Essential Tools and Materials for Painting Prep and Cleanup

Two types of paint brushes on the edge of an open paint can.
  • 2-100 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 50-300

Before you can start laying down color, you need to prepare your surfaces. And when you’re done, you’ve got to clean up your mess so your hard work can shine through. Here's a list of the supplies you need for no one’s favorite steps.

Caulk—For filling open crevices around doors and windows.

Claw hammer—For removing nails and picture hangers, and also to knock in “nail pops” on drywall walls.

Clean rags—These are necessary for quick cleanups during the paint job or after the project is over.

Drop cloths—Protect floors and furniture with plenty of these cloths. Choices range from inexpensive plastic "throwaways," to more durable plastic-coated paper, to canvas.

Galvanized nails—Make sure they’re long enough to pierce and store caulk tubes.

Gloves—Rubber and latex or non-latex gloves will protect your hands from volatile chemicals.

Masking tape—For protecting non-painted areas and holding down drop cloths. It works especially well on edges or corners where two different colors or finishes meet.

Mesh fabric tape—For sealing cracks with joint compound or spackle, and keeping the cracks from coming back.

Mixing bucket—A five-Gallon bucket is perfect for stirring paint from multiple cans.

Rolling paint onto a wall

Paint hat—Keep paint out of your hair and eyes.

Paint scrapers—Triangle and other shapes of paint scrapers help get cracked old paint out of your way.

Paint strainers—In one-gallon and five-gallon sizes, they remove globs and particles that get into paint sometimes.

Paint tray—As well as disposable paint-tray liners to pour the necessary paint to do the job without the hassle of a can.

Patching compound—Either premixed patching compound or powder form, for repairing cracks and holes.

Razor blades—Single edge blades will help you clean paint from glass and remove stubborn painter’s tape.

Respirator—Fumes from paint, paint thinner, stripper and other solvents, plus particles from dust and sanding are all harmful to your health. A simple paper mask is not enough to protect you.


Sandpaper—Make sure to have coarse, medium, and fine grade options.

Scraper/Putty Knife—Necessary for applying compound, paint scraping, etc.

Screwdrivers—Both Phillips and flathead for removing wall plates and door hardware. Masking or painting over such things can be done, but never gives the best-looking result. Your flathead screwdriver also comes in handy for opening paint cans.

assortment of screwdrivers

String or fine wire—For suspending and holding lighting fixtures out of the way.

Tack rags—These sticky rags or cloths are perfect for picking up paint dust and scrapings.

Vacuum cleaner—A small “Dustbuster” handheld vacuum is great for window sills. A full-size vacuum is essential after you sand and prep and before you paint.

Wall cleaner and sponge/sponge mop—Clean surfaces of dust, cooking grease, soot, or cigarette smoke prior to painting. Thorough cleaning ensures the best result.