How to Clean A Paint Roller (Step-By-Step)

Have you been wondering how to clean a paint roller? You've come to the right place!

In this ProPaintCorner guide, you'll discover...

  • The simple five-step process to clean a paint roller
  • What materials you'll need to clean a paint roller
  • Other considerations when cleaning a paint roller

And much more!

How to Clean A Paint Roller (Step-By-Step)

So, if you want to know how to fully clean off that paint roller cover and restore it to its original condition, keep reading below to learn how!

What Do You Need to Know About Cleaning Paint Roller Cover?

There are many ways to clean paint rollers, but only a few ways to do it that avoid the hassle!

But, before you dive right into cleaning off that paint, it's very important to know what type of paint you've been using. A water-based (a.k.a latex) paint can be safely cleaned following the first 5 steps listed below.

Not to worry though, if you're working with oil-based paint or other solvents, I will include a separate section with 5 steps on how to properly clean and dispose of oil-based paint or another caustic solvent.

Safety First

Even when you're working with water-based paint, there are still some safety precautions you should take.

First of all, you want to minimize the paint's contact with your skin.

I know this is something most painter's skip, but please use gloves when working with paint!

While it's possible to get these paints off of your skin when you're finished, those microscopic paint particles can still enter your bloodstream and cause health issues even if they're on your skin for a little bit.

So please, grab a pair of rubber gloves or latex gloves before you dive into cleaning a paint roller.

And, if you're following the steps for cleaning an oil-based paint, make sure you use some sort of construction mask and goggles when working with mineral spirits or other paint thinners to protect your respiratory system from the toxic fumes that are produced from these chemicals.

A Note On Dealing With Oil-Based Paint or Lacquer

If you have been working with oil-based paint there are a few things you need to know before you try to clean off a paint roller.

First, you need to know that disposing of oil-based paint or lacquer is kind of a hassle, but it's important to be conscious of local laws and regulations.

DO NOT simply put the used roller cover in the garbage, the volatile-organic-compounds in that paint are going to off-gas in the garbage container and can pose health risks to you and the trash collector.

In order to properly clean off oil-based paint, you'll need to do a few extra steps, but don't worry, it can still be done with relatively little hassle in the end!

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Supplies You'll Need When Using Cleaning A Paint Roller

Before you jump into cleaning off your paint roller, you need to gather the essential supplies:

  • Soapy water
  • Putty knife or scraper
  • Roller Spinner
  • Plastic bag
  • Paper towels
  • Mineral spirits

How to Use Clean A Paint Roller (Latex Paints)

  1. Scrape off excess paint with a putty knife or scraper
  2. Place paint roller vertically in the sink and let the water fill the tube
  3. Flip over and repeat step 2
  4. Soap it up
  5. Put it on a spinner
  6. Dry it off

Step 1 - Scrape off excess paint with a putty knife or scraper

First things first, take your putty knife or another scraper tool that you have on hand and start scraping that water-based paint down the drain! 

These can be such a good cleaning tool when it comes to getting paint off rollers and other related painting equipment. Just like I recommend you use a brush comb when cleaning off a paintbrush, having a putty knife or scraper to get the excess paint off your roller is a huge help!

As you do this, make sure you're keeping an eye on the drain to see how much paint is coming off of the paint roller cover.

Ideally, you'll see quite a bit of that opaque paint coming off and going into the sink.

Step 2 - Place paint roller vertically in the sink and let the water fill the tube

Now, take the paint roller cover under the faucet and let the faucet run hot water into the paint roller tube.

Rinsing the roller this way not only saves your hands from having to constantly scrub the water into the roller to get it saturated, but it also lets the water seep into the fibers from the inside out.

This works especially well if you've got a quality roller that has perforated holes on the tube so the water can really permeate the fibers and let the paint runoff.

Step 3 - Flip over and repeat step 2

Next, flip the tube over and let the running water fill up the other side too.

This is going to shake up the remaining paint and give your roller a chance to get even more soaked by the warm water so all the paint is ready to be released and cleaned off.

Step 4 - Soap it up

This step is only necessary if you haven't seen good results using warm water or hot water.

Sometimes, that's all you need.

However, if that's not enough to cut it, grab some dish soap or other soap you have on hand and fill a bowl up with warm soapy water.

Then, dunk the paint roller into the water and really lather it up.

You should see a fair amount of paint coming off in the water and you can do a few rounds of this while rinsing in between.

Note: You really don't need to buy things like cleaning solutions or roller cleaners. These things can be convenient at times, but I find they're often just a gimmicky thing you don't need when soap will do the trick just fine!

Read More >> What Are The Best Paint Roller Covers Out There?

Step 5 - Put it on a roller spinner

This step is one that many rookies miss, which is using a spinner or the roller frame you were using to spin that paint roller!

It may seem weird, but this process allows all the fibers on the paint roller cover to get aired out and go back to their original position so it's ready to paint next time you need it.

Step 6 - Dry It Off

Finally, it's time to let the paint roller cover dry off.

You can dry it off a bit faster by using a dry towel or paper towels to pat off some of the excess water.

