Easy DIY: How to Reuse Paint Rollers

Workman Hand holding Dirty Paintroller

Photo by Alessandro Guerriero @123RF.com

It can be a hassle to buy a new paint roller. You’ve already invested time and money in the paint, tape, drop cloths, and other items, so you might wonder if you can reuse a previously used paint roller.

Can you reuse a paint roller? Yes, you can! The 5 steps to reuse your paint roller are:

  1. Get rid of the excess paint on the roller.
  2. Properly dispose of the paint that has been removed.
  3. Maintain the roller’s fluffiness.
  4. Let the roller dry.
  5. Keep it fresh.

Knowing how to reuse a paint roller properly will allow you to paint your walls without needing to buy another paint roller. This saves you both money and a trip to the store. This will allow for a convenient way to paint with tools that you already have.

Reusing Paint Rollers

Here are five simple steps to use your paint roller, time and time again:

1.   Get Rid of the Excess Paint

The first step is to remove the remaining paint from your paint roller. Paint can cling to the nap roller’s fabric, making it hard to get the paint off. If you don’t remove the paint from the roller immediately, the cleaning process will be arduous. You can begin to remove the excess paint by rolling your paint onto a disposable surface. Whether you use a piece of cardboard, a paper towel, or a piece from a newspaper, getting rid of the excess paint is important.

As you complete your project, make sure you use up all of the excess paint. This makes cleaning up easier.

Then, use something to scrape the extra paint off. However, it is essential to avoid using things that may cut into the roller. Using a scraper, you will need to scrape the tips and edges of the roller. This will allow you to remove chunks of paint that have dried. It will also make the process of washing the paint off quick and easy.

Many painters use a 5 in 1 multi-purpose scraper to remove excess paint. This scraper has a curved edge. It fits around the roll’s cover. There are roller cleaning tools that will allow you to clean the paint that is stuck in the roller in one swipe.

Once you have cleaned your roller cover, it is vital to remove the solvent and dissolved paint that is deep in the nap of your roller. Using a rag to remove the excess solvent can cause the solvent and paint to work their way deeper into the nap. To prevent this from happening, two tools can help you remove excess paint:

  • Roller spinner- A roller spinner can work by either hand pump action, or some spinners attach to a power drill. If you use a roller spinner that connects to a power drill, you should use a variable speed drill when you attach it. A power drill can create a mess because of the fast speed that the roller will spin.
  • Automatic roller washer- An automatic roller washer is a plastic sleeve that fits over your roller cover. There is an attachment for a hose. When you turn on the garden hose, the water will circulate through the nap to remove the paint. You will need to point the edge at a bucket so the water that has been mixed with paint will collect into the bucket. You will avoid using a lot of water with this tool.

Understanding Paint Types

Washing your roller will have removed the majority of the paint, but there will be some residue left you need to remove. There are different methods to finish removing the paint from the roller, depending on the paint you used on your project:

  • Latex paint- Wash the paint off of your roller by using soapy water. Submerging your roller into a bucket of warm water with dish soap mixed in will clean the latex paint off. Then, squeeze the excess paint off of the roller. After this, empty the bucket and repeat the process until all of the paint has been removed.
  • Oil-based paint- Oil-based paint needs to be removed with paint thinner because it is harder to clean off than traditional paint. The paint thinner will help break down the paint. Wear gloves for this process because paint thinner will burn your skin.

After putting on gloves, pour paint thinner into a painting tray. Roll the roller in the paint thinner several times. You can also cover half of the roller in the paint thinner and let it sit for five to ten minutes on each half. If you have a high-pressure nozzle, you can also use this for a straightforward way to clean your roller off after the soak. When most of the paint is removed, submerge the roller in a bucket of warm water and dish soap.

Other Ways to Clean Your Roller

You can also use a two bucket system to clean your rollers. First, you will need to submerge your paint roller in a bucket of dish soap and warm water. When you remove the paint roller from the bucket, use your hand to rub off the paint. After you do this, rinse off the paint in a bucket with warm water only.

Another quick and easy solution to washing your paint roller off is to put it in the sink. You will first need to close the drain and fill the sink with soap and warm water. The next step is to clean the paint off by submerging it in the soapy water. Drain the sink when you have gotten as much paint off as you can, then and fill it with warm water to rinse your roller. After this, repeat the process until all of the paint has been removed.

Tips for a Deep Clean

If you are using a foam roller, scraping the paint off can be a challenge. This is because the foam rollers absorb more paint. So, washing the paint off will be more beneficial. If you choose to scrape the paint off of a foam roller, you will need to be extra cautious. Using your fingers to scrape off the excess paint is better than using a scraper on a foam roller because you will avoid cutting or damaging the roller.

You will also want to ensure that paint has been removed from the handle as well. It is essential to clear the seams where the cylinder rotates around the axle. If you don’t, paint can dry there and cause your paint roller to no longer roll.

If the paint has hardened, you may have to buy a new paint roller. You can use a lacquer thinner to clean oil-based paint from a roller, but it is more expensive than buying a new roller. If you used water-based paint, you could still save your roller if paint hardens. You can use ammonia, a solvent, water, or denatured alcohol to remove the hardened paint.

If you let the paint roller soak in hot soapy water for a few hours, the paint may come off the roller if you use a scraper after you let it soak. You can also spin the roll to remove the excess water and start painting with the brush.

2. Properly Dispose of the Paint that has Been Removed.

It may be convenient for you to use a sink to wash off your paint roller, but it is important to know that this could damage your sink. Latex paint can harm a septic system. Your drain can clog because of the build-up of solids that is caused by the latex paint harming the bacteria in the tank that breaks down the waste. Using a hose isn’t ideal either because latex paint can be harmful to the environment too.

