How to Clean Paint Brushes and Rollers to Last Longer

Experts share their best tips for cleaning paint brushes and rollers, so they're not ruined and can be used in the future.

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Paint Roller and Two Paint Brushes With White Paint Against a Green Wall Background
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Learn how to clean paint brushes and rollers correctly with expert tips from some of the industry's biggest paint brands. If paint brushes and rollers aren't properly cleaned (or if you allow the paint to dry on them), you could be destining them straight for the trash—or, at the very least, compromising the quality of any future paint projects. After investing in (not-so-cheap) painting supplies, you want your gear to last—follow our guide for cleaning paint brushes and rollers.

How Often to Clean Paint Brushes and Rollers

It's best to clean paint brushes and rollers ASAP post-painting. Paint is infinitely harder to clean once it has begun to dry, and you could risk ruining your tools altogether if you wait until hours later to complete the job.

"Proper cleaning and storage of all your paint tools [are] important," says Rick Watson, the director of product information and technical services at Sherwin-Williams. "I try to wash my brushes after each use as soon as I'm done."

How to Clean Paint Brushes With Dish Soap

What You Need:

  • Mild dish soap
  • Paint brush scraper
  • Brush and roller spinner (optional)

Step 1: Wash Brushes

Use warm water and a bit of mild dish soap to clean the paint from your brushes, gently working the soap through the bristles until the water runs clear.

Paint brushes and a roller being washed with water in a sink

Adrian Sherratt/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images

Step 2: Remove Paint From Brushes

Grab a paint brush scraper ($5, to help remove all of the paint more quickly, including dislodging any dried paint bits near the ferrule. Run the scraper through the bristles, then rinse under warm water and repeat.

Step 3: Use a Spinner

Our experts suggest investing in Purdy's Brush and Roller Spinner ($32,, which spins paint brushes and roller covers above a container, helping to remove all of the paint and water more quickly. Just make sure the area and your clothing are protected against flying paint first.

Step 4: Dry Brushes

Once clean, allow paint brushes to air-dry completely before reusing or storing them.

Step 5: Store Brushes

As much as possible, store paint brushes by replacing their protective cover. "Keep the original cover your brushes came with when you purchased them," Watson recommends. "They're great for keeping bristles intact and helping the brush maintain its original form."

If you don't have the brush's original cover, make one with cardboard and duct tape to protect the bristles before storing.

How to Clean Paint Rollers With Dish Soap

What You Need:

  • Metal painting multi-tool
  • Garbage can (optional)
  • Mild dish soap
  • Scrubbing brush

Step 1: Scrape Off Excess Paint

Using a paint multi-tool ($14, with a curved edge or a putty knife, scrape excess paint off the roller, either back into the paint can or over a garbage can.

Step 2: Wash and Rinse

Remove the roller cover from the paint roller frame and rinse it with warm water. If needed, add a bit of mild dish soap—just be sure to rinse thoroughly so your next paint project doesn't start to suds up. The roller is clean once the water runs clear.

Step 3: Dry Roller

Let the roller air-dry completely, ideally standing it upright so that one side doesn't get flattened.

Step 4: Clean Roller Frame

To clean the paint roller frame, use soapy water and a sturdy scrub brush (one that you don't use for dishes or anything food-related) to remove any dried-on paint. Rinse thoroughly, then let the frame air dry.

How to Keep Your Paint Brushes and Rollers Clean Longer

The best way to keep paint brushes and rollers clean longer is by thoroughly cleaning them after each use. Make sure to remove dried-on paint from each tool.

Also, properly storing your brushes and rollers will help them keep their form and be ready for the next project. Store paint brushes with a protective cover—preferably their original cover—and store paint rollers in a plastic bag.

While high-quality paint brushes and rollers help you obtain a smoother, more professional finish on your walls, they also last longer. "Always use quality tools and quality paint," says Watson. "That will make a huge difference not only in the finish of your paint job but also in the ease of painting and the longevity of your tools."


What tools are needed for painting?

Top view of paint tools laying on a canvas tarp, including a painting tray, painter's tape, paint roller, paint brush, small bucket, and scraping tool

5m3photos/Getty Images

Watson recommends choosing a brush with a wooden handle and metal ferrule (the part that connects the bristles to the handle), as plastic parts are more likely to fall apart with frequent use. Brands like Purdy also feature densely packed bristles made from a blend of nylon and polyester. This blend teams up for excellent durability and shape retention.

"When it comes to bristles, it sounds counterintuitive, but you want to look for flagged bristles, meaning the ends are split or fuzzy and feel soft to the touch," Watson explains. "This results in a smoother texture and sharper lines when cutting in."

For rollers, the trick lies in pairing the right nap length with the texture of the wall you're painting. Extremely smooth surfaces can handle a short nap (usually ⅛-inch to ¼-inch), while more textured surfaces (like brick) need a longer nap of ¾-inches. You should also invest in a durable, sturdy paint tray that's ribbed on the bottom to help evenly distribute paint onto the roller.

How do you prepare paint brushes and rollers before painting?

Hand holding a paint brush, ready for prepping

Yevgen Romanenko/Getty Images

According to Mike Mundwiller, an end-user product experience manager at Benjamin Moore, there are a few things you can do before painting to ensure you're getting the most out of your quality tools. Mundwiller suggests running your hands over the bristles of your brush a few times to dislodge any stray hairs that could get into your paint, as well as lining your paint tray with a plastic liner or wrap to make cleanup a breeze.

Another pro trick? Painter's tape—but not the way you think. "Before your first application with a new roller, wrap the entire roller with blue painter's tape, then pull it off," says Mundwiller. "This will 'de-fuzz' your roller prior to painting, ensuring you don't have any fibers deposited into your paint or onto your walls once you get going."

How do you store paint tools between coats?

Hand holding a paint brush wrapped in plastic with a white window taped with blue painter's tape in the background

Melisssa Kopka/Getty Images

If waiting for coats to dry or you need to take a break, don't leave your paint brush or roller behind in a puddle of paint. If using a roller and paint tray, Watson suggests trashing the whole thing—but not literally.

"If I'm using a roller tray, I will get a standard garbage bag and put everything in that—tray, roller handle with roller and brushes," Watson says. "Be sure to close it tightly to keep the air out."

Both pros suggest painters can also prepare for brief breaks (think: an hour or two) by storing used brushes and rollers in plastic bags or tightly-wrapped plastic wrap, ensuring that all air is away from the surface of the paint.

"If you are ending for the day and you want to pick it back up in the morning, wrap your tools and store them in a refrigerator," suggests Mundwiller. "Just make sure that prior to starting the next day, you let the tools warm up to room temperature before painting with them."

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