposable, such as an old rag, newspaper or piece of cardboard.
  • Let the rag or paper dry and then dispose of it in an outside garbage bin.

2. Use a two-bucket method

  • Whether you're using water-based or oil-based paint, use two large buckets to contain your mess: one for washing and one for rinsing. The system is economical, it's friendly to the environment and it's neat.
  • Use one bucket for washing.
  • If you're cleaning up after using water-based paint, mix warm water with a squirt of dishwashing liquid in the bucket.
  • If you've been using oil-based paint, put a small amount of paint thinner or mineral turpentine into the bucket; 5–8 cm (2–3 in) in the bottom should be enough.
  • Immerse the brushes and use your fingers to gently work the paint out of them.
  • Use a brush, comb or an old fork to clean between the bristles.
  • To remove paint from the metal band on the handle, scrub gently with a wire brush.
  • Use a roller spinner, available from most paint shops, to remove paint from the rollers, either spinning it in the wash bucket or, better yet, in a third, empty bucket.
  • Wash the roller pans over the washing bucket using a soft-bristled brush.
  • Leave the dirty water or solvent in the bucket, cover the bucket with cardboard or newspaper to prevent evaporation, and let it stand.

3. Rinsing is important

  • Use the second bucket for rinsing, after you've removed the bulk of the paint from your brushes or rollers.
  • For a water-based paint clean-up, use clean water; for an oil-based paint clean-up, use fresh thinner.
  • When the water or solvent squeezed from the brushes or rollers comes out clear, you'll know you're finished.
  • As with the wash bucket, cover the rinse bucket containing water or solvent with cardboard or newspaper and let it stand.
  • Let the paint solids settle to the bottom of the washing and rinsing buckets overnight. The next day, carefully pour the water off the top of the paint solids.
  • Using a putty knife or paint stirrer, carefully scrape the paint off the bottom of the buckets onto newspaper and discard it according to the method determined by your local town ordinance.
  • As for paint thinner or turpentine, you can reuse it. Carefully pour the relatively pure liquid on top back into its original container. Again, scrape the solids up and discard.

4. Clean rollers

  • If a water-based brush or roller just won't come clean, it may be because many of today's water-based paints contain resins, similar to those used in oil-based paints, to improve adhesion, gloss and durability.
  • After cleaning and rinsing the brush or roller in water, try a second rinse in paint thinner or mineral turpentine to completely clean it.
  • Then wash with clean, soapy water to remove the thinner.
The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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