How To Extend The Life Of Your Paint Brushes And Rollers

Pro Tips for Extending the Life Span of Your Applicator Tools

By Connie McKinney, Senior Product Manager, Purdy®

There’s no better way to extend the life span of your paintbrushes and roller covers than by caring for them properly. Brushes that are cleaned immediately following each use, dried and stored appropriately have the potential to provide decades of use. If cared for the same way, roller covers should perform through several painting projects.

Proper care also eliminates the need to constantly replace brushes that become hardened or frizzy, saving a substantial amount of money. Keep the tools you rely on in top working shape and delivering quality results by adhering to these cleaning practices.

Cleaning paintbrushes

Poor cleaning of your most-used brushes leads to poor, sloppy work. Whether you’re done with a project, taking a break or stepping away for a short period of time, it’s important to prevent your brush from drying out. The longer paint is left to sit on a brush, the farther toward the ferrule it migrates, resulting in the filaments hardening and making cleaning more difficult.

Tip: Never dip your paint brush more than halfway up the filaments into paint. This helps extend the life of the brush and makes cleaning easier.

Here are a few rules to consider when stepping away from a paint project:

  • If you’re taking a lengthy break (10 to 12 hours or more), brushes should be thoroughly cleaned, all paint removed and returned to the keeper to dry.
  • If you’re stepping away for a quick break (1 to 2 hours), save yourself some time by wrapping the brush in a plastic bag or wet towel to help prevent the filaments from drying out.
  • For shorter breaks, when you’ll be returning to your project in 30 minutes or less, leave your brush in the paint no more than halfway up the filaments to lock in moisture.
  • Most brushes now contain Chinex® filaments, which absorb very little moisture. Cleaning these types of filaments is a breeze and only takes a few minutes. If you’re using a brush that contains Chinex filaments, consider cleaning the paint off of it completely before stepping away for any amount of time.

Tip: Never use a wire brush to clean filaments. They’re far too aggressive for the filaments used in today’s brushes and could cause irreparable damage.

How to clean paint brushes: Water-based paints

  1. Add warm water to a clean container or sink, with or without soap (ordinary household dish detergents work well).
  2. Dip the brush into the container, working water through the filaments from ferrule edge down to the filament tips using your fingers. Don’t be afraid to use firm pressure to work the paint off the bristles—quality brush filaments will not be damaged. You can also press the brush against the container or sink so water can penetrate through to the center of the brush. Using a brush comb while cleaning also helps separate the filaments, allowing water to penetrate in between the bristles and along the ferrule’s edge where residue builds up during use. A comb also helps keep filaments straight and free of bends.
  3. Rinse with warm water, repeating steps 1–3 until the water runs clear while rinsing.
  4. Point filaments down and spin the brush handle between your palms to remove excess moisture.
  5. Place the paint brush in its original packaging, like Purdy’s brush keepers, to help maintain the brush’s shape while it dries. You can also lay the brush flat on a clean surface to dry completely.

How to clean paint brushes: Oil-based paints

  1. Add the cleaning solvent recommended by the manufacturer to a clean container.
  2. Dip the brush into the container, working the solvent through the filaments thoroughly by dunking the brush up and down repeatedly.
    1. Do not expose bare skin to the solvent. Always follow safety precautions outlined by the solvent manufacturer.
  3. Point filaments down and spin the brush handle between your palms to remove excess solvent, taking care to do so into an appropriate container.
  4. Repeat steps 1–3, starting with adding clean solvent to another clean container.
  5. Place the paintbrush in a keeper or lay it flat on a clean surface to dry completely.

Tip: The best way to prevent a frizzy brush is by taking the time to clean it properly after each use.

Cleaning paint rollers

Roller covers can be costly, especially if you need an assortment of rollers for your projects. Make the most of what you’ve invested in by caring for these applicators rather than tossing them after a single use. While roller covers will eventually begin to lose some of their bounce back over time, taking on a bit of a matted appearance with a reduced ability to hold paint, they are not a one-and-done applicator. In fact, they can last through three or four different painting projects, provided they’re thoroughly cleaned and carefully stored in between.

Like paint brushes, roller covers should be cleaned immediately after use with the following steps:

  1. Gently tap the roller frame on the side of a utility sink to remove the roller cover.
  2. Using a cleaning tool like Purdy’s 5-in-1 multitool, scrape any excess paint from the cover’s surface and work any leftover paint out of the nap by using your hand before washing.
  3. Attach the frame to a roller spinner and submerge the cover in warm water. Bring the roller cover out of water and pump the roller spinner to remove access paint and water. Repeat this process until all paint is removed and the cover is clean.
  4. Dry covers completely by hanging or laying flat on a clean surface.

Tip: Make cleanup quick and painless by using a disposable tray liner in your paint tray. Simply return remaining paint to the can, toss the liner and—aside from cleaning the roller cover—you’re good to go.

Storing paintbrushes and paint rollers

Caring for your applicators goes beyond keeping them clean. It also means storing them correctly.

Conveniently, Purdy® paintbrushes come packaged in cardboard sleeves, called keepers, designed to help filaments keep their shape after being repeatedly used, cleaned and stored. Once inserted in the keeper, make sure all filaments are straight and lay the brush flat—never on its tip—or hang it vertically to ensure it dries completely. Paint rollers also come in storage sleeves or include resealable bags that protect the material from dust and other debris between uses. Once dry, covers can be stored in this packaging.

Proper cleaning and storage take time, but that’s a small price to pay when compared to the cost of replacing paintbrushes and rollers. Dedicating a little extra energy to properly caring for your tools ensures your investments continue to produce quality results for years to come.


Connie McKinney, senior product manager, oversees roller covers for several Sherwin-Williams brands, including Purdy®, Contractor Series®, Valspar® and Bestt Liecbo®. She manages the product life cycle of all existing products and works to innovate and commercialize others that help all painters (whether professionals or DIYers) excel at their craft. Connie has 25 years of experience in the paint and coatings industry and maintains a focus on identifying new innovative ways to meet the needs of this ever-changing market.

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