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How to clean paint brushes and rollers

Whether you're a budding artist or have been doing some painting and decorating, you'll need to know how to clean paint brushes and rollers! Read on to discover our top tops for cleaning paint brushes whichever paint type you've been using.

Updated Reading Time: 5 minutesBy Cleanipedia Team

Selection of used paint brushes to illustrate how to clean paint brushes
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Paint brushes and rollers are like any other tool – unless you clean them properly once in a while, they will stop working so well. Knowing where to start when it comes to cleaning paint brushes can seem a bit daunting. That's why we’ve prepared a lowdown on how to clean paint brushes and cleaning paint rollers to take all the guesswork (and stress!) out of keeping your brushes clean.

How do you clean a paintbrush? The basics

A quick rinse with tap water will normally do the trick between uses, but many paints are water-resistant. This means that residues will build up over time, stopping the bristles from taking on new paint. Here are some top tips to get started cleaning paint brushes and rollers:

  1. Determine the base of the paint. If it’s non-oil-based, you’ll just need some warm water and soap. However, 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 a special brush conditioner or a conditioning hand soap.

  2. Read the instructions on the label. Follow any safety instructions, and test the product on a small area first.

Cleaning paint brushes: A step-by-step guide

So, if you're looking to learn how to clean paintbrushes then look no more! Here is our simple guide to cleaning paintbrushes after using different types of paint.

How to clean paint brushes after using non-oil-based paints:

  1. Rinse the brushes thoroughly in cold water until the water runs clear.

  2. Using an empty jam jar or another 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.

Cleaning paint brushes after using oil paints:

  1. Follow steps 1 and 2 above.

  2. Fill your container with a small amount of white spirit – just enough to cover the bristles. Always keep white spirit well away from your eyes and mouth and out of reach of children.

  3. Gently push the brushes into the white spirit and twirl them around, to make sure all the bristles are exposed.

  4. Now continue to follow steps 3 to 5 above.

As you will be working with white spirit, make sure you clean these brushes in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling the fumes and wear gloves to protect your skin.

Cleaning paint brushes after using acrylic paint:

When you've been using acrylic paint, there are very specific steps you need to follow. Here are our five steps for how to clean acrylic paint brushes:

  1. Rinse the brushes with cold water. Make sure the majority of paint is removed and the water runs clear.

  2. Massage a cleaner into the paint brush. You can purchase a special brush conditioner or use a conditioning hand soap. Gently massage your chosen product into the bristles of each brush.

  3. Rinse again. Ensure that you remove all traces of your cleaner.

  4. Reshape your brush. To ensure you have the right shape to paint with when you return to your art, manually reshape the brush.

  5. Leave them to air dry.

The most important step in how to clean paint rollers and brushes is to start as soon as possible, to make the job easier. If you can’t start the full process right away, leave the equipment to soak in a jar or basin of water until you can return to it.

You will need:

  • Bucket
  • Newspaper
  • Gloves
  • White spirit
  • Paint thinner
  • Brush conditioner
  • Conditioning hand soap
  • Water
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How to clean paint rollers

If you’re unaware of how to clean paint rollers, we don’t blame you – it’s hardly an everyday task.

The steps for how to clean paint rollers and brushes are very similar – and non-oil bases like latex are much easier to remove, all you need is soap and water. Oil-based paints, however, are a little more labour intensive, so here are our top tips for how to wash a paint roller.

  1. Wipe the roller onto a section of newspaper.

    This will help you to remove excess wet paint.

  2. Fill your empty bucket with warm, soapy water.

    For cleaning paint rollers after using oil-based paints, fill the bucket a third full with white spirit or paint thinner before adding warm, soapy water.

  3. Remove the roller from its mounting.

    Once it is removed, place it into the bucket.

    You could also use a conditioning hand soap if you don't have a specialist product.

  4. Squeeze the paint out of the roller.

    Continue to squeeze repeatedly with your hands until the water starts running clear.

  5. Re-mount the roller.

    Once you are sure you have removed all the paint, spin it quickly to remove the excess water.

  6. Allow the roller to air dry.

    Make sure your rollers are fully dry before painting with them.

Remember that white spirit and paint thinner 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.

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Whether you're a budding artist or simply sprucing up your home, you can now use this guide as a go-to for how to clean brushes and rollers after you've finished with them.

Painting can be a messy task, but that doesn't mean your clothes and home have to stay messy! Get top tips for how to get paint out of clothes, removing acrylic paint from clothes, removing paint from carpet and more, right here at Cleanipedia.

Originally published