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A great paint roller cover—a cylindrical fabric piece that fits over a roller frame—distributes paint more efficiently than a brush, cutting down on painting time and ensuring a smooth, even finish.
We evaluated paint roller covers based on their durability, smoothness of application, and versatility. Our top choice, the Purdy White Dove Woven Paint Roller Cover, lays down a smooth, perfect coat of paint.
Here are the top roller covers in a range of categories most likely to interest the DIY painter.
Best Overall: Purdy White Dove Woven Roller Cover ⅜-Inch Nap
There's a reason even professional painters love this woven Dralon polyester paint roller cover: It lays down a smooth coat of paint over just about any reasonably smooth surface without leaving behind lint, streaks, thin spots, or blotches, and it won't splatter or splash paint while you work. You'll get top-notch results, even if you are new to DIY painting. It's truly a multi-purpose roller cover.
Use this roller cover with any latex or oil-based paint, stain, varnish, or sealer over walls, doors, trim, cabinets, ceilings, floors, even metal. The 3/8-inch nap glides over smooth to semi-smooth surfaces, including drywall, paneling, and concrete. Best of all, you get a pack of three at a very reasonable price. These roller covers are washable for reuse, and are the standard 9-inch size. They slip on and off any standard paint roller frame.
Best Value: Bates 1/2-Inch Nap Roller Covers
Budget paint roller sleeves can be tricky, since you typically get what you pay for when it comes to the quality of the cover. Bargain-priced covers that are made with inexpensive fabrics and materials will start to shred, tear, or flatten after just a single project. At the very least, poor budget covers won’t retain the paint, allowing stray splatters and drips to ruin your work as you roll it across the surface. You won't have those issues with the Bates 1/2-Inch Nap Roller Covers, however.
These 9-inch sleeves—you get a pack of five—are made of microfiber that lays down a smooth coat of paint without shedding. Use these sleeves on just about any smooth-to-slightly-textured surface, and with any type of paint, stain, or varnish. You can wash and reuse the sleeves, but at this bargain price, you might simply choose to toss them once the project is finished.
Best Foam: FoamPRO 9-Inch Foam Roller Sleeve
Foam roller sleeves are ideal when working with high-gloss paints, or when you're painting a very smooth surface that would show any stray bits of lint. The FoamPRO 9-Inch Paint Roller Sleeve is made of a highly durable foam with a 3/8-inch nap that holds a lot of paint without matting down, letting you cover smooth to semi-smooth surfaces with a perfectly even coat of paint and zero roller marks.
Use these roller covers with any type of paint on doors, cabinets, furniture, walls, paneling, and even ceilings that aren't too heavily textured. Note that you'll want to use less pressure than with a traditional synthetic roller sleeve to avoid paint splatters or drips. When you're finished, wash up the foam cover with water, let it dry, and it's ready for your next project.
Best for Decks and Fences: Wooster Wool 3/4-Inch Nap Roller Cover
Painting semi-rough wooden surfaces, such as decks, old or new fences, outdoor furniture, and outdoor wooden trim, can be tough. Many rollers don't lay down enough paint to cover wood's irregularities, or snag and catch on the rough surface. But with the Wooster Wool 3/4-Inch Nap Roller Cover, you'll enjoy a professional-looking painting job even on these tough projects.
The cover is made of high-quality, 100% natural lamb shearling that is soft, dense, and thick enough to roll out a perfect coat of paint. And while this is a great roller cover for oil-based paints, stains, and varnishes, it also does an excellent job with all types of latex or water-based products. The roller cover is a standard 9 inches in length.
Best for Doors and Cabinets: Whizz Cabinet and Doors 4-Inch Foam Roller Covers
Many painting projects involve walls, which typically have a slightly textured finish. But when painting untextured surfaces, such as interior or front doors, cabinets, trim, and furniture, you want the smoothest finish possible. For those situations, reach for the Whizz Cabinet and Doors 4-Inch Foam Roller Covers. These high-density foam roller covers lay down the smoothest coat possible of latex or oil-based paint, shellac, stain, varnish, lacquer, urethane, or sealer, even in high-gloss finishes.
The foam rollers won't shed any lint into the wet paint—that can be a major problem when working with glossy finishes—nor will they leave roller marks. The 4-inch size is ideal for doors and cabinets, and the roller covers fit any standard 4-inch roller frame. You get a pack of six roller covers.
