Why You Should Pre-Clean Your Paintbrushes
Learn how to make cleaning paint brushes much easier with just a little bit of prep work.
Cleaning paintbrushes after a long day of painting can be a long, lonely task. One way to make things go more smoothly is to plan ahead. The next time you’re getting ready to paint, run your brush (or brushes) through whatever cleaning solution is required for that specific paint (for water-based paints use water, for oil-based paints use paint thinner). This “pre-soaking” will actually keep the paint from bonding too much with the bristles of the brush and will result in a much easier clean up process. Get to know these interior house painting tips and techniques for smoother projects.
Quick Drying HangerHere’s a handy way to dry and store paint brushes. Using a hand-saw, cut a slanted slice out of the handle from the hole toward the bristles. After cleaning, hook the brush over a coat hanger and hang it from a ceiling joist. — Paul E. Therrien Plus: A trick for storing paintbrushes overnight
Make Your Own Stir SticksForgot to grab stir sticks at the store when you picked up the paint? If you have a band saw and a hunk of 2x4, you can make your own! Take a 2-ft.-long 2x4 and draw a perpendicular line in the middle. Next, "rip" several 3/16-in.-thick strips on the band saw up to the pencil line. Then, to release the stir sticks, chop the 2x4 at the pencil line. This method keeps your fingers a safe distance from the saw blade. — Les Eastep
Bonus: Pro painters have let us in on their secrets. Watch the video to see a few of our favorites:
That's a Wrap...For NowThis handy hint will keep your paintbrushes in good shape after each painting project. After thoroughly washing and air-drying my brushes, I wrap them with a piece of the pre-taped plastic that I use to mask off my baseboards and protect my floors. When kept folded right off of the roll, the plastic is the perfect length to cover and shape the paintbrush bristles while the tape sticks to the metal ferrule. — Joe Martin. Plus: Everything you need to know about using masking tape.
Shine On RollerRecently I needed to polish brass parts for a project. I didn’t have a buffing disc, so I looked around the shop for an alternative. I saw several paint roller covers that I thought might work—but how to drive them? I found that they fit tightly on a 1-1/2-in. hole saw. I cut a 3-in. length of roller cover, inserted the hole saw and chucked it into my drill press. It worked great, and I’ve used this method often to buff and polish jewelry and all sorts of other items. You can buy buffing compound at a hobby store. — Bill Wells
Quick Touch-Up PadsIf you have touch-up work that’s not worth dirtying a paintbrush, try makeup rounds. These smooth pieces of cotton are about the size of a silver dollar and they won’t shed. You can use them to apply dabs of stain, oil or paint. We’ve even used them to touch up nail hole patches. You can find them near the cosmetics at drugstores and discount stores. — Jan Olsen. Plus: Get the skinny on our very best wood finishing tips.
Instant Roller SaversWhen the painting job’s half done but the day is all done, slide your paint roller off the roller frame and store it in a Lay’s Stax potato chip container. It’s just the right size for a standard 9-in. roller. Once you’ve slipped the roller cover inside, pop on the lid and the wet roller is sealed and ready for service in the morning. Our thanks to reader Kevin Kurucz for this high-rolling discovery. Plus: More painting tips and tricks.
Paintbrush Turned Push StickAfter my paintbrushes wear out, I strip off the metal ferrule with a needle-nose pliers and some strength. I use the wood or composite handle for a table saw push stick, since I am frequently losing or misplacing mine, I figured it would be better to have more rather than less of these handy tools. I use a square to measure and mark and the angle I want to cut into the paintbrush. Next, I simply make two cuts on my band saw to make an angled notch in the bottom of the handle. Now it's time to get to work! — Austin Garmo. Check out more step-by-step photos of this hack here.
Empty Jug Paint CarrierFor small paint jobs, I find that a 4-in. paint roller works great with an old gallon-size iced tea jug serving as a disposable roller tray. I just cut out part of the plastic to create a place to dip the roller. It even has a built-in carrying handle. When I’m done, I just throw the jug away. — Fred Thies. Here's another creative way to reuse a jug in the shop.
Paint Can Opener on Hand
Remove the Fuzz
Thinner ExtenderExtend the life of your paint thinner with this brush-cleaning system. Drill 3/16-in. holes in the bottom of an empty tuna can. Place the can in the jar with the bottom facing up, and fill the jar with paint thinner. Clean your brush by rubbing the bristles across the holes in the tuna can. The debris will settle to the bottom of the jar, leaving fresh cleaning solution for the next time. — Daniel Cappiello. Plus: Learn the difference between mineral spirits and paint thinner.
