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How To Clean Paint Brushes & Post-Decorating Tips

You’ve finished decorating, now to clean up. Our post-decorating tips show you how to clean paint brushes, rollers and trays, and how to clean up after painting.


Dreading the paint clean-up? These tips make it easy.

Most of us don’t want to think about how to clean up after painting, especially when all we want to do is stand back and admire our decorating skills! The good news is, a few simple tips under your belt is all it takes to have it done in a flash. Plus, when you clean up the right way, you won’t have to deal with crusty brushes when inspiration strikes again. Ready to roll up those sleeves? We’ve got the answers to the most common paint clean-up dilemmas.


How to clean paint brushes

The best way to prolong the life of your paintbrushes and make the overall clean-up easier is to remove excess paint from the bristles, before it dries. To save paint, run the bristles along the edge of the tin straight after use. Then, scrape off as much paint as you can with an old cloth.

If you’ve been using water-based paint, pop on some rubber gloves to prevent staining your hands and wash the brush in warm, soapy water. Give it a rinse and repeat the process until the water runs clear. Solvent-based paint requires the use of a white spirit or solvent-based brush cleaners. Make sure you wear gloves and only use solvent in a well-ventilated area. Let your brush air dry thoroughly before storing it.


How to clean paint roller and tray

As soon as you’ve finished painting, pour any unused paint from your tray back into the tin, providing it’s not contaminated by pesky flies or dirt. Run water over your paint tray, use a scrubbing brush to remove the rest of the paint and dry the tray off with an old cloth. In terms of tips for cleaning paint rollers, first scrape the unused paint back into the tin with a putty knife and roll it on a rag to remove excess.

Disassemble the roller, rinse with warm water, add detergent and work it into a lather to remove the rest of the paint. After the final rinse, let it air dry standing upright to avoid crushing the fibres. For solvent-based paint, pour the solvent into the paint tray, circulate it through the roller and let it soak for a few minutes. Squeeze the excess solvent out of the roller and repeat the process with new solvent until it's clean. Don't forget your gloves, goggles and plenty of air to combat those fumes!

The best way to environmentally clean brushes and rollers

Environmentally-friendly results start before the process of how to clean up after painting. The first step is to reduce the paint you buy, to minimise the amount left over. Dulux offers a handy paint calculator to work this out for you. If you’re in store, look at the back of the paint container to check the coverage per litre that the paint gives you.

There’s no doubt that cleaning paint out of brushes and rollers uses substantial amounts of water or solvent. Decorating tips to minimise waste include reusing tools again the next day if you’re working on the same job. Simply wrap your brush or roller in a plastic bag and apply masking tape around the handle to keep the seal airtight.

White spirits and solvent-based brush cleaners do release VOCs when used. As hazardous substances, they’re also difficult to dispose of. The best solution is to choose water-based paints that are easily removed with soapy water alone. If you do use solvent-based paints, use a cleaning container that’s only slightly larger than the brush to reduce solvent usage.

The container should have a tightly fitting lid to enable dirty solvents to settle, so the clean solvent can be poured back into the bottle and reused. Leave the sediment to dry before disposing of it at your nearest hazardous waste disposal service. Don’t be tempted to pour it down the sink, as the chemicals in solvent can contaminate water supplies.


Storing equipment for future decorating

Congratulations, the paint clean-up is complete! Now that you know how to clean up after painting, where should you store everything? A cool, dry place, like a cupboard, is best. If you’re storing equipment in a shed, make sure everything’s raised off the ground on a shelf and away from the shed walls, to protect against extreme temperatures.

Keep your brushes in a vertical position to avoid damage to the bristles and wrap roller heads in bags or cloth to keep them clean. Leftover paint will last longer when the tin is sealed tightly. To do this, wipe the rim of the can clean, replace the lid, place a block of wood over the top and tap it down with a hammer. Once secured, turn the can upside down to form an airtight seal.


Dealing with old paint that may contain lead

Do you live in an older property? It’s possible that wood and metal surfaces were decorated in the past with lead-based paint. Lead can be very hazardous, especially for pregnant women and young children. Due to the hazards, we don’t recommend removing lead paint yourself. A professional Dulux-approved decorator can help you with this and we’ll guarantee their work.


Disposing of unwanted paint

Before you dispose of your paint, take a look at old furniture and accessories, and put your thinking cap on with regard to decorating tips. Could anything benefit from a makeover with a lick of paint? Once you’ve used all you can, offer it to family, friends and local community groups, like Community RePaint.

This network provides a practical solution to prevent waste, by redistributing paint for re-use by charities, voluntary and community groups. It’s coordinated by the not-for-profit environmental consultancy, Resource Futures, and you’ll find your nearest Paint Donation Facility by entering your postcode on the site.

For responsible disposal of other waste paint and empty paint cans, it’s best to call your Local Authority for guidance. Empty paint containers can be recycled, however, if this isn’t possible locally for you, dispose of them responsibly as general household waste. Just remember not to pour unwanted paint down the sink or into stormwater drains.

Right, back to admiring that brilliant paint job!

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