Cleaning painting equipment includes not only brushes and rollers but also reusable drop cloths, paint cans, containers, and roller pans. Don't delay cleaning your equipment one minute longer than necessary. Fresh paint comes out of brushes, rollers, and pans easily; let paint dry for a while and you'll have to put a lot more time and effort into getting it out.
Inexpensive roller covers don't respond well even to thorough cleaning. Some paint residue will remain in the nap of the roller cover. When the roller is exposed to fresh paint later, the dried-in paint can soften and cause streaks in the new finish. If you use inexpensive roller covers, buy a new one for each job and save yourself the time and effort of trying to clean them. If you invest in a professional quality roller cover, it will clean thoroughly and can be used repeatedly.
If you used latex paint, drag the brushes across the lip of the paint can to remove most of the paint. Then rinse the brushes and rollers under warm tap water and wash with dishwashing detergent. A paintbrush comb can help remove paint residue from the bristles. To get out the excess water, gently squeeze the bristles or take the brush outside and give it a few vigorous flicks. Squeeze the water out of the roller covers. Use paper towels to soak up any remaining water in both brushes and rollers.
With solvent-thinned paints, use the appropriate solvent as identified on the paint can's label. Agitate brushes and rollers in a container of the solvent. Repeat this process to get out all the paint. To clean brushes, pour the solvent into an old coffee can. For rollers, use an inexpensive aluminum foil loaf pan or a clean roller pan. Solvents are toxic and flammable, so don't smoke or work near a water heater or furnace, and make sure there's plenty of ventilation. Use paper towels to blot out the excess solvent from brushes and rollers, then wash everything in warm, soapy water. Hang up brushes until they're dry; set roller covers on end.
Wipe out, wash, and dry roller pans and paint containers. Wipe off the lips of paint cans and hammer down the lids to preserve leftover paint. Store paint and solvent cans away from extreme heat or cold and out of the reach of children. If you have less than a quart of paint left, store it in a tightly capped glass jar and save it for touch-ups. Brushes and rollers that have been cleaned and dried should be wrapped up before they're stored away. Brushes can go back in the plastic or paper packages they came in, or you can wrap them in aluminum foil. Rollers can be wrapped in kraft paper, foil, or perforated plastic sandwich bags.
To clean reusable drop cloths of heavy-duty plastic or canvas, wipe off major paint splotches with soap and water and paper towels. Don't use solvent on drop cloths, as it may cause them to dissolve. Let them dry thoroughly, fold them up, and store them with your other equipment for the next project.
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