Best for Popcorn Ceilings: Wooster Popcorn/Acoustical Roller Cover
Painting any ceiling can be challenging, but painting a popcorn-textured ceiling is even more of a task, as most brushes and rollers can't handle the hills and valleys of a popcorn ceiling without skipping spots, overloading others, and crushing the texture in between. To the rescue: the Wooster Popcorn/Acoustical Roller Cover, which is specifically designed to evenly and quickly lay paint over popcorn or acoustical ceilings, highly textured walls, masonry, and stucco.
The roller cover is made of a thick, multi-slit foam with a 9/16-inch nap to cover uneven textures without crushing the popcorn texture. The standard 9-inch roller sleeve works with any standard roller frame, and can be used to apply any latex, acrylic, or oil-based paint.
Best Microfiber: Pro Grade 1/2-Inch Nap Microfiber Roller Cover
When you want a very smooth finish or are using a glossy paint, you'll find microfiber does a superior job of creating a smooth, perfect layer of paint that doesn't have any lint or roller marks. And the Pro Grade 1/2-Inch Nap Microfiber Roller Covers are more than up to the challenge. These 9-inch sleeves are durable and work well with any type of paint or stain.
Use these roller covers for any type of interior surface that's smooth or lightly textured: walls, ceilings, kitchen cabinets, furniture, and even floors. Because microfiber holds a lot of paint, you'll get your project done quickly. Once finished, you can clean the sleeves for future use, or just toss them; they are very reasonably priced.
Best for Trim: Wooster Super Doo-Z 3-Inch Paint Roller Sleeve
You might assume that a sash brush is the only way to paint trim, but in fact, with a properly sized roller—such as the 3-inch Wooster Super Doo-Z—you can tackle trim with a paint roller, making the job faster and easier. This extra-mini roller sleeve is made from a shed-resistant, synthetic woven fabric with a 3/8-inch nap. It's designed to apply the smoothest coat of paint over smooth to semi-smooth surfaces, such as trim, doors, moldings, baseboards, or even small pieces of furniture.
Use these roller covers with any paint, enamel, or varnish, even those with a high-gloss finish. Remember that you'll need a 3-inch roller frame to use these covers. You get a package of two sleeves.
Best Oversize: Purdy Golden Eagle 18-Inch Roller Cover
If you're painting a wide stretch of wall, fence, or any other large surface with a semi-smooth to semi-rough texture, and you want to get the job done quickly, then you'll love the oversize Purdy Golden Eagle 18-Inch Roller Cover. This roller sleeve is made of high-density, knitted polyester with a 1/2-inch nap to handle the widest range of painting situations and any type of paint.
Keep in mind that you can't maneuver an 18-inch roller as easily as a 9-inch roller when painting around trim, outlets, and other obstacles: This big boy is best used for large stretches of unobstructed surface. You'll also need a roller frame large enough to handle it. Purdy makes an adjustable frame that stretches to 18 inches, look for it sold separately.
Best for Rough Exterior Surfaces: Valspar Stucco, Decks, and Masonry Roller Covers
Tackling very rough surfaces, such as masonry, stucco walls, unfinished wood, textured concrete, or stone, can be tough on your paint roller. Very rough surfaces tend to grab and tear at the paint roller, leaving you with an uneven finish and bits of shed roller stuck in the paint. But that won't be the case when you use a Valspar Stucco, Decks & Masonry Paint Roller Cover.
These sturdy knit polyester roller sleeves have a 3/4-inch nap that stands up to the wear-and-tear involved in painting rough surfaces, so you can get your project completed quickly, and with the professional-looking results you desire. You get a pack of two sleeves.
Best for Metal: Purdy White Dove 1/4-Inch Nap Paint Roller Cover
When painting an ultra-smooth surface like metal, or when working with very high-gloss paints, you need a roller cover with a very low but dense nap to allow the paint to flow smoothly without leaving behind roller marks, bubbles, or other imperfections. The Purdy White Dove 1/4-Inch Paint Roller Cover fits the bill. This Dralon, high-density woven cover creates the smoothest finish possible.
Use the 9-inch roller cover with any latex or oil-based paint. The synthetic fabric loads an impressive amount of paint, so you can get the job done quickly, but won't shed or splatter as you work.
Best Mini: True Blue 4-Inch Mini Paint Roller Cover
Sometimes, all you need is a small roller for quick touch-ups of scuffed or chipped paint, for working in tight spots, for painting small pieces of furniture, or for crafts. At those times, you'll appreciate the quality and performance of the True Blue 4-Inch Mini Paint Roller Cover.
