A DIY project is only complete once you have the tools you’ve used ready for the next time. Painting jobs are more than just winding up an electrical cord or storing a drill, hammers, screwdrivers, nails, bolts, and screws in lidded containers on shelves. Once the painting is done, the rollers (and the brushes) are cleaned.
It’s good practice and saves money if you clean the tools you’ve used for painting immediately after the job’s done. Paint dries quickly, and getting a roller and a brush clean is an efficient way to do home projects.
- Paint roller
- A 5-gallon bucket
- Hose pipe
- Brass spray nozzle or one with an on-off valve
- Wire brush
- A 5-in-1 scraping tool
What follows are 10 simple steps to clean paint rollers and brushes with a spin-clean and pat method that fluffs up the tools like new.
Step 1. Gather Rollers, Brushes, and Cleaning Items
You’ve done a summer vacation painting job, and the roller and the brushes are full of paint. Take your time, as there are quick and easy steps to clean these. And a painting job is only done when the tools are clean, either hung against a wall or packed away neatly in a DIY shed.
Start with getting the items ready that you’ll use to clean the paint off rollers and brushes. Begin as soon as the paintwork is done before the paint dries on the rollers and brushes. Work outdoors and near a tap, as you'll need running water.
You’ll need a 5-gallon plastic utility bucket and a hosepipe hooked into a tap nearby. Choose an adjustable brass nozzle fitting that can quickly turn to spray with intense water pressures. If you have a nozzle with a brass on-off valve, that's even better, as you'll be able to clean and turn the water pressure off and on with a few simple hand movements.
Put the 5-gallon bucket on its side, with the rim opening pointing away from you. By the way, you'll use the bucket as a shield. You don't want the force of water bursting into your face and leaving you soaking wet, as you'll be using a high-pressure valve on the hose to get the paint off the roller.
Stick the roller into the bucket with the handle facing outward. Make sure that the roller on the frame fits into the bucket with the bucket opening facing away from you. The roller must be about a third into the bucket, not touching the sides. The roller cover must be able to spin freely when the force of water from the hose is directed at it.
You must be on the ground, hold the bucket with one hand, and angle and hold the roller inside the bucket. With the hose in your other hand, you must control the nozzle and spray water on the roller. Point the nozzle to the roller cover and start the washing process.
Direct the nozzle onto the roller to get the roller to spin under the high pressure of the water. Wash the paint off by directing the nozzle with water across the roller. Use the on-off valve to control the pressure and flow of water on the roller and to clean out the paint from the roller.
Step 2. Repeat Spin-Cleaning of the Roller in the Bucket
With the roller cover spinning and the bucket on its side, the water with paint can flow out. You’ll have to repeat the process of getting the roller to spin and letting the pressurized water wash over the roller cover to get the paint off. Do this process until you have clear water flowing out. There must be no paint in the water running out, and the rollers must be clean.
The faster the roller cover spins in the bucket, the cleaner you’ll get the roller. And working from side to side across the roller cover with the hose nozzle on high pressure, you’ll be surprised just how quickly you will clean the roller. Once you see no trace of paint and the water runs clear out of the bucket, the first part is done.
Now take the handle of the roller cover and hold it in one hand. Again work the roller cover from side to side with the nozzle and hose. Spin and fluff up the roller cover. Just a minute or so of spinning gives you a clean roller that looks new.
Before you do the washing of the roller, make sure you get rid of all the excess paint on the roller cover.
Step 3. Scrape Excess Paint off a 9-Inch Roller
DIYers’ must-have tool is a 5-in-1 scraper. And if you’ve used one before, you’ll know why it’s indispensable. You can open paint cans and, with the back end, close these again. But the best still is getting excess paint off a roller cover, as the tool has a bit that fits neatly around the roller’s cylinder shape.
All you have to do is to use the 5-in-1 scraper tool and angle the rounded part of the scraper towards the roller. Work from the top of the roller down to scrape the paint off the reusable roller cover or nap. You’ll be surprised to know just how much paint can be salvaged. A 9-inch roller can retain as much as ½ a pint of paint.
