How to Clean and Store Paint Brushes and Rollers

Painting supplies in sunshine.

A fresh coat of paint can do wonders to a room, yet getting a professional finish is not as easy as it looks, especially if you're using old and crusty paint brushes or rollers. Knowing how to properly clean and store your painting equipment can change the game for your next project. Ensure a great paint job by following these seven simple steps for cleaning and storing paint brushes and rollers.

Step 1 - Remove Paint

Remove any excess paint from the brush or roller before it dries. This will help ensure an easier cleanup and improve the life of your equipment. For brushes, run the bristles along the lip of the paint can to remove any excess paint. You can also wipe away paint using old newspaper or cloths. Remove as much excess paint as possible before proceeding. Whatever you do, avoid soaking the brushes in water because this can harm the bristles.

Water-Based Paint

The best way to clean off water-based paint is with a mixture of soapy water. Wear rubber gloves to prevent staining your hands. You can clean water-based paint inside a sink, but using a paint tray or similar container will help avoid staining the surface of the sink. Always use warm water and start by working the soapy mixture into the brush with your hands. Follow this up with a quick rinse. Continue this process until the brush is free of paint.

Oil-Based Paint

Soapy water will not clean oil-based paint. You will need to use a solvent, like mineral spirits or denatured alcohol, for most oil-based paints. The type of solvent you need will vary depending on the paint, so refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for the right kind of cleaning agent. Start by pouring the solvent into a container. Wearing rubber gloves, dunk the brush or roller inside the container and work in the solvent using your hands. You may have to refresh the mixture, but continue until all the paint is removed from the brush.

Step 2 - Rinse

A paint brush in water.

Once the brush or roller is completely free of paint, give it a good rinse under the tap. You want to remove any soapy water or solvent during the rinse phase, so keep the brush under the water for a few minutes. After you've finished the rinse, reshape the bristles so that the brush keeps its original shape after drying.

Step 3 - Dry

A man holding a paint roller with a ladder in the background.

Shake the brush or roller to remove as much water as possible. Then, use a dry cloth or towel to pat the tool dry. You can go ahead and store your brushes at this point, but rollers should be completely dry before storage. Dry the rollers by hanging them on dowels for a few hours. Never dry a roller inside a container or on its end because this can cause deformations.

Step 4 - Storage

It's best to store brushes in a vertical position, with the bristles pointed up. This will help avoid any curling and keep them in their original shape. Unlike brushes, rollers tend to attract dust and lint particles and should be placed inside a plastic bag when not in use. Never place the roller in storage until it's fully dried.


There are certain tools you can use to aid in the cleaning process. A golf club brush, for instance, is a great way to scrub off any paint that has dried along the base of the brush. You can also use a wire brush or kitchen fork to remove dried or crusty paint from the bristles. For rollers, it's recommended to trim off any ragged edges after the rinse as these rags can actually ruin a good paint job. If your roller has accumulated lint or dust, a lint roller is great for removing excess fuzz. You can even use a lint roll prior to painting to ensure a cleaner surface.