How to Clean Paint Rollers Like a Pro

Learn how to clean paint rollers so you can stop buying new ones every time you start a project.

Cleaning paint rollers isn’t something everyone does. If you buy inexpensive rollers, replacing them sometimes makes more sense than cleaning them. But, if you’re purchasing nice paint rollers or trying to get the most bang for your buck, cleaning after each use will extend their life.

Here’s how to clean paint rollers like a pro.

How to Clean Paint Rollers: Step by Step

How to Clean Paint Rollers

Lay down a tarp to avoid paint splatters, and then follow these tips for cleaning your paint rollers.

Step 1: Scrape Excess Paint from the Roller

Paint rollers soak up a lot of paint, so it’s necessary to scrape the excess before moving on to the next step. To scrape your paint roller, you’ll need a curved 5-in-1 tool or a putty knife. If you don’t have either, resort to the flat side of a butter knife.

Hold your paint roller over your open can of paint, and use your scraping tool to make long, even strokes, scraping the excess paint back into the can.

Step 2: Roll on Scrap Paper

Swipe your roller on scrap paper or cardboard until paint no longer comes off.

Step 3: Wash the Roller Cover Depending on the Paint Type

With the excess paint removed, you can wash the roller depending on the paint type. 

Latex paint – Latex paint is water-based. Check your paint can, but if you just painted in your house, chances are you used latex paint.

To clean your roller, fill a buck with warm, soapy water. Next, submerge the roller cover and work it with your hand until clean. Rinse well with water afterward.

Oil-based paint – If you used oil-based paint, clean your roller with mineral spirits, turpentine, or paint thinner. To do so, grab a container and add enough of your chosen solvent to cover the paint roller. After a few minutes, put on a pair of nitrile gloves and work the roller pad with your hands until clean.

If your roller is not clean after this, pour your used solvent into a bottle, add fresh solvent and work the roller pad with your hands until clean. 

Then wash the roller cover with warm, soapy water and rinse well.

(Tip: You can reuse your solvent by letting the paint settle at the bottom and then funnel the still-clean solvent into a new bottle.)

As you wash the roller cover, take time to wipe down the handle with the necessary solvent, based on the type of paint you used.

Step 4: Allow to Dry

Stand the roller pads vertically for drying. Doing so prevents warping of the fibers. If your roller has individual strands or is brush-like, use a paintbrush comb to fluff it back up.

Do You Have To Clean a Paint Roller?

If you’re using an expensive paint roller or are in the middle of a job, it makes sense to wash the roller pad cover. If you’re using cheap pads and have several, then it’s easier to toss the used one in the trash and replace it.

If you’re in the middle of a project and need to keep your roller in good shape, place a Ziploc bag or plastic wrap over the pad portion while the paint is still wet. Then, place the roller in your refrigerator. It will stay in excellent condition until you’re ready to use it again.

Tips for Cleaning Paint Rollers

  • You can clean a foam paint roller just like any other. Start by removing excess paint and then soak the roller in an appropriate solvent – soapy water if you used latex paint or mineral spirits if you used oil-based paint. Rinse well afterward.
  • If there’s dried paint on your roller, soak it in an appropriate solvent for up to an hour. Even then, depending on the severity, you may not be able to get it clean.
  • If you’re quick to clean your paint roller, soap and water are all you need to remove latex paint. But, if there’s dried paint, try soaking the roller pad in a mixture of half vinegar and half water for fifteen minutes.