Wondering how to properly clean a paint roller? Taking care of decorating tools gives them a longer life by avoiding costly early replacement, and keeping them in top condition is key to achieving a great finish in every job.
Quick action is needed after painting a part to prevent the paint from drying on the roller. Cleanup is easy – although what you need for the job depends on the type of paint used.
Our guide has all the information you need to get the job done quickly and efficiently and ensure you’re ready to go the next time you paint a wall.
How to clean a paint roller
A roller should be cleaned as soon as you finish painting. Be aware of the type of paint you applied with the roller so you can clean up properly. It can be water-based paint (latex paint) or oil-based paint. The latter requires a solvent to remove.
Here’s how to clean a paint roller step by step.
1. Remove paint
Put on rubber gloves to protect your hands before you start cleaning a roller, then start by removing any paint – whether water-based or oil-based – from the roller. The porous texture that holds a lot of paint and makes roller-painting a good choice for large areas means there will be excess left over.
Use a putty knife or invest in a roller cleaner – we love Amazon’s ROLLINGDOG 4-in-1 Paint Tool Cleaner. Hold the roller straight above the paint can and scrape downward so that excess paint flows back into the can. “Scrapers are usually metal, so be sure not to use too much force or you could damage the roller,” says Michael Rolland, paint expert and managing director of The Paint Shed.
The paint can should be stored safely for reuse, but when the time comes be sure to dispose of the paint conscientiously.
2. Rinse water-based paint from a roller
If you were using water-based paint, you can now wash the roller. “Rinse the roller first with cold water, removing as much of the remaining paint as possible before using lukewarm water with a small amount of dish soap,” says Kevin O’Donnell, Crown Technical Demonstrator . “Hot water too early tends to congeal/set/dry some paints quickly inside the sleeve, making cleaning more difficult.”
3. Clean oil-based paint from a roller
Once you have removed excess oil-based paint from a roller, it will need to be cleaned with a solvent such as mineral spirits or a specialist brush cleaner.
Use a container sized to fit the roller to ensure that only the minimum amount of solvent is used. Add enough mineral spirits or brush cleaner to cover the roller. “Work the spirits through the fibers of the paint roller,” says Michael Rolland. “It will take about five to 10 minutes. Remove the roller from the mixture and use your gloved hands to squeeze out as much of the excess as possible.
Pour the used solvent into a container that can be sealed, then wipe the first container clean with a rag, add fresh solvent and clean the roller as before. This solvent can also be added to the first batch afterwards. The paint will settle to the bottom and the solvent can be saved for reuse.
Note that you should never pour mineral spirits down the drain if you want to dispose of it. Check with local authorities to find out how to safely dispose of hazardous materials.
Rinse the roller thoroughly in warm soapy water. Squeeze to remove as much water as possible.
4. Dry the roller
Whether you cleaned water-based or oil-based paint from a roller, then remove the roller sleeve so it can dry completely. This should be done by placing it on its end.
5. Clean the frame and handle
To clean the roller frame and handle if you painted with water-based paint, use warm soapy water and a sponge. Rinse with clear water and let dry.
The frame of a roller used to apply oil-based paint should be cleaned with a solvent applied with a rag.
Is it worth washing a paint roller?
It is worth washing a paint roller. Take care of your painting tools and you’ll save money because they’ll last. They’ll also stay ready-to-use so you don’t have to shop around before getting started on a project, and, of course, clean tools will help you do a professional job the next time you paint.
Should paint rollers be washed after each use?
Paint rollers should be washed after each use. There is, however, an exception to the rule. If you take a break and the job isn’t finished, you don’t need to wash the paint roller right away.
“Put the roller in a plastic bag, making sure there are no holes, and tie it around the handle to make sure the paint doesn’t dry out,” recommends paint expert Michael Rolland. and General Manager of The Paint Shed. After the work is finished, you will of course need to clean the roller thoroughly.