Step 4. Scrape Excess Paint off an 18-Inch Roller
DIYers have carefully worked this one out for all kinds of rollers, doughnut ones, small rollers, and regular 9 and 18-inch rollers covers. The nap of roller covers varies in size and thickness, and the fluff is thicker for paint jobs on rougher (primarily exterior) walls. Thicker naps hold more paint and spread densely across these uneven surfaces like textured plaster or stucco walls.
And the nap of an 18-inch roller cover can yield close to a pint of paint when using a scraper to push across the nap and squeeze off the excess paint.
The paint must be worked out of the nap of the roller cover to not waste it. You must make sure that you hold the brush with the roller over the paint can and clean it into there. The 5-in-1 tool makes this part of the cleaning easy and makes washing with water quicker. Even makes the cleaning process half as long as you don't have to have as many repeat rinses.
It'll take less than half the time to get the leftover paint spun off by the high pressure from the hose if you get rid of most of the paint on the nap first. With the excess paint off, spinning in the bucket is much easier. And, once clean, the roller can be fluffed up and kept as good as new for the next DIY paint job.
Step 5. Clean Paint Brushes From Toe to Heel
With the roller covers clean and fluffed up, you must tackle the paint brushes. If you don’t already have one, get a wire bristle brush from a local hardware store. A wire bristle brush is readily available and looks like those you use to clean the BBQ grid or use to clean metal for DIY welding jobs.
Fill the bucket a quarter full and dip the paintbrush in to get it wet. Start by brushing with the brushes' heel-to-toe bristles.
Step 6. Use Bucket to Support Brush
Getting the paint that’s gone up the ferrule off and out needs care. The best tool to use is a bristle brush that quickly gets inside and behind the ferrule that holds the paint brush’s bristles together and attaches these to the handle. You must scrub downward along the paint brush’s bristles and from the brush’s heel to the toe.
When wire-brushing, flip the brush over and do the back and the front. It's easy for the paint to dry at the heel of the bristles held together by the metal ferrule. And to get the paint out here, even deep inside the ferrule, is necessary as you don't want the paint to dry and harden and affect the future use of the brush.
You must get all the dry paint off the bristles. The next step is to wash the brushes with water.
Step 7. Wash Brushes in the Bucket
Fill the 5-gallon bucket a ¼ full with water, then dip the paintbrush to get it wet. You must pat the brushes into the water. Stick the brush right down to the bottom of the bucket. The patting actions work the paint out of the inside of the ferrule and on the paintbrush bristles. You must repeat the process up to four times and keep adding fresh water.
Step 8. Push the Brush Against the Bottom of the Bucket
Once you've removed the dry paint on the paintbrush bristles near the ferrule, submerge the brush in the bucket of water. It would help if you worked the paint inside the ferrule out. Keep patting the brush on the bottom of the bucket of water.
As you pat the brush at the bottom and refill it with clean water, you need to continue doing this until you don't see water that's cloudy with paint. Also, remember to use the wire brush between sessions of patting the brush. Work off all the bits of hardened paint. A wire bristle brush is the ideal tool and won't damage the paintbrush. Keep refilling the bucket with clean water and patting the brush.
You regularly need to fill the bucket with fresh water. You must do this at least four times. The patting motion forces water into the ferrule and flushes the paint out. The aim is to soften and get the paint loose. Again, this is a process that needs to be repeated.
When you see that the freshwater isn't cloudy or murky with paint, you can start to work off any areas of paint with the wire bristle brush. You must be careful not to let the wire bristle brush damage the paintbrush.
Step 9. How to Move Brush Downwards
You want the water in the bucket to wash into the ferrule area to almost force out any paint. You must work down the sides carefully in a patting movement. The patting action actually forces the paint out.
In between, you must give the brush a quick and short shake, just lightly, and repeat this patting, cleaning, and shaking process.
Step 10. Flick Paint Brushes and Fluff These Out
When you are happy all is done, you can pat the brush dry by holding the brush by the handle in one hand and lightly hitting it against the tip of your shoe. Ensure that you don’t damage the ferrule, as it can easily get dented and bent.
Again, you must fluff up the brush once you have removed all paint traces. And it's good to hold onto the paper casing that came with the brush when you bought it. You can stick the paintbrush back there for as long as the brush lasts!