How to clean paint brushes and rollers

What’s that they say about workmen and tools? Brushes and rollers that are stiff with paint from a previous project are not the best start to any painting job. If you can’t face cleaning your brushes and want a really professional finish, you can find painters and decorators in your area with Which? Trusted Traders. All our endorsed traders go through our assessment process to ensure you can find one you can trust.

But if you’ve got some paintwork to tackle yourself, get the best from your brushes and rollers by following our traders’ tips on keeping them clean.

Trader tip: There’s no need to clean brushes and rollers if you’re going to use them again the next day. Wrapping the bristles or roller head in clingfilm will prevent the paint from drying out.

However, if you need to give them a proper clean, follow these straightforward steps:

1. Remove any excess paint

When you’ve finished using your paint brush, squeeze the bristles against the edge of the paint-can lip to draw out as much moisture as possible.

Then wipe away paint from brushes or rollers using an old cloth or some newspaper.

2. Clean water-based paint

You can remove water-based or non oil-based paint (emulsion) with warm, soapy water.

Use rubber gloves to protect your hands. To avoid staining your kitchen or bathroom, consider containing the soapy water in a jam jar, paint tray or similar, rather than using the sink directly.

Continue cleaning, changing the water several times, until all the paint is removed.

3. Clean oil-based paint

It will take more than soapy water to clean away oil-based paint (gloss).

Fill a container, such as an old jam jar, with white spirit and swirl the brush around in it. Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands. A roller will need a larger container – ask a hardware shop for advice, as plastic containers can sometimes react with white spirit.

Refresh the solution if necessary, continuing until all the paint is removed. Keep the used white spirit in the container - after a day or two the paint will settle to the bottom of the solution and you can re-use it for the next cleaning job.

If you wish to dispose of the white spirit, you must never pour it down the sink. Contact your local council to find out about suitable waste removal services in your area.

4. Rinse and dry

Rinse brushes or rollers under a tap until the water runs clear. Pat them dry with a kitchen towel or clean, old cloth.

Storing your equipment for future use

Storing brushes and rollers

Once you’ve cleaned your brushes and rollers carefully, make sure they’re ready to use for the next project. Always store brushes vertically, with the bristles pointing upward, to avoid damage. Once your roller head is dry, you can put it in a plastic bag to keep it clean.

Storing paint

It’s a rare job that uses every last scrap of paint in the can. It’s a good idea to keep surplus paint so you can touch up any scrapes or damage from wear and tear.

1. Choose the right container

Storing paint effectively means preventing contact with air as much as possible.

If your paint can is almost full, then it’s fine to leave the paint in there. Otherwise, transfer any remaining paint to an airtight container just big enough to store what you have left. Thoroughly cleaned jam jars or plastic containers are fine.

2. Label the can or container

Put a dab of the paint on the outside of your container to remind you what colour is inside.

Write the name of the paint brand, the colour and the date on to the container or a label. You may also wish to note the room that the paint was used in.

3. Form an airtight seal

A piece of clingfilm or a cut-out circle of plastic bag placed between the can or container and lid will help to keep air out.

If you're using a paint can, hammer the lid down carefully, using a rubber mallet rather than a hammer to avoid damage to the seal. If you’re using another container, ensure the lid is tight.

Turn the can or container upside down to store – this prevents air from entering.

Where to store paint

Paint should be stored in an environment that is cool and dry – a cupboard or a shed is ideal. Don't expose the cans or containers to freezing temperatures, though, as this can damage the paint. If you’re storing the containers outside, raise them off the ground on a shelf or wooden pallet and keep them away from the shed walls, as this will help protect them from extremes of temperature.

Using stored paint

Always check the consistency of your stored paint before you use it. A cottage cheese-like or gritty texture means the paint has degraded and shouldn't be used. A thin skin on top of the paint is fine, but remove it before stirring the paint thoroughly.

Test your paint on a piece of scrap wood before use.

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