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How to Clean Oil Paint from Roller Covers and Cages

Clean oil paint from paint-roller covers and cages before the paint dries — it’s the best way to maintain the paint-roller covers and cages. Oil-based paint comes clean only with solvent, such as paint thinner. You can't clean oil paint with simple soap and water.

Cleaning with paint thinner can be quite messy. Work in a garage our outdoors, if you can. Be sure that wherever you choose is protected and well-ventilated.

1

Gather your materials: Latex gloves, goggles, newspaper or dropcloths, three large plastic or metal containers, paint thinner, a 5-in-1 tool, used roller cover and cage, paint container, paper towels.

The plastic or metal containers should be large enough to accommodate a roller cover laid flat.

2

Protect yourself and the area.

Put on your gloves and goggles, and lay down newspaper or dropcloths to protect your work surface.

3

Half fill each of the three containers with paint thinner.

Fill three containers with enough paint thinner or mineral spirits to cover a roller cover laid flat.

4

Scrape off excess paint from the roller.

Use the curved edge of your 5-in-1 tool to scrape paint from the roller cover back into the paint container.

5

Set the roller cover in the first container.

Slip the roller cover off the cage and into the first tray of paint thinner. Let it soak for five minutes, wiggling it around periodically. Set the cage aside for now.

6

Remove excess paint thinner from the roller cover.

Remove the cover and scrape excess liquid into the container with the 5-in-1 tool. Wipe off the cover with paper towels.

7

Repeat Steps 5 and 6 using the second container.

Lay the cover in the second container. Let it soak for three minutes and then wiggle it. Scrape off excess thinner and pat dry.

8

Rinse the cover in the third container.

Put the brushes into the third container, and let them soak for three minutes. Wiggle them once or twice. The liquid should be clean.

9

Dry the roller cover.

Repeat Step 6, and then stand the roller cover on its end atop a stack of paper towels to dry.

Warning: If you stand the cover on newspaper, you could reactivate the ink in the paper and ruin your cover.

10

Place the roller cage in the first container.

Let the roller cage sit in the first container of paint thinner for two minutes.

11

Remove the roller cage and dry it.

Remove it and wipe it with paper towels to remove loose paint.

12

Repeat Steps 10 and 11 using the second container.

Remove it and wipe it with paper towels to remove loose paint.

No paint should appear on the paper towels at this point. If there is still paint, repeat Steps 10 and 11 using the third container.

Lambswool roller covers are probably worth saving, but if you’re working with oil paint, consider using a synthetic roller cover instead. Instead of cleaning it, just slip a plastic grocery bag over the cover, slide it off the metal cage, and toss it in the trash.

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