And then I'd recommend laying it out in the sun to dry off if possible.

This is because natural sunlight actually tends to "fluff" things up, which is why grandma always hung the sheets to dry outside!

It really makes the fibers in the material stand up straight and dry off faster.

But barring your ability to do that, set it on a table or a counter with a dry towel underneath and let it dry fully before putting it away for next time.

Did you know: Paint rollers were invented in 1940 by a Canadian man named Norman Beakey. He wanted to make a way to apply paint much more efficiently, so he developed the first prototype of the paint rollers we use today.

How to Use Clean A Paint Roller (Oil Paints)

  1. Fill a container with mineral spirits or paint thinner
  2. Submerge paint roller in solution
  3. Work the solution into your paint roller for 5 minutes
  4. Let sit for another 5 minutes
  5. Rinse off the excess solvent and paint into the container
  6. Wash the paint roller with warm water and dish soap
  7. Place on a spinner or roller cage
  8. Let it dry

Before you do anything, go ahead and put on your safety goggles, nitrite gloves, and a respirator if you intend on using turpentine or any other noxious chemical solvents. Safety first!

Step 1 - Fill a container with mineral spirits or paint thinner

First, you need to grab a container and fill it with mineral spirits or paint thinner.

Make sure this is a container that's much bigger than what you need since you'll need to be working over this container as you clean.

You'll need to keep the solvent separate from any sewage system or drain because this stuff is caustic and needs to be disposed of separately.

Step 2 - Submerge paint roller in solution

Now, take your paint roller and place it in your mineral spirits or other solution.

Make sure the roller cover is completely submerged and it doesn't hurt to shove it down to the bottom of the container to make sure it's fully absorbing the solution.

Step 3 - Work the solution into your paint roller for 5 minutes

Next, make sure you put on some gloves and then start working the solution into your paint roller cover.

You want to make sure you're really agitating the solution and the paint roller cover to get every single fiber saturated with the cleaning solution. 

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Step 4 - Let sit for another 5 minutes

Then, let the paint roller sit in the solution for another 5 minutes to get all that paint fully saturated.

Step 5 - Rinse off the excess solvent and paint into the container

Now, rinse off the excess solvent by taking the paint roller out of the solution and using a gloved hand to kind of "squeegee" the excess into the container.

However, before moving on to the next step, take another container much like the first one and fill that with some fresh paint thinner or mineral spirits and repeat those steps from above to make sure all that paint is fully off the roller cover.

Step 6 - Wash the paint roller with warm water and dish soap

Next, wash the paint roller with some warm water and a dash of dish soap to get it fully cleaned off.

Now that you've gotten the majority of that paint off the roller it should be okay to let the excess water run off into the sink.

Just make sure you really work the soapy water into the fibers and get to rinsing until the water runs clear.

Step 7 - Put it on a roller spinner

This step is one that many rookies miss, which is using a spinner or the roller frame you were using to spin that paint roller!

It may seem weird, but this process allows all the fibers on the paint roller cover to get aired out and go back to their original position so it's ready to paint next time you need it.

Step 8 - Dry It Off

Finally, it's time to let the paint roller cover dry off.

You can dry it off a bit faster by using a dry towel or paper towels to pat off some of the excess water.

And then I'd recommend laying it out in the sun to dry off if possible.

This is because natural sunlight actually tends to "fluff" things up, which is why grandma always hung the sheets to dry outside!

It really makes the fibers in the material stand up straight and dry off faster.

But barring your ability to do that, set it on a table or a counter with a dry towel underneath and let it dry fully before putting it away for next time.

Read More >> How Do You Clean A Paint Brush?

Other Considerations When Cleaning A Paint Roller

Well there you have it, now you know how to truly clean off a paint roller so you can maintain your painting tool for your next home improvement or paint job.

Cleaning off your roller covers is so important, and I've stressed this before with paintbrushes as well because it allows you to get the most out of your painting tools which ultimately saves you money on every painting project in the future!

Want to take it one step further? Grab yourself some plastic wrap or a roller sleeve to store the roller cover in once its dry so you can have a crisp, clean paint roller cover ready for your next DIY project!

Meet Your Pro Paint Corner Author

Madison Rude

Madison Rude

I’m kind of a painting nerd. My mom taught me how to paint when I was nine, and since then I’ve painted rooms, furniture...you name it. I’ve written technical advice for Wagner sprayers, and I’ve spent a lot of time DIYing my own home. I’m no expert, but I love to learn. And here at ProPaintCorner, I learn more about painting every time I work with one of our painting pros to bring you the best product reviews and How To advice available. Together, let’s make your next painting project the best it can be!

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Madison Rude

Madison Rude

I’m kind of a painting nerd. My mom taught me how to paint when I was nine, and since then I’ve painted rooms, furniture...you name it. I’ve written technical advice for Wagner sprayers, and I’ve spent a lot of time DIYing my own home. I’m no expert, but I love to learn. And here at ProPaintCorner, I learn more about painting every time I work with one of our painting pros to bring you the best product reviews and How To advice available. Together, let’s make your next painting project the best it can be!

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