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How To Clean Paint Rollers: In 5 Easy Steps

Reuse paint rollers instead of throwing them out with our easy cleaning guide.

Painting is still the easiest and most cost-effective way of improving the inside of your home, so investing in the best quality tools is crucial for the best results. Don’t just discard them after one use; you need to know how to clean paint rollers to keep on using them.

We show you how to wash paint rollers to preserve them for the next decorating task and save you money on replacements.

Key Takeaways

  • Remove excess paint: Scrape off extra paint with a 5-in-1 tool or putty knife back into the paint can.
  • Roll off the rest: Use newspaper to rub off remaining paint from the roller sponge with firm pressure.
  • Clean the roller frame: Soak the frame in warm soapy water for water-based paints or mineral spirits for oil-based paints, then scrub with a brush.
  • Clean the cover: Submerge the roller cover in soapy water for water-based paints or mineral spirits for oil-based paints, massaging the foam to release the paint.

What You Need

Let’s run through the tools you will need to preserve the life of your foam paint roller.

  • 5-in-1 tool.
  • Bucket.
  • Scrubbing brush.
  • Old toothbrush.
  • Paintbrush comb.
  • Rubber gloves.
  • Putty knife.
  • Safety glasses.
  • Dry cloth.

You’ll also need:

  • Detergent (dish soap is best).
  • Plastic bottle.
  • Mineral spirits.
  • Newspaper.
  • Warm water.

How To Clean Paint Rollers

You have the tools and materials, so now it’s time to get to work cleaning that dried paint roller.

1. Remove Excess Paint

If you want to reuse your paint roller, you need to get the paint off, including excess paint soaked into the foam paint roller cover. Use the 5-in-1 tool to scrape away the paint into the can, or you can use the edge of the putty knife.

Top Tip

Make sure you also clean the paint from the blade of the putty knife afterward.

Work in long straight strokes, taking care not to scrape dried paint back into the tin. This will cause lumps and possibly ruin the paint inside the can.

2. Roll Off The Rest

The simplest way to deal with most of what’s left on the roller sponge is to grab the newspaper and rub the excess off. Use firm pressure and keep rolling until the paint starts to come off in ever-fading strips.

3. Clean The Roller Frame

Slide off the foam cover from the metal frame and place it to one side. You might want to don your rubber gloves for this. For the best results, clean the frame while the paint is still wet. You may find this more challenging for colors with a higher gloss content.

For water-based paints, pour some warm water into the bucket with dish soap and immerse the frame. Grab the scrubbing brush and remove any stubborn stains. For the hard-to-reach places, an old toothbrush may work well.

Safety First

Wear goggles for this as an added precaution.

For oil-based paints, pour some mineral spirits onto a rag and scrub off the stains. When the frame is clean, lay it on the dry cloth to air dry.

4. Clean The Cover

Just like cleaning the roller frame, there are two different ways to clean the roller cover, based on the type of paint you are using.

For water-based paints, sink the cover into the bucket of warm soapy water and work the foam surface with your hands to release the paint. Immediately, you will see the water change color as the paint lifts off the foam cover.

You may need to add clean water to the bucket depending on the amount of paint that comes off. When you are happy that all the paint has been removed and the cover looks clean, place it to one side to dry, standing it on its end to let the water run off.

You can use a technique called dry-spinning to dry the roller. You squeeze off the excess water with your hands and then roll it on a flat surface like a piece of cardboard. This process removes any loose fibers from the roller cover.

For oil-based paints, fill the bucket with just enough mineral spirits to submerge the roller cover. Work it with your hands in the same way as before, massaging the foam to release the color.

The mineral spirits will start to discolor with the paint discharge. For soaked-in paint, it might be an idea to let the roller cover sit in the solution for a few minutes.

When all the paint is washed clean, stand the roller cover on its end so all the excess spirits drip away. You can use old newspapers for this. Take the mineral spirits and pour them carefully into a disposable bottle.

Finally, wash the cover in dish soap and warm water to wash off the residue of the mineral spirits and leave it to dry standing on its end. You can also slide the cover onto a clothes hanger or dowel.

Top Tip

Don’t leave the roller cover to dry horizontally because as it dries, it compacts the fibers in contact with the surface.

5. Wash The Tray and Brushes

You should follow the same cleaning regime when taking care of the paint tray and paintbrush. What paint you are using determines the method of cleaning. Again, it is easier when the paint is wet, but if you are using latex paint, you could let it dry and then simply peel it off the tray.

For oil-based paints, wipe away the excess with a rag or paper towel. Then pour in a small amount of mineral spirits and work it into the surface with a scrubbing brush. Discard the solvent into the disposable bottle and wipe around the paint pan using a rag to get the last remnants off the surface.

The brush should be cleaned while the paint is still wet because when it sets, the bristles bind together and the brush is no longer fit for purpose. Follow the same regime depending on whether you have used water or oil-based paints.

It’s a good idea to wear rubber gloves if you are washing the brush in mineral spirits because it can cause skin irritations. Pour either soapy water or thinner into a jar and immerse the brush, working it left and right in the solution.

Apply pressure to the bristles to work the paint loose, and then rinse it under the faucet. Add a squirt of dish soap to the bristles and lather it in with your hands. Rinse again under the faucet and then flick the brush dry in the sink.


Is It Worth Cleaning Paint Rollers?

Some people simply slide the cover off the frame, discard it, and then start with a new one. Doing this is a lot simpler, but unless you have money burning a hole in your pocket, it is an expensive practice.

A good quality roller and cover can cost a fair amount, and reusing the roller means you are getting full use of your tool and getting the most for your investment.

Do You Have to Wash Paint Rollers After Every Use?

If you undertake a large project, rather than washing the roller every night, you can use food wrap to keep the paint and the roller cover wet.

For the best results, you can place the roller in the fridge. If you don’t have food wrap, use a plastic bag instead. And when you take the roller out of the fridge, allow it to return to room temperature before using it.

How Many Times Can You Reuse a Paint Roller?

A lot depends on the quality of the paint roller, but you should expect at least five use cycles between replacement covers. They start to shed and perish after too many uses, which could affect the quality of your paintwork.

Wash or Replace?

Hopefully, you can see the value in washing your paint roller, especially as you can get multiple uses out of it before tossing it in the trash. Not only is that better for the environment, but it also helps your bank balance.

So, the next time you use a paint roller, try reusing it instead of replacing it and get your money’s worth.

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About the Author

Mark Weir

Mark spent 24 years working in real estate, so he knows his way around a home. He also worked with contractors and experts, advising them on issues of planning, investments, and renovations. Mark is no stranger to hands-on experience, having renovated his own home and many properties for resale. He likes nothing better than seeing a project through to completion.