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Secrets to Using and Preserving Paint Brushes and Rollers

Updated: Mar. 16, 2023

Old paint and paint brushes don't do well together .Follow these secrets from the pros for how to use paint brushes and rollers to make painting easier and mess-free.

person clips edge of a paint rollerFamily Handyman
These pro secrets about the best way to use and care for your paintbrushes and paint rollers will make any paint job around the house easier, neater and give you beautiful results.

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Edge-trim your paint roller

Trim off ragged roller edges

Those 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.

Brush for cleaning brushes

Clean brushes with a golf club brush

Dried paint and paint brushes don’t do well together. An old golf club brush is perfect for scrubbing off that crusty coat that builds up on paintbrushes. The plastic bristles scour away most of the crust without harming the brush. The brass bristles will take care of the stubborn spots.

Double the life of your paintbrushes

Wash out most of the paint first

To ensure you get a lifetime of use out of your synthetic paintbrushes, clean each one immediately after using it, before the paint has a chance to dry. Wipe the brush on newspaper to remove excess paint. Then stick the brush into a bucket of warm water and move it around to remove as much paint as possible.

Use a wire brush to remove paint from bristles

Next, hold the brush under running water. Run a wire brush (or a kitchen fork) down the bristles to remove dried paint. When the water running off the bristles turns clear, the brush is clean.

Let each paintbrush air dry, then wrap it with the cardboard cover it came in or heavy paper (like grocery bag paper). To keep the bristles straight, hang the brushes from a nail or hook, or store them flat.

Plus: How to remove paint from wood.

Video: Best Paint-Rolling Tools

Lint-free paint roller

Remove fuzz with self-adhesive lint roller

Cheap paint rollers shed all over the paint as you roll it on, but they’re good because they’re disposable—no cleanup! Before using one, wipe it with a self-adhesive lint roller to remove all the loose fuzz—no more picking it off wet walls.  Check out more lint roller hacks you wish you knew earlier.

Best way to clean roller covers

Hook up the hose to a faucet

If you do a lot of roll-on painting and use premium roller covers that you don’t want to throw away, get a Roller Washer ($15). You’ll be glad you did. It’s easy to use and gets the rollers incredibly clean—a task that takes a long time by hand, and even then you rarely get a truly clean nap. Just hook up the hose to a faucet, slide the roller cover into the tube, and watch the water flush out the paint in minutes. Order the Roller Washer online by typing “roller cover washer”into your search window.

Slide the roller cover into the tube

Water flushes the roller cover clean

Video: How to Clean Paintbrushes

Brush ceiling edges

Use a 3-in. brush to cut in ceiling edges

Cut in the perimeters of ceilings with ceiling white and a 3-in. brush. Don’t worry if you lap over onto the wall. Roll on a second coat of ceiling paint in the opposite direction of the first coat.

Paintbrush holder

Don’t let bristles touch the jar bottom

Soak oil brushes in cleaning solvent without bending the bristles and ruining the brush! Clip a medium or large binder clip around the handle of a brush and spread the arms to span a cleaning container so the brush bristles don’t touch the bottom.

Out-of-the-way paintbrush storage

Hang brushes on a rod or wire

Hang your paintbrushes out of harm’s way by installing a couple of screw eyes or cup hooks on the bottom of a couple of rafters or floor joists. Then thread the brush handles through a stiff wire (or welding rod) and hang it all up.