How to Properly Clean Painting Brushes & Rollers

two paint brushes soak in jars

by Siobhan - August 18, 2021

Painting remains one of the best ways to freshen up your home. 

Whether you’re painting the interior walls, or the front of your house for all the world to see, all of your effort will be wasted if your painting tools are in bad shape. 

Loose paint brush bristles can turn a quick touchup into a streaky mess, while a ragged roller can leave you with a patchy wall. In the pursuit of clean lines and professional-quality paint jobs, we’ve compiled some of the best ways to properly clean your paint brushes and rollers, including how to store them. By understanding how to best clean and maintain your painting tools, you can preserve them for years to come and ensure consistent painting results every time.

What you’ll need

Before you embark on your next painting project, make sure you are properly equipped for the aftercare of your paint brushes and rollers. Without adequate cleaning supplies, you could find yourself having to throw away perfectly good paint brushes and rollers – all because you allowed them to turn to cement.


  • Bucket
  • Dust mask
  • Gloves
  • Hose
  • Jar
  • Paint brushes
  • Safety glasses
  • Paintbrush restorer
  • Rags
  • Turpentine
  • Water

How to clean paint brushes

used paint brush is cleaner in water

It’s important to keep in mind that the cleaning process will vary slightly depending on the type of paint you use. 

Regardless of which paint you use, one thing remains the same – which is you should always clean your brushes immediately after use, rather than leaving them to dry. Do not soak brushes in solvent or water, as this can damage the bristles, and consider using one set of synthetic painting tools for oil-based paints and another set for water-based products. It’s much easier to clean the paint brushes if you don’t switch back and forth between the two types of paint.

Cleaning acrylic paint from your brush

  1. Put some water in a bucket and soak your brush in it for several minutes
  2. Stir the brush in the water and wipe it against the side of the bucket several times
  3. Repeat this until your brush is clean
  4. Allow your paint brush to dry and put away

Cleaning oil-based paint from your brush

  1. Before you start, put on your dust mask and safety glasses to protect you from the fumes. 
  2. Pour some turpentine into a bucket and soak your brush in it for several minutes
  3. Make sure to swirl the brush around and wipe it against the side of the bucket until it’s clean. 
  4. Wipe your paint brush dry on a rag and allow to dry

Cleaning dried paint off your brush

Whether you’re painting with acrylic or oil-based paint, enamel or even lacquer, you’ll need to use a paint brush restorer to remove dried paint from a brush.

Follow these steps:

  1. Firstly, put on your gloves, safety glasses and dust mask to protect yourself from the fumes
  2. Then, pour the paint brush restorer into a metal bucket
  3. Soak your brush in the bucket for several minutes, or until it looks clean. 
  4. Use a wire brush to remove any excess dried paint

How to store paint brushes after cleaning

Once you’ve cleaned your paint brush, either use a paint brush comb or your fingers to straighten the bristles or filaments to prevent “fingering”, or filaments drying in clumps. Reshape the paint brush to its original shape, replace in its keeper and lay flat to dry. Be mindful that after use, it may be necessary to steam synthetic paint brushes, or dip natural bristle paint brushes in boiling water, to help reshape them.

Whenever possible, store brushes by hanging them. Paint brushes have a hanging loop on the handle for a reason, so you can use it to hang your brushes to keep the fibres straight, or store it in a jar with the brush end up facing up. Never store a paint brush on its tip, as this can result in “curling” – which is where the bristles curl and splay.

Pro tip: When you get new brushes, save the packaging and use it for storage. The cover will help the brush retain its original shape.

How to clean paint rollers

used paint roller sits in tray

  1. Roll out any excess paint and remove the paint roller cover from the roller frame. 
  2. Submerge the cover in a solvent and let it work on removing the paint. 
  3. Once most of the paint is off is the roller cover, wash it with a mild detergent and rinse it in clean water. 
  4. Hang the roller cover to dry, stand it on its end to dry. If you lie it down, it’ll crush the fibres and create an uneven roll the next time you use it.
  5. Allow it to dry completely before storing it in dust-free cabinets or boxes

Pro tip: Fuzzy paint-roller covers can use the occasional trim. For this you can use scissors to carefully cut away dried paint flakes from the ends of a roller cover to prevent uneven results next time you paint.

Whether you’re painting a feature wall in your bedroom, or tackling the entire porch of your home, these tips for properly cleaning your paint brushes and rollers will help you to preserve them for years to come and ensure smooth painting results. 

Want more expert painting tips and tricks? Check out our Comprehensive Interior Painting Guide, or learn how to prepare walls for painting. Alternatively, you can leave the painting to the professionals and book Newline Painting’s House Painting service online today. 

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