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How to Clean Paint Rollers and Extend Their Life

Are you wondering how to clean paint rollers the right way? Clean-up is an important part of any paint project, and doing it right will keep your tools in good condition and help them last longer.

This step-by-step guide shows you exactly how to clean paint rollers to get them perfectly clean every time.

Man rolling blue paint onto wall. Knowing how to clean paint rollers is a way to save money on painting.

What You’ll Need

Here are the basic supplies you’ll need for cleaning paint rollers after a non-oil-based painting project.

  • Putty knife or paint stirring stick
  • Bucket or sink of warm water
  • Mild dish soap
  • Cleaning brush
  • Old towel or rag

These are optional items that you may want to consider using during cleanup.

  • Rubber gloves
  • Eye protection

If using oil-based paint, you’ll also need the following items.

  • A solvent such as mineral spirits or paint thinner (check your paint can for which is best)
  • Shallow container to hold solvent
Cans of solvent for cleaning oil-based paint.

How to Clean Paint Rollers when Using Acrylic or Latex Paint

For best results, clean your paint roller as soon as you’re done using it. Wet paint is much easier to remove than dry paint.

Before cleaning a paint roller, it’s helpful to roll as much paint as you can off of the roller and onto the wall or other surface that you’re painting. If you’re finished painting and there’s still a good bit of paint on the roller, start by scraping off excess paint.

Step 1: Scrape off Excess Paint

Person squeezing excess paint from a roller.

Paint rollers are surprisingly absorbent. If you don’t want to put more paint on the surface, but you still have a lot of paint on the roller, scrape off excess paint before cleaning it.

Holding the roller over the paint tray or paint can, use a putty knife or paint stirring stick to scrape off excess paint.

Step 2: Roll the Last Bits off your Roller

Once you’ve scraped off as much paint as you can, roll the last bits of paint onto a sheet of newspaper, other scrap paper, or cardboard.

Step 3: Separate the Roller and Frame

Rinsing a paint roller and brush under running water in a sink.

You can rinse the roller and frame under hot water together at first if you like, but to get them really clean, you’ll need to separate the frame from the roller.

Paint can easily get stuck under the roller, and if you don’t remove the roller from the frame, that paint can dry and act like glue, keeping your roller stuck to the frame once it’s dry.

Step 4: Wash the Roller Frame

A clean paint roller frame.

Fill a bucket or sink with warm water and a small amount of dish soap. Too much soap will be hard to rinse out, so only use a few drops.

Place the roller frame in the bucket and use a brush or your hands to remove the paint. Use a small brush for any hard-to-reach places where paint is stuck.

After all the paint is removed, rinse well and set the frame aside to dry.

Step 5: Wash the Roller

If the frame wasn’t too dirty, you can use the same bucket of water to wash the roller. If the bucket is full of paint, you may want to get a fresh bucket of water.

Rinsing a pain roller that has been cleaned in soapy water.

Put the roller in the bucket of soapy water and use your hands to wash the paint out of the roller. Turn the roller often and make sure to get all areas clean. When the paint is out, rinse the roller well in clean water, either using a bucket of fresh water or running the roller under water in a sink.

Step 6: Get the Water Out

Get as much water as possible from the roller before setting it aside to dry. Squeeze excess water from the roller with your hands, then use an old towel or rag to squeeze more water out.

Step 7: Let it Dry

Let the paint roller dry by standing it on its end. You don’t want to lay the roller flat to dry for several reasons.

One, the underside won’t get enough airflow to dry properly, and two, the fibers on a paint roller are delicate. When the roller is laid flat while wet, the fibers will be squished and won’t dry in their proper position, leaving you with a wonky roller next time.

How to Clean Paint Rollers When Using Oil-Based Paint

Cleaned paint rollers hung up to dry.

Many of the steps for how to clean paint rollers are the same when using oil-based paint. The main difference is you’ll need to use a solvent rather than soap and water to remove oil-based from your paint roller. Check the paint can to see what type of solvent is recommended for the specific paint you’re using. Paint thinner, mineral spirits, or denatured alcohol are common solvents.

How to Clean Paint Rollers With Solvent

Start by getting as much paint as you can off your roller (see steps one and two above).

Pour the solvent into a shallow container such as a plastic bin. Keep the roller on the frame to start with. Using the handle, roll the paint roller around in the bin to distribute the solvent over the roller and start thinning the paint.

Remove the paint roller from the bin and use a putty knife to scrape excess paint and solvent back into the bin.


Repeat the process with a fresh bin of solvent, but let the roller soak in the solvent for about five minutes before scraping clean. If there is still some paint remaining, repeat the entire process one more time.

Clean the Frame

Once the paint roller is clean, remove it from the frame and blot dry with an old towel or rag. Dip the frame back into the last bin of solvent and let it soak for a few minutes. Remove from the bin and wipe it clean with a rag. If all the paint doesn’t come off at first, try soaking it for a few more minutes.

Let it Dry

Set the Frame aside to dry the rest of the way. After blotting, set the roller on its end to let it dry fully.

How Often to Clean a Paint Roller

Cleaned painting supplies in a sink.

Now that you know how to clean paint rollers, you may wonder how often you need to do it. Is it really necessary to clean a paint roller every time you use it?

The short answer is yes. To make the most out of your roller and have it last as long as possible, you’ll want to clean a paint roller every time.

If you’re taking a short break or finishing your project the next day, it is possible to save your roller for a short time without cleaning it, but it may not last for as long.

To save your roller without washing it first, remove it from the frame and wrap it carefully in plastic wrap. Put the wrapped roller in a Ziploc bag, remove as much air as possible and seal it tightly. The roller will last for a day or two this way.

Tips and Tricks for How to Clean Paint Rollers

A clean paint roller on a frame.

Invest in Quality Painting Tools

Cleaning paint rollers is easier when you have high-quality tools. They also give a better result when painting. Cheap rollers shed fibers that can end up in your paint and come out when cleaning.

How to Store a Paint Roller

Wait until the roller is fully dry after cleaning before storing. Keep it in a dry location where it won’t collect dust.

How Many Times Can You Use a Paint Roller?

With proper cleaning, you can get at least three or four uses out of each paint roller, sometimes more. You can use the same roller frame forever if you clean it well after use and don’t let paint dry and accumulate on it.

When to Dispose of a Paint Roller

If the roller is crusty or overly stiff after cleaning and drying, it’s time to get a new one. You may notice your roller becoming harder to clean over time, which indicates it’s wearing out and ready to be replaced.

Wrapping Up How to Clean Paint Rollers

Using a hose to add water to a bucket with paint rollers in it.

If you follow these steps for cleaning paint rollers, your tools will last over and over again.

For more painting tips, check out the interior and exterior sections on the blog. You’ll find all sorts of helpful guides, gear recommendations, color ideas, and more to help you tackle your next painting project.