You can avoid harming the environment or your sink by using a bucket to clean off your paint. Using a hose, let the water run onto the roller and scrape it while running it under the water until the water runs clear off of the roller. Once this happens, you can then finish cleaning it in the sink. You should then cover the bucket and store it until the paint settles to the bottom of the bucket. You can then dispose of the material as hazardous waste after removing the solid part from the bottom of the bucket.

3. Maintain the Fluffiness

Sometimes the fluffiness of your paint roller may disappear. If this happens, there are a few things that you can use to make your nap fluffy again so that you can easily paint with it:


For this method, you will need a bucket with soapy water, a paper towel, and lotion. First, coat your paint roller with lotion. Apply the lotion evenly onto the paint roller. Then, knead the lotion into the paint roller until it is smooth. After this, use a paper towel to wipe off the lotion and then soak the roller in warm soapy water. Once the lotion has been removed, set the paint roller out to dry.


This method requires a lot more materials. You will need:

  • Vinegar
  • Large pot
  • Lotion
  • Hair conditioner
  • Bucket
  • Comb
  • Grocery bag

This method also takes a lot longer. Start by boiling a pot of vinegar. Four to eight cups will allow you to submerge your paint roller completely. Remove the boiling vinegar from the stove and pour it into a bucket. Then, soak the paint roller in the bucket. Using the bucket is important because getting leftover paint in the pot could mean ingesting it when you make food in the pot later on.

The roller should sit in the boiling vinegar for ten to fifteen minutes. Once this is done, you will then want to take a comb to comb the remaining paint off. After this, coat the paint roller with lotion and knead it into your roller. Rinse the lotion off the roller and then apply the hair conditioner to the roller. Then place the roller in the grocery bag. It is important to avoid smearing the conditioner off the roller. Submerge the grocery bag in hot water for thirty minutes.

Scraper and Fabric Softener

This method requires:

  • A scraper
  • Fabric softener
  • Bucket
  • Water

It is the quickest and easiest method. First, use your scraper to scrape as much paint off of your roller as you can. Avoid making cuts or slits in your roller so that you don’t have an uneven paint job when you reuse the roller. It will also make it harder to clean.

After you do this, mix one cup of fabric softener with two gallons of warm water in a bucket. Let your roller sit in the bucket and swish it around the mixture for twenty seconds. Repeat the process if your roller isn’t fluffy enough.

If wear and tear occur in your paint roller, you can use scissors to trim the excess paint. You will need to be very careful because you could easily cut up your paint roller doing this. If you remove too big of sections, you can ruin your future paint job.

4. Let the Roller Dry

After washing your paint roller, hang it up to dry. This is important because it will save the nap of the paint roller by keeping it fluffy all around.

To ensure this, cut one side of a clothes hanger off. Attach the roller to the bottom of the hanger. This allows you to hang the paint roller so the nap can dry properly. If the nap does not dry properly, it can get squished. This then causes an uneven paint job later.

You can also set your roller on its end to dry. If you lay it down, it can crush the fibers on one side. This will create uneven sides and cause an uneven roll when you decide to use the paint roller again.

One last method you can try to dry your roller is to use towels. Take an old towel and stuff them into the edges of the paint roller. After this, roll the paint roller up in a towel and squeeze the water out. This will help prevent watered-down strokes when you want to reuse your paint roller.

5. Keep it Fresh

Storing the roller in a sealed bag will preserve its quality. It will stay clean and dust-free. You can use a large food storage bag or a plastic grocery sack and tie it.

Reusing a Paint Roller Just a Few Hours Later

If you plan to reuse your roller within the next few hours, you can take a paper towel or washcloth to take off as much paint as you can. Then, make your towel damp with water and wrap it around your roller. If you are using a paper towel, get it wet. This will keep the paint from drying on your roller. Then, when you’re ready, start painting again.

To keep the paint roller cool and wet, wrap the roller in wet towels and place it in a bag. Then, you will need to put it in the fridge. This will keep your paint fresh if you want to come back to your project. This method can only be used if you will be away from your roller for a few hours.

If you plan to be away from your roller for a few days, you will need to repeat this process. You should put the bag with the wrapped paint roller in a container as well. This will avoid making the food in your fridge smell and taste like paint.

Before you Reuse your Paint roller

Before you reuse your paint roller, you will want to remove any dust that has built up on your roller. You can do this by gently rubbing a lint roller on your paint roller.

Just like that, you will have a paint roller that works like new! You will be able to save a lot of money with these tips to help preserve your paint roller. The hassle of driving to the store to purchase a new paint roller will be eliminated if you follow the steps to maintain the paint roller quality.

Reusing Other Painting Products

If you have a paint brush instead of a paint roller, you can still reuse it. The method of cleaning a paint brush is different from cleaning a paint roller. It is important to not soak it in water or a solvent if you use oil-based paint. Use paint thinner to clean your brush because a solvent can damage the bristles if it dries up on the paint brush.

If you want to use solvent or water, follow the steps of cleaning a paint roller; however, it is important to use a mechanical paint brush spinner, or you can spin the paint brush yourself. You can also invest in a paint brush comb to comb out the remaining paint.

When drying your paint brush, avoid storing it on it’s tip. If this happens, your bristles will curl, making it harder to paint when you want to reuse it. Instead, hang your paint brush by its handle so the bristles hang downward and do not get crushed or curl up.

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