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How to Clean Paint Brushes Properly

Woman Holding Paintbrush

While it might be tempting to just toss paint brushes and rollers once you're done with a project, that would be a waste of valuable home improvement dollars. It's easy to clean paint brushes and rollers as long as you know what kind of solvent to use for each type of paint. While you should the follow instructions for the specific paint or application tools you are using, these general guidelines can be helpful.

How to Clean Latex Paint From Brushes

If you've recently completed a painting project using latex paint, follow these instructions.

Supplies

Gather these supplies:

  • Dish soap
  • Water
  • Container (such as a small bucket or bowl that is large enough to dunk the paintbrush)

Instructions

Wipe excess paint from the paintbrush with a rag before you begin. Follow these steps to clean latex paint from paintbrushes:

  1. Place a few squeezes of dish soap in the container.
  2. Add enough water to fully cover the bristles of the paintbrush.
  3. Gently stir to form a soapy solution.
  4. Dip the brush so that the bristles are submerged in the soapy water.
  5. Gently stir the brush around in the soapy water for approximately 30 seconds.
  6. Blot the bristles on the side of the container.
  7. If the bristles still have paint on them, repeat steps 2 - 4. Continue as needed until all the paint is gone.
  8. Rinse the brush in clean water.
  9. Allow to dry before putting away for storage.

Variation

You can substitute liquid laundry detergent for dish soap.

How to Use Mineral Spirits to Remove Oil-Based Paint From Brushes

These instructions apply to cleaning paintbrushes that have been used for a project using oil based paint.

Supplies

Gather these supplies:

  • Mineral spirits
  • Water
  • Container (such as a small bucket or bowl that is large enough to dunk the paintbrush)

Instructions

Wipe excess paint from the paint brush with a rag before cleaning. Follow these steps to effectively remove oil-based paint from paintbrushes:

  1. Pour a sufficient quantity of mineral spirits in the container to fully submerge the bristles of the paintbrush.
  2. Dip the brush in the container so that the bristles are covered by the mineral spirits or turpentine.
  3. Leaving the bristles submerged, swirl the brush in the liquid for around 30 seconds.
  4. Blot the bristles on the side of the container.
  5. If there is still paint on the bristles, repeat steps 2 - 4 as needed until the bristles are free of paint.
  6. Rinse the brush with water.
  7. Allow to dry before putting away for storage.

Variations

You can substitute turpentine for mineral spirits.

How to Remove Shellac From a Paint Roller

If your paint brush has shellac on it, follow the same procedure for oil-based paint, but use a different cleaning solvent. You'll need to use denatured alcohol to clean shellac from a paint brush.

How to Clean Paint Rollers Covered in Latex Paint

If you used a paint roller for a project involving latex paint, follow these steps for cleaning.

Supplies

Gather these supplies:

  • Dish soap
  • Water
  • Putty knife (or similar tool)

Instructions

Follow these steps:

  • Use the putty knife to remove excess paint from the roller.
  • Rub a mixture of dish soap and water on the roller, scrubbing as you go.
  • Rinse with water until no paint remains on the brush.
  • Allow to dry before putting away.

How to Clean Paint Rollers Covered in Oil-Based Paint

Cleaning paint rollers covered in oil-based paint can take a few rounds of cleaning, but it's not difficult.

Supplies

Gather these supplies:

  • Mineral spirits or turpentine
  • Container large enough for the roller to fit in
  • Putty knife (or similar tool)

Instructions

Follow these steps.

  • Use the putty knife to scrape excess paint off the roller
  • Pour mineral spirits or turpentine into the container.
  • Place the roller in the container and move back and forward so that the paint starts to separate.
  • Replace the mineral spirits or turpentine with fresh when the liquid starts to get cloudy.
  • Repeat the process of rolling the tool in the liquid and replacing it until the roller is clean.
  • Allow to dry before putting away.

Removing Shellac From a Paint Roller

Use the same procedure for oil-based paint, except use denatured alcohol as the cleaning solvent.

Act Quickly to Protect Your Paint Application Tools

Whether you're painting an accent wall, an entire room, or the exterior of your home, it's important to take care of your paintbrush or roller. Clean these items as soon as you have finished using them rather than letting them sit for a while. It will be much easier to clean them if you do so before the paint has time to dry. Taking the time to clean brushes and rollers after every use can keep them in great condition throughout multiple home improvement projects. You may also want to brush up on how to remove paint from your hands, as well as best practices for safely disposing of paint waste.

How to Clean Paint Brushes Properly