Portable Roller StandRipping a long board on a small portable table saw can be downright dangerous without extra support. If you don’t have a helper to control the board, clamp a short-nap paint roller to a sawhorse as a temporary roller stand. (Tighten the clamp firmly to prevent slipping.) As you move around your work area, carry the sawhorse along (readjust the roller height if necessary). Now you’ll always have support to safely cut long boards. — William A. Goldbach. Plus: Check out these table saw tips and tricks.
Shoe Box Painting KitFor a small paint job that calls for a small roller, I just use a shoe box top as my paint tray! It's lightweight and I can hold it in one hand as I roll; plus it’s sturdy enough to hold the paint! When I'm done I just toss it out—there’s no messy tray to clean up. — Steve Ference We decided to take Steve’s handy hint a step further and create a reusable paint touch-up kit with a shoe box. Inside the box, you can keep a small roller and roller cover, paintbrush, gloves, paint can opener, stir stick and anything else that you may need for quick touch-up jobs. Then before using the shoe box lid as a roller tray, as Steve suggests, first cover it with saran wrap, so you can reuse it time and time again! We've got more inventive ways to reuse cardboard boxes.
Tomato Cage Drying RackAn inverted tomato cage makes a great drying rack for rollers, brushes, pads, rags and whatever is wet after painting cleanup. The stuff dries quickly outdoors, and there’s room for everything! — Tom Anderson. Plus: The best-kept secrets of professional painters.
C-Clamp Paint Can Handle
Easy-Clean FinishingForget brushes when it comes to varnishing a ton of trim or big, flat areas like tabletops and cabinets. Use a 4-in. disposable roller and a nonstick, lipped baking sheet. Pour some varnish into the tray and use it just like a paint rolling tray. Keep adding varnish as you need it, but try to plan so you end up with an empty tray. When you’re through, toss the roller sleeve and let the wet varnish dry in the pan. When it dries, just peel the varnish film right out of the pan. Thanks to Aaron McKeever for this tip.
Self-Cleaning BrushesJust hang your brush in a jar of solvent: water for latex paint, and mineral spirits or paint thinner for oil-based. Using a clamp, suspend the brush in the jar with the bristles fully submerged almost to the ferrule, but not touching the bottom of the jar. The finish will slide off the bristles and settle on the bottom of the jar. If you're using paint thinner or mineral spirits, set the jar outside to keep fumes out of your house. Be sure it's away from children and pets. After a day or two, remove the brush and give it a thorough rinse in clean solvent. — Pat Gustafson. Plus: Check out our other paintbrush cleaning tips here.
Roller Reach StickLoading and unloading your truck can be time-consuming and tiresome, especially when you have to climb in and out of the bed multiple times. Here’s a solution: Use an extension pole with a paint roller attachment to pull or push items with your feet on the ground. This tool takes up little space, so you can keep it in your truck at all times. It’ll save you time—and save your back! — Terry Crawford Any roller head with work for this tool, as long as it’s large enough to hook around items that you haul in the back of your truck. Adding a roller cover makes the tool a bit more gentle for pushing and pulling items that you don’t want scratched.
Less-Mess Paint Can LidsIt’s no secret that painting projects are messy, especially when pouring paint from the paint can into a smaller container or roller tray and then re-sealing the lid. Here’s one way to cut down on the mess: To prevent paint from spattering all over the place when you close the lid of the paint can, cover it with a rag or paper towel. The rag will collect the paint splatters—not your clothes! To avoid denting the rim and lid of the paint can when you pound it closed with a hammer or mallet, lay a wood block sized just larger than the diameter of the paint can across the rag and hammer the center of the block. Rotate the block a few times, hammering in the center each time to seal the lid. Plus: Cutting in is tough to master. But these tips will definitely help.
Touch-Up BottleWhen there's only a little bit of latex paint left in the can and I want to save it for touch-ups, I put a half-dozen marbles in an empty water bottle and pour in the leftover paint. When I'm ready to do a touch-up, I shake the bottle and the marbles mix the paint. A roll of tape with a rag draped over it helps hold the bottle steady while I pour the paint into it. Just be sure to use a funnel or you'll have a mess on your hands. — Ron Hazelton
Tape Containers for Furniture Glides
Wet Paintbrush Storage
Painting Tool Storage StationOrganize your paint brushes, scrapers, roller frames, rags and paint cans with this shelf made from two 1x8 boards screwed together and reinforced with metal shelf brackets ($1). We built ours 38 in. long to fit three brackets of sliding spring grips ($4 each at a home center) that we mounted under the shelf for tool storage. Build and attach this shelf to a shop or basement wall, and you’ll thank reader Steve Sampson for enforcing orderly storage on all your far-flung painting paraphernalia. Check out these other clever tool storage ideas.
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Trim Off Ragged Roller EdgesThose ragged edges and tiny beads of dried paint on your paint roller may seem harmless, but they’ll leave ugly tracks in your paint job. Trim them off, leaving a slightly tapered edge, and your roller will be as good as new.
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