How to clean paint brushes and rollers

Whether you're an artist or have been doing some painting & decorating you need to know how to clean paint brushes & rollers! Find out some handy tips here.

24 June 2019

how to clean paint brushes and rollers
In the home

Paint brushes and rollers are like any other tool – unless you clean them properly once in a while, they will stop working so well! It’s a bit of a specialist topic, so we’ve prepared a lowdown on how to clean paint brushes. We’ve included a section on cleaning paint rollers, too, because it’s even more specialised.

A quick rinse with tap water does the trick between uses, but most paints are water resistant, and the residues that build up over time will stop the bristles from taking on new paint.

First up, you’ll need to determine the base of the paint you’ve been using. If it’s non-oil based, you’ll just need some warm water and soap. But if you’ve been painting with oils of any kind, you’ll need to add some white spirit into the mix. Acrylics also require special treatment – for these, you’ll need either special brush conditioner, or a conditioning hand soap. No matter what cleaning product you use, remember to read the instructions on the label first, to follow any safety instructions, and to test the product on a small area first.

The most important thing to remember about cleaning paint brushes and rollers is that the sooner you start, the easier it will be. If you can’t start the full process right away, leave used painting equipment to soak in a jar or basin of water until you can spare the time.

Cleaning Paint Brushes: A Step-by-Step Guide

Non oil-based paints are easier to remove, so we’ll start with them.

  1. Rinse the brushes thoroughly in cold water until the water runs clear.
  2. Using an empty jam jar or other suitable container, make a mixture of dish soap and hot water. As ever, take care to keep all cleaning materials well away from your eyes and mouth.
  3. Soak the brushes in the mixture for a few minutes. If there’s any stubborn residue, gently massage the bristles with your fingers to remove it.
  4. Rinse the brushes down again.
  5. Reshape the brushes by hand while they’re still wet, and leave them to air dry.

For oil-based paints, use the above procedure. But before soaking the brushes in the warm soapy water mixture, you should do the following:

  1. Fill your container with a small amount of white spirit. This shouldn’t be too much – just enough to cover the bristles.
  2. Gently push the brushes into the white spirit and twirl them around, to make sure all the bristles are exposed.
  3. Follow the above list from step 3 onwards.

It goes without saying that you should clean the brushes in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling the fumes of the white spirit, keep it well away from your eyes and mouth, well out of reach of children, and also wear gloves to protect your skin.

Cleaning Acrylic Paint Brushes

Acrylic paint brushes require specific treatment:

  1. Start by rinsing them with cold water until the majority of paint is removed and the water runs clear.
  2. Next, gently massage your special brush conditioner or conditioning hand soap into the bristles of each brush.
  3. Rinse them thoroughly, and reshape them manually.
  4. Leave them to air dry.

How to Clean a Paint Roller 

If you’re unaware of how to clean paint rollers, we don’t blame you – it’s hardly an everyday task. You’ll need a large bucket, some newspaper, soap, and white spirit. As with brushes, non-oil bases like latex are much easier to remove – just use soap and water. Oil-based paints, however, are a little more labour intensive.

  1. Remove excess wet paint by wiping it off onto the newspaper.
  2. Fill your empty bucket with warm, soapy water.
  3. Remove your roller from its mounting, and place it into the bucket.
  4. Squeeze it out repeatedly with your hands until the water starts running clear.
  5. Once it’s clean, re-mount the roller, and spin it quickly to remove the excess water.
  6. Allow the roller to air dry.

For oil-based paints, add a reasonable amount of white spirit or paint thinner into the mix. We suggest around a third of the container. Remember that these products can be irritating and toxic. We advise you to wear goggles while cleaning your paint rollers from oil-based paint, especially during the drying stage.