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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!

box of paint rollersUse quality rollers

The most important on how to clean paint rollers is: Buy quality rollers!

I like Purdy or Wooster (here Purdy website). If not, the lint sheds when you paint and you have that gritty wall surface: you know the one. 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! Use a quality paint roller (see our post about paint roller here) and know how to clean it.

Cleaning power roller parts are exactly the same process.

There are 3 ways to clean paint rollers. How?

The best way to clean paint rollers is to use a spinner, it is a paint roller clearner!

#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
  1. We have a special tool called a ‘spinner‘: the paint roller cleaner
  2. Squeeze the paint from your roller back into your can with your hand or your curved tool (a 5-in-1 is our choice: it is like a 3rd hand to us).
  3. For the next steps, 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
  4. Place the roller cover a.k.a. the sleeve, on the spinner and rotate it slowly under the faucet–warmish water is best–and squish with your hand into the stream of water
  5. Spin in a tall bucket and repeat soaking and spinning over and over until the fibers are really done bleeding paint
  6. Stand on the end and let dry completely
  7. 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
Man cleaning a paint roller with a spinner
Paint roller cleaner: soak, spin, repeat

Brush Cleaning tip: 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 Purdy brushes.

  • To clean a brush, you don’t need solvents that smell and slowly kill you
  • How to use a spinner: here is a video at the end of this post showing how to use a paint roller cleaner. You will see how to squeegee the paint with a 5-in-1 tool. Squeeze excess paint back into the paint bucket and soak, spin, soak spin.
  • 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 a roller.

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!

a linzer spinner








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

Ask any question.

Video on how to use a paint roller cleaner

3 thoughts on “How to Clean Paint Rollers: the Quick, the Neat, and the Lazy Way”

  1. What are thoughts on Ben Moores Eco Spec ( no voc) flat latex for doing ceilings? Thanks for the helpful site.

    • Eco-Spec was for a long time one of the two zero VOC paints that Ben Moore had, up until recently. Now all their non-oil paints are zero VOC. Just to finish that thought, please read about VOCs in the colorants, the tints in my post on VOCs. My local store uses all zero VOC tints, but it varies from store to store: you have to ask, they will not tell you. A lot of tinting with toxic tints can turn a can of zero VOC paint into a toxic waste dump.

      Anyway, you will pay a bit less as Eco-Spec (and Ultra-Spec) are called “contractor grade” which means a contractor could cover a wall in two coats based on his or her skill, but you might not make it work. They have a little less pigment than the homeowner lines of paint and it’s the pigment that costs the money. A good Purdy brush is the key tool to coverage as well as a good wool/poly roller.

      So I recommend homeowners go with Regal, or Ben or any other line of Ben Moore paint. Know that not all colors cover equally.
      Eco-spec, in particular, is very hard to cover with any yellows or colors high in yellow pigment. I always used to go with Regal when my customer wanted a yellow.

      Good luck and thanks for the kind words. We work hard!


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