How to Clean Paint Rollers: the Quick, the Neat, and the Lazy way

The first tip on How to Clean Paint Rollers– it’s actually not a big mess and there is a reason you should clean them: Don’t buy cheap rollers so you can throw away! Cheap ones shed lint!

How to Clean Paint Rollers

The most important on how to clean paint rollers is: Don’t buy cheap rollers! The lint sheds during use and you have that gritty wall surface: you know the one. Cheap restaurant bathrooms were painted by the owner because he thought he was smart. Well, he was cheap and did not know how to clean paint rollers! Buy a quality paint roller and know how to clean it.

There are 3 ways to clean paint rollers. How?

#1 – How to Clean Paint Rollers the Quick Way

A spinner is the key in how to clean paint rollers
A spinner is the key in how to clean paint rollers

The way we (should*) do it: we have a special tool called a ‘spinner‘. If you don’t want that much of an investment, skip down to #2. Squeeze the roller with your hand or your curved tool ( a 5-in-1 is our choice: it is like a 3rd hand to us). You’ll need a tall bucket, such as the kind that 5 gallons of paint come in: tall to keep the spray from going all over. Place the sleeve on the spinner. it near the faucet, run the cover under (warmish is best) water and squish it into the stream of water over and over until really done bleeding paint, then stand on the end and let dry completely. We never keep that plastic bag cover for storage. We just let it dry completely and store in a box with the others. If the fibers get bunched up in storage, it springs back at the start of the next use. It’s good to use regular hair conditioner on the bristles once every few uses, but not essential. We take very good care of our Purdys.

  • To clean a brush, you don’t need solvents that smell and slowly kill you
  • How to use a spinner: here is a video of someone using it. The video really starts at 1:20 sec. They clearly did not squeegee the paint with a 5-in-1 tool–rookies. They only spun the roller to remove water after they washed paint out in the sink? Why not just squeeze excess paint back into the paint bucket and soak, spin, soak spin? Oi vey. Precision Painters? Hmm. (Tip: turn off your speakers to avoid the stupid music in this video)
  • So that is it: just soak, spin, repeat. Do be sure to hold the spinner in a large bucket or you will have a paint shower: like being near a wet dog that just came out of the bath. Repeat the spinning/soaking until no more paint comes out, let it dry standing on the end, and the roller will perform like new again (for quality rollers that is).

#2 – The low-cost version of how to clean paint rollers.

Leave the cover on the roller handle, place your bucket screen or tray in the sink and simply roll it back and forth under (warmish) water. No need for soap. Just keep going until you get most of the solids out of the roller cover. We do this when changing from one white to another white (e.g. primer to ceiling or white trim paint) or when finishing a job (unless the next use for it is coming up in a day or so: then we wrap well in a plastic bag).

Believe it or not: I have left quality roller covers (we like Wooster) soaking or wrapped wet for WEEKS. No harm done (though not great for metal shaft or bearings of roller handle). Cheap rollers have a core of cardboard and could never take it–the glue would fall out! Good rollers are wool blends and have plastic/durable material and good glue to hold the nap together. Buy a good one and clean it! Best deal on Amazon is to buy 2 or 3 in a pack as they do wear out and you very well may end up tossing a used one.

Try not to get water in the gear chamber of a spinner as all brands rust. We have been through all kinds, and the Purdy above is your best bet.

#3 – How do you clean a paint roller if you really lazy?

But still you even more cheap that lazy? Join my club. Here is a “Don’t Do What We Do” tip, but it’s not to be spoken of in polite society. You can remove the used roller (scrape most paint off using the curved blade of your 5-in-1 tool) and then just soak the roller in water for a day or so. Stand it vertically and all the solids in the paint will slowly fall out to the bottom of the bucket. Then you can much more easily get the paint out with no special tool: just water. This will not do a good job, but it will make the roller usable again. This means a quick death for a roller that could probably go for weeks on a professional job site.

Ps, you can also stick a brush in the clip of a spinner, but that is really not necessary: we just flip the brush on the toe of our shoe (in a messy area or under a cloth). The spinner is better but slower. Pps, I’ve also see drill attachments for rollers and spinners. Who wants to go pull out a drill just to clean something so easy to clean? Now you go forth and teach others how to clean paint rollers! Don’t mention how we soak them, please!

How to clean paint rollers with a linzer spinner








We discussed the best way to clean a paint brush in a different article.

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