It’s inevitable. You’re painting, and you reach a point where you have to let the paint dry, or you’re just out of time for the day. And cleaning your paint roller and tray is a pain. It makes the painting go much faster than using a brush, but it takes a lot longer to clean, too. Here’s how to save time and paint, cut down on how many times you have to clean the roller, and keep paint rollers from drying out until the end of the project.
All you need is a plastic bag and a fridge to keep your paint rollers from drying out
To keep paint rollers from drying out, just put the roller in a plastic bag. A plastic grocery bag works well enough. Put the roller in the bag, then tie the bag shut, or put a rubber band around it. It’s fine if the handle sticks out. You really just need to cover the roller part. Put the bag in a refrigerator to keep it cool. The roller will stay damp and usable for weeks that way. I’ve put a roller or brush away in the fridge, not knowing when or if I’d need it again, and come back three weeks later and it was still usable.
If you don’t have a fridge available, the roller should be OK overnight in a bag, at least if it doesn’t get too hot. But it won’t be OK like that for much longer. Cool temperatures slow down evaporation. That’s why I use the fridge, even if people think I’m weird. It saves me time and wasted paint, so I don’t mind.
When you come back to resume your work, take the roller out of the fridge, remove the roller from the bag, and it’s ready to use again.
What about the tray? Pretty much the same thing. You don’t have to put it in a bag, but I find it works best if I do. And I do prefer putting the tray in the fridge rather than letting it dry out. I get a smoother paint job that way.
The same trick works on paint brushes, of course.
Cleaning your roller at the end of the project
Then there’s the problem of cleaning the roller when you’re done. If you don’t clean the roller completely, the remaining paint dries up, and ruins the roller cover.
The process to clean the roller depends on the paint. But regardless of the type of paint, I do like to use up as much of the paint as I can. I like to find a surface I can roll until I can’t get any more paint out. That reduces how much paint I have to wash out of the roller. That may mean painting on some scrap. It can also mean painting on an already dry surface that’s the same color.
Cleaning latex paint off paint rollers
To keep your roller from drying out so it’s not a single-use item, be sure to rinse it thoroughly, and check your work throughout. I use either the kitchen sink or the utility sink in the basement, so I have enough room. If I think I’m done, I’ll turn the water off and then “paint” the surface of the sink. If I see paint, the roller isn’t clean enough. If I do see paint, I keep on painting, since that helps to get the paint out of the roller. Then I turn the water back on and wash it some more, as well as the sink, of course. Repeat until you can paint the sink and nothing but water comes out.
It takes a while to clean a roller. For cheap ones, it may not be worth the effort. The nicer, heavier roller covers that cost more usually are worth taking the time to clean. Expensive roller covers are good for many jobs if you clean them after each job to keep them from drying out. But they’ll only do a nice job on your second and subsequent use if you get them clean so they remain soft.
Cleaning oil based paint off paint rollers
You can’t clean off oil-based paint in the kitchen sink. You have to use paint thinner. But the process is still similar. Rinse the roller cover with paint thinner, then check your work by painting onto something you don’t care about, and repeat until it’s clean. Paint thinner tends to be more aggressive than water, so it usually takes slightly less time to clean oil based paint. It’s just messier and more expensive.