These small roller sleeves are made of 3/8-inch nap microfiber that picks up and lays down quite a bit of paint without excessive shedding, splattering, or smearing. Use them with any type of latex or oil-based paint over smooth to semi-smooth surfaces. You get a pack of 10 sleeves at a very reasonable price, making these the perfect covers to keep on hand for quick painting tasks.
If you’re looking for a reliably high-performing roller cover that lays down a smooth coat of any type of paint over a wide range of surfaces, then it’s hard to beat the Purdy White Dove ⅜-Inch Nap Woven Roller Cover (view at Amazon).But if you need a roller cover for painting trim or other narrow surfaces, then we recommend the Wooster Super Doo-Z 3-Inch Paint Roller Sleeve (view at Amazon).
What to Look for in a Paint Roller Cover
Paint roller covers are typically woven or knit synthetic fibers, natural wool, microfiber, or foam. While any of these can be multipurpose, each does have its own strengths.
Synthetic roller covers made of polyester, nylon, or a blend of synthetic materials, are the most common types. These sleeves do an excellent job of laying down a smooth, even coat of paint over most interior wall surfaces, as well as doors, trim, furniture, and non-textured ceilings. Microfiber roller covers, which are made of a very fine polyester, are especially good for smooth surfaces and glossy finishes.
You'll notice that there are knit and woven synthetic roller sleeves. As a rule of thumb, knit covers are best with low-sheen paint finishes, such as flat and eggshell, while woven covers are best with high-sheen, gloss finishes, as woven covers are the least likely to shed lint onto the wet paint.
Natural lambswool is best suited to oil-based paints, although some painters also prefer it for latex paints, as the wool holds a lot of paint and releases it smoothly, even over rough surfaces. Foam roller sleeves are good for applying varnishes and sealers over wood, but you can use them to apply paint as well. Foam roller covers are especially good for very smooth surfaces and even for painting metal.
The nap of a roller cover is the thickness of the material. As a general rule, the higher the nap, the more paint the roller will hold and the easier it will be to cover rough surfaces. It's important to consider nap when choosing your roller cover.
As a general rule, if you are painting interior walls with fairly smooth surfaces, your best choice of nap is 3/8 inch to 1/2 inches. These are the most common naps. For very smooth surfaces, however, or when using paint with a glossy finish, a lower nap of 1/4-inch will create the smooth, perfect finish you're aiming for.
If painting rough surfaces, choose a higher nap for the best results. Stucco and rough wood requires a nap of 3/4-inch to 1-inch for the best coverage, while very rough surfaces such as concrete, brick, and stone can go even thicker with a 1-1/4-inch to 1-1/2-inch nap.
Paint rollers and paint roller covers come in a range of sizes designed for different purposes. If your project is a simple one, such as painting one or more average size walls, a 9-inch roller, which is the standard, is your best choice. But for working in tight spaces, painting trim, maneuvering in a corner, or cutting in around the ceiling, a smaller roller is useful. For trim, a 2-inch or 3-inch roller is best, while a 4-inch or 6-inch roller is useful for a wide range of smaller projects.
If you're painting a wide stretch of wall, fence, or ceiling, an equally large roller will get the job done quickly. You'll find oversize rollers from 12 inches to 18 inches, but keep in mind that it's harder to maneuver these large rollers around edges, trim, or window frames.
How do you clean paint roller covers?
Can you reuse paint roller covers?
As long as you clean your paint roller cover well, you can reuse it several times before it affects the quality of paint. In general, your paint roller cover can be used about five times, but this ultimately depends on the product’s overall quality.
How many roller covers do you need?
The number of roller covers you need depends on how many different paint colors you’re using. If you’re painting all four walls of your bedroom the same color, for example, you’ll just need one roller cover per painter. For projects using multiple paint colors, purchase one roller per color to make the project more efficient.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article is edited and updated by Michelle Ullman, the tool expert for The Spruce. She has extensive experience not only in writing about all things related to the home, but also in carrying out various DIY projects, including landscaping, painting, flooring, wallpapering, furniture makeovers, and simple repairs.
For this roundup, she considered dozens of paint roller covers, evaluating each for effectiveness, ease of use, and feedback from customers, as well as her own experiences carrying out numerous DIY painting projects. She also received advice and suggestions from Geoff Cook, owner of Handyman Connection of Pensacola and Lisa Rickert, CEO and Creative Director at Jolie Home.