How to Clean a Roller Brush

Two Methods:Cleaning Water-Based Paints from RollersCleaning Oil-Based Paints from Rollers

Good roller brushes are expensive, but they can last a long time if they are maintained properly. The single most important thing you can do to preserve the life of your roller brush is to clean it properly every time you use it. Although not a difficult task, cleaning a roller brush is a bit messy and time-consuming, but the results are well worth the effort.

Method 1
Cleaning Water-Based Paints from Rollers

  1. Image titled Clean a Roller Brush Step 1
    Before you begin to paint, prepare a 5-gallon (19 L) bucket with a cleaning solution of water and fabric softener for each paint roller you plan to use.
    • Fill each bucket with warm water and add 2 cups (.473 L) of fabric softener and stir.
    • When he fabric softener dissolves, it breaks the surface tension of the water, which dissolves the paint faster.
    • If you prefer, you can clean the roller brush with plain water and a capful of mild dish detergent.
  2. Image titled Clean a Roller Brush Step 2
    Remove as much excess paint from the roller as possible by rolling it and pressing it hard against the roller paint pan.
    • You can also spread out 4 or 5 layers of old newspapers on the floor and roll the paint off onto the newspaper.
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    Dip the roller into the bucket with the cleaning solution and move it around for at least 20 seconds.
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    Remove the paint roller from the bucket and rinse it with warm water under a running tap until the water runs clear.
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    When all the paint has come off the roller, you need to remove as much water from it as possible before hanging it up to dry Roll it back and forth on an old terry cloth towel or a thick layer of paper towels to absorb the moisture.

Method 2
Cleaning Oil-Based Paints from Rollers

Do not use water to clean roller brushes if you are using oil-based paint; the paint will not dissolve in water alone, it must be removed with mineral spirits or turpentine.

  1. Image titled Clean a Roller Brush Step 6
    Remove excess paint from the roller by rolling it back and forth on the paint pan or onto several layers of old newspapers.
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    Pour mineral spirits or turpentine (also called paint thinners) into a clean roller paint pan to clean your roller brushes. Add enough thinner for it to fill the pan about 3" (7.62 cm) deep.
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    Roll the brush into the thinner and back and forth in the pan, just as though you were getting ready to paint.
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    When the roller is clean, press out excess paint thinner by rolling it on several layers of old newspapers or an old towel. If there is still paint on the roller, refill the paint pan with more mineral spirits or turpentine, and repeat the process.
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    Allow the roller to air dry, preferably by hanging it on a nail or hook.
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    When the roller is dry, cover it with wax paper, plastic wrap or aluminum foil to protect it from dirt and dust.


  • If your painting project is interrupted for a short time, you can slip the roller into a plastic bag or wrap plastic around it to prevent the paint from drying out. You can also store a tightly-wrapped roller in the freezer overnight. Just be sure to allow time for it to thaw completely before restarting your painting.
  • Pour used mineral spirits or turpentine into an old, clean coffee can and place the plastic lid on it. Allow the paint in the thinner to settle for a day or two, and then pour the clean thinner into another container to reuse. Let the paint sludge in the bottom of the coffee can dry out for a few days and then dispose of properly.
  • Store cleaned roller brushes on their sides or hang them up on a nail or hook.
  • There is no need to rinse the roller after cleaning it in the water and/or fabric softener solution.


  • Use protective latex gloves when working with oil-based paints and solvents.
  • Check your local ordinances about how to properly dispose of oil and solvents.
  • Keep oil-based paints and solvents away from open flames and keep the room you are painting well-ventilated.

Things You’ll Need

  • Paint roller
  • Buckets
  • Newspaper
  • Towels
  • Fabric softener
  • Water
  • Plastic wrap or plastic bags
  • Aluminum foil (optional)
  • Coffee can with lid
  • Paint Thinner
  • Latex gloves

Article Info

Categories: Decorative Home Paintwork