How to Clean Paint Rollers

Black painting tray with white paint, roller and putty knife on top

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 - 20 mins
  • Total Time: 10 - 20 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Paint is one of the most economical and speedy ways to transform the look of a room or piece of furniture. One of the best tools for most painting projects is a paint roller. A paint roller covers more area than a paintbrush with the same amount of effort, and some paint roller frames have extendable handles to expand your reach. The rollers and frames come in different widths to fit the task and different textures to give you the results you desire.

Lots of DIYers take the lazy way out and simply toss the paint roller when the job is done. That's certainly one way to clean up, but the cost of purchasing a new roller for each project can add up, especially if you are planning to paint multiple rooms or pieces. Plus, higher-quality paint roller covers that cost a bit more (and that you'll want to reuse to get your money's worth) will give you a better paint finish.

The steps for cleaning a paint roller are simple if you follow the guidelines for different types of paint. We'll take a look at how to clean a paint roller, frame, and paint tray so you can save money and your tools.

How Often to Clean a Paint Roller

A paint roller should be cleaned at the end of every painting session. Clean-up is much easier and more successful when the paint is wet. Don't forget to clean the roller frame and paint tray, as well.

Tip

If you need to take a short break during a painting session, place the paint roller in a large plastic bag and tie the bag shut around the handle. Slip the paint tray into a separate bag and tie it shut as well. This will prevent the paint from drying until you can get back to work.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Bucket
  • Putty knife
  • Stiff-bristled brush
  • Rubber gloves
  • Eye protection

Materials

  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Mineral spirits
  • Newspaper
  • Old rags
  • Disposable container

Instructions

Materials and tools to clean paint from paint rollers

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

How to Clean Latex- or Water-Based Paint Off a Paint Roller

  1. Remove Excess Paint

    Paint rollers hold an amazing amount of paint in their absorbent fibers. Use a putty knife to gently scrape excess paint back into the paint can. Hold the roller perpendicular over the can opening and slowly and gently work around the surface of the roller in a downward motion.

    Finish by using the remaining paint on the roller to touch up bare spots on your wall or roll the excess paint on newspapers until the roller stops releasing paint.

    Excess water-based paint removed form paint roller with putty knife over bucket

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  2. Remove the Roller to Clean the Frame

    Wearing rubber gloves to protect your hands, pull the roller from the frame. It is much easier to clean the frame while the paint on it is wet. Place some warm water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid in a bucket. Use an old rag or a stiff-bristled brush to remove the paint from the roller frame and handle. Set it aside to air-dry.

    Soft-bristled brush cleaning roller frame over bucket

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  3. Wash the Roller

    Submerge the roller in the bucket of warm water with a few drops of dishwashing liquid. Use your hands to massage the paint out of the roller fibers, making sure you clean every surface.

    Paint roller being washed above bucket of warm water and dishwashing liquid while wearing gloves

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  4. Rinse the Roller

    Use a stream of fresh water or a fresh bucket of water to rinse the roller. This may take several minutes. Shake off the excess water.

    Roller dunked in separate bucket of clean water for rinsing

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  5. Dry the Roller

    Never place the roller on its side to dry—this will flatten the fibers. Place it upright on its end or slip it over a pants hanger to dry.

    Roller placed upright for drying next to bucket and roller frame

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  6. Clean the Paint Tray

    Rinse the paint tray out in a bucket of soapy water. Use a stiff-bristled brush to remove any dried paint along the edges.

    If you aren't in a hurry and are using a plastic tray or plastic tray liner, allow the paint to dry and then simply peel it away. This method can have varying results.

    Black paint tray being cleaned with stiff-bristled brush, water and dish soap

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  7. Dispose of the Cleaning Water

    Since the cleaning water contains bits of paint, never dispose of it down a stormwater drain. Dispose of the water down a sewer drain connected to a water-treatment facility.

    Cleaning water from bucket poured down sewer drain

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

How to Clean Oil-Based Paint Off a Paint Roller

As with latex paint, always remove as much excess paint from the roller as possible. The biggest difference in cleaning paint rollers after using oil-based paint is that a solvent like mineral spirits must be used to remove oil-based paint.

