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Professional Painters Reveal the Best Ways to Clean Paint Rollers

Plus, the brilliant Pringles can tip that keeps them wet between uses

Whether you’re the type to paint the walls of your home yourself, or throw on your overalls to do a touch up here and there, chances are you’ve had your fair share of run-ins with a paint roller. They’re a great DIY tool since they speed up the painting process — the cover (the textured part) absorbs paint so well. But what was a blessing can turn into a curse when it comes time to cleaning the roller after use, as all that paint has to come out. Thankfully, cleaning a paint roller is actually a lot easier than it sounds, according to professional painters and home improvement pros. Here, they share how to clean paint rollers with as little mess as possible, the best way to keep them wet between uses and how to know when it’s time to replace yours.

Why it’s important to clean paint rollers

Although it may seem like the last thing you want to do after exerting a lot of energy painting, ridding your roller of paint once you’re done with the task ensures it stays in tip-top shape. Here’s what cleaning your paint roller well gets you:

  1. Quality and efficiency: “Using an old or dirty roller can lead to inconsistent paint texture and add lots of time to the painting process,” says David Sutter, president of Five Star Painting, a Neighborly company.
  2. Color consistency: When you clean a roller thoroughly, you prevent the mixing of different paint colors. If you don’t clean it properly, remnants of a previous color can mix with the new one, affecting the final color and finish, says Sutter.
  3. Longevity: Properly cleaning and maintaining your rollers extends their lifespan saving you time and money in the long run.
  4. Safety: When you clean a roller, you remove any potential allergens or irritants that might be present in old paint, making the painting process safer for you and those around you, Sutter adds.

How to clean fresh paint off a roller

When you’ve finished up a painting project, you’ll want to eliminate any paint remaining on and in your roller before it has a chance to dry. The mess-free way to do so? Use a bucket, shares Max McGonegal, general manger of the Handyman Connection of Ann Arbor. To do: Lay a bucket down outside on the ground, hold the roller inside, and spray with a hose. This ensures any spray splatters hit just inside the bucket – and not on you! “Use a 5-in-1 scraper to get as much paint off as possible, then continue to rinse it until the water runs clear,” McGonegal adds.

See how well this works in the video below:

Still having trouble getting all of the paint off? Fill a container with warm water and dish soap, and scrub the roller in the solution before rinsing with warm water. “For extra cleansing power, you can use a solvent for the type of paint you are using such as ammonia [for acrylic paints] or acetone [for oil-based paints],” says Sutter.

Related: How To Get Rid of Paint Smell + Why Experts Say To Do It ASAP

How to clean dried paint off a paint roller

Oops! You forgot to clean one of your rollers the last time you used it. Before replacing the roller, try this: “For dried paint, it is best to fully submerge the roller in warm soapy water with an added solvent and slowly try to massage out the paint,” explains Sutter. “Make sure you are using a solvent, like ammonia or acetone, that can help break down the specific paint you used.” However, he cautions, this could potentially damage the roller, so if you find that it’s not working, you’re better off buying a new roller and cleaning it thoroughly after using it.

How to keep rollers wet between uses

paint roller in a chip canister for how to clean paint rollers

Sometimes a room needs a second coat of paint, but you have to run a few errands before you can finish the job. You don’t want to clean it, but you also don’t want it to dry up.

The easy way to keep the roller from drying out: “Wrap the roller in aluminum foil, plastic wrap or even a shopping bag,” shares Sutter.

“Putting into an airtight container — like even a Pringles can —may provide an extra layer of protection for your roller between uses.”

You can also just use an empty chip canister as is. Simply use a wet paper towel to clean out the canister, then slide the roller in and cover the opening with duct tape. The air-tight seal will prevent the roller from drying out until you’re ready to continue painting.

Watch how you can store your roller in the canister (while using the lid) in the video below:

What *not* to use to clean paint rollers

As long as you wash your paint roller after you’re done using it, you shouldn’t have any issues getting the paint off. But, if you forgot and it dried up the pros say that there are some “cleaners” to steer clear of completely. Paint thinner, is number one, say McGonegal, since the fumes can be unsafe to breathe in.

“It is also best to avoid any additional solvents that are not meant to be used with the type of paint you are trying to clean,” says Stutter. “Doing research or contacting the manufacturer of your paint can provide further information on best practices for cleaning.”

How to store rollers between uses

You’ve eliminated all of the paint from your roller and want to save it for future projects. The trick to storing it? Stand the roller up on a dowel or hang it using string while it dries.  

“Do not lay it on one side as this will result in an uneven texture for painting,” says Sutter. “Making sure the drying area is free of dust will help keep your roller dirt-free the next time you paint.”

While it can be more cost-effective to keep re-using your roller, cleaning it can only do so much after a while as they are not meant to be kept forever. “After three or four uses, the roller cover should be replaced,” he adds. Hold onto that metal frame though, as those can be used indefinitely!

For more helpful paint-related hacks, keep reading!

How to Get Paint Out of Carpet — The Genius Shop-Vac Hack That Makes It So Easy

How to Get Any Kind of Paint Out of Clothes

5 House Painting Hacks That Make Home Improvement Easy

Dermatologist: Why You Should Never Scrub Paint Off Your Skin and What To Do Instead

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