How to Clean Paint Rollers

Painting supplies covered in blue paint next to partially painted white wall

Kittiphan Teerawattanakul/ Eye Em/ Getty Images

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 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

Latex- or Water-Based Paint Clean-Up

  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.

  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.

  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.

  4. Rinse the Roller

    Use a stream of fresh water or a fresh bucket of water to rinse the roller. Shake off the excess water.

  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.

  6. Clean the Paint Tray

    There are two options for cleaning the paint tray. If you need to move to another color right away, rinse it 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, allow the paint to dry and then simply peel it away.

  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.

Oil-Based Paint Clean-Up

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.

  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.