Warning

Always wear rubber gloves and eye protection when cleaning with solvents to prevent skin irritation and splatters to the eyes.

  1. Clean the Roller Frame and Paint Tray

    Dampen an old rag with mineral spirits and scrub away any paint that is clinging to the roller frame and paint tray. You may need to use a stiff-bristled brush or pour a small amount of mineral spirits into the paint tray to remove dried paint.

    Black paint tray being cleaned from oil-based paint with stiff-bristled brush, water and mineral spirits

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  2. Use Solvent to Clean the Roller

    Place enough mineral spirits in a bucket to completely cover the paint roller. Use a container as small as possible to reduce the amount of solvent needed. Wearing rubber gloves, use your hands to work the solvent through the fibers of the paint roller. This will take five to 10 minutes. Remove the roller from the solvent and use your gloved hands to squeeze out as much of the excess mineral spirits as possible.

    Pour the soiled mineral spirits into a disposable container. Wipe out the bucket with an old rag. Refill the bucket with enough fresh mineral spirits to rinse the roller. Once the roller is rinsed, gently squeeze to remove excess solvent.

    Fill a bucket with warm water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid. Give the paint roller a final cleaning in the soapy water. Rinse well in fresh water and gently squeeze out the excess moisture. Set the roller on its end or hang to air dry.

    Pour the last batch of mineral spirits into the disposable container. Always follow the guidelines of your municipality for disposing of the container.

    Paint roller with oil-based paint cleaned in bucket with mineral spirits and gloves

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Removing Paint Stains from Clothing, Carpet, and Upholstery

It happens. Sometimes paint drips, and a blob of paint gets where we don't want it to be. From clothing, carpet, and even furniture, the paint always seems to get somewhere besides on the walls or ceiling.

The type of paint—water-based or oil-based paint—will determine the method you use to remove any paint drips or splatters on clothing, carpet, or furniture.

Removing Paint from Clothes

Water-based paint: Try to remove as much of the wet paint drip as possible with a dull knife or spoon. Next, on the inside of the clothing, flush the spot with warm water. Then with a mixture of liquid laundry detergent and water, work on the stained area and rinse.

If the paint has dried and the garment hasn't gone through the washer and dryer, it potentially can be removed with a little rubbing alcohol.

Oil-based paint: Any paint stains that are oil-based have to be noticed and removed while they are still wet. This type of paint requires paint thinner to remove any drips.

Put a paper towel underneath the stained area, wet the spot with paint thinner, then use a spoon or brush to push the paint out onto the paper towel. Soak the spot well with liquid detergent and put into water to soak overnight before laundering.

Removing Paint from Carpet

Water-based paint: Similar to clothing, it's best to catch water-based paint drips on carpets while they're still fresh and wet. Simply use a dull knife or spoon to try to remove any excess paint from the carpet. Grab a wet cloth or paper towel and blot (no rubbing!) till the paint stain is gone.

If the paint has dried, use a mixture of hot water and dish detergent to put on the stain. Leave it alone for five minutes, and then try to remove any of the paint you can with a dull knife or spoon. Once again, blot with a wet cloth or paper towel till the spot goes away.

Oil-based paint: Fresh wet paint drips can be blotted with a cloth or paper towel, making sure not to push too hard as it will go further into the carpet fibers. Use a cloth that has a small amount of paint thinner or acetone (blotting only!) to remove the rest of the paint stain.

If the carpet fibers have flattened, use a straightened paper clip or heavy needle to separate them and help them stand back up.

Removing Paint from Upholstery

Getting paint stains out of upholstery on furniture can be a bit trickier. Remove paint drips with a dull knife, and then before trying to clean it, locate the letter codes on the furniture to determine how the upholstery needs to be cleaned. If you're unsure, it's best to have a professional clean it for you. 

Tip

The key to removing paint from any item, whether it be clothing, carpet, or furniture, is to act quickly and remove any paint drips as soon as possible.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Project Pollution Prevention. Environmental Protection Agency.

  2. Mineral spirits poisoning. Mount Sinai.