Tips That Will Make Paint Clean Up… Easy!

In this post you will find easy paint clean up methods for paint buckets, paint brushes, rollers, removing painter’s tape and more and how to store them so they will be ready for the next paint job.

As you know… I paint… a lot! Over the years I have shared many paint tips with you and how I apply paint around my house. Painting is easy, it is the prep and clean up that take time. I have found ways to make the paint clean up process much easier.

When a reader asked me to recommend I thought were the best paint brands so she could use them in her home. She also wanted to know how I clean up after I paint anything from furniture to walls.

I gathered up a few of my go-to paint clean up tips that help me to keep the clean-up time at a minimum after completing a paint project. For more quick tips and painting advice see my Paint Tutorials & Tips page.

The Best Drop Cloth

Broken down cardboard boxes taped together on floor of closet used as a drop cloth that doesn't move.

Before you start to paint, make sure you have the right drop cloth.  Flattened cardboard boxes work the best since you can easily cut them to fit wherever needed, plus they are thick and if paint spills, it will not seep through and onto the floor.

Old shower curtains are my next go-to. The dollar store is the best place to find these.

Keeping the Rim of a Paint Can Clean

Painting clean up tips

Paint clean up will be very easy if you don’t get the paint can rim gunked-up.

  • Right after I open a new can of paint, I use an awl and hammer to punch holes in the rim of the can. (I punch about 5 holes all around.) If any paint gets in the rim, it will drip right back into the can.
Making paint clean up easy

This will save you from having to clean out the rim before placing the lid back on when you are done painting.

Another way to keep the paint can rim clean:

Paint clean up tips. How to dip a paint into a can of paint.

It is not the best practice to dip a brush straight into the paint can when painting. It can contaminate the paint and also dry out the paint since the lid is off for a long period. I have been known to dip right into the can when doing a quick paint job or touch up.

My bad, I know.  When I have a bigger job, I usually pour paint into a tray or another smaller can, usually in an empty coffee container.

If you are going to dip the brush into the paint can:

  • You can buy wire scrapers that fit over a paint can to use to wipe some of the paint off of a brush after you dip it into the paint. You can buy these at the paint store.  I like to use large rubber bands to do the same thing.  I save all the rubber bands I get. Many of the large ones came to me via the mailman when he bundles my mail together.  To use, simply place the rubber band over the can and wipe your brush across it. This keeps excess paint from getting into the rim.

Paint Can Accessories

Using one of these reusable pouring paint can lids will save you tons of time when it you need to clean up after painting.

There are many paint can accessories that you can buy at the paint store. All can be easily cleaned up with soap and water and re-used. Three that I like are:

  1. This is ingenious and comes in metal or plastic. It is called a Can Pour & Roll. It fits over the top of a gallon paint can. It has a pour spout, a grid that goes into the can to use with a paint brush or mini-roller, and a cut out section to wipe your brush.
  2. This simply fits inside the rim and makes pouring easy.
  3. This is a paint can replacement lid called, Pour Easy. It is great to use if you know you will have leftover paint in storage for a while. There is a spout that pops up and down that makes pouring and storing easy.

How to Clean Paint Off Your Hands


With so many paint formulas made as “paint + primer” nowadays, getting it off your hands is getting harder and harder. Some people wear latex gloves when they paint, but I find these are very uncomfortable.

Best hand cleaner to use after painting

Instead, I remove the paint from my hands with Lava soap. It was how my dad cleaned his hands after doing any job that got his hands dirty. As the saying goes… “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” :-)

What to use to clean paint off your hands

It is a gritty pumice soap that easily scrubs off all the paint without drying out your skin.

Paint Tray Clean Up

  • When you paint as much as I do, buying paint tray liners can get costly. Instead of buying them, I buy one paint tray and line it with foil. When I am done, I simply crumble the foil and throw it away.

How to Clean a Paint Brush

Try this the next time you will save your expensive paint brush bristles from getting damaged. Works like a charm especially when you have to let it soak for a while to get all the paint out.
  • When you have a very paint encrusted brush and need to let it soak for a while, glue a magnet inside the rim of a tin can. The metal ferrule on the paint brush will stick right to it keeping the tips of the bristles away from the bottom of the can where they would get damaged.
Tips and tricks that will make paint clean up easy
  • Instead of washing your brush out in between coats or overnight, simply place it in a zip top bag and then in the refrigerator.  When it is time to paint the next coat, allow the brush to return to room temperature and you will be ready to go again.
What does a paint brush comb do?
  • When it is time to clean out the brush, run it under warm soapy water and then use a brush comb to remove any dried or caked paint inside the bristles and along the bottom of the metal ferrule.
  • Using this tool will not only prevent excessive paint build up, but will also extend the life of your paint brush.

How to Clean a Paint Roller

Since I moved to a house with a septic system, cleaning a roller out is almost impossible. I don’t like to, but I throw them away after use now. If using white paint, which I do a lot, I keep a roller in the refrigerator just like I do with paint brushes. I get it out when I paint using white paint and then place it back in until I need it again. When it starts to lose it’s nap in the paint, I then throw it out.

How to clean a paint roller the easy way
  • Clean a roller cover by running the curved blade of a 5-in-1 tool down the cover to remove all the excess paint. Pull the cover half way off the frame and then run it under hot water, using your hand to push the rest of the paint out of the fibers.

Can You Clean Paint Brushes in a Sink?

Yes, you can clean paint brushes and rollers in a sink if your home does not have a septic system. If it does, see the septic system paint clean up method I use below for how to clean up paint tools;

When your home is connected to a sewer system, it is OK to clean the tools in the sink.

If you don’t want paint splatters to happen in the sink as you clean up, you can use this clever container called The Washbox.

how to clean paint brushes in a sink

The plastic box has a hole in the center bottom that you align with the sink drain. It works very well.

Septic System Paint Clean Up

In my previous house I cleaned up all my paint tools at the laundry tub sink and let all the water and latex paint go down the drain. Moving to a house with a septic system requires a little more effort when it comes time to clean up after painting.

When we bought our house we had the septic system inspected, the guy told us to never ever, ever wash out paint in the sink. I don’t want to cause any problems in the system so I had to do some research on how I was going to clean up after painting.

Here is my septic system paint clean up method: 

Easy paint clean up for homes with septic systems

I drilled 1/4″ size holes in the bottom of a plastic lidded container and placed it in an out of view area in my yard. I then filled it 3/4’s full with play sand.

After I am finished painting, I wipe most of the paint off my hands and brushes with paper towel until I can’t get any more off. I then fill a smaller container and dip my brush or hands in to remove as much paint as I can.

how to clean up paint in a home with a septic system

I then take it outside and dump the water into the bucket filled with sand. The water filters through the sand, while the latex paint particles stay in the sand.

Sometimes it takes a few trips and over the summer I have been using the garden hose to fill the small container to save me from having to go inside for more water to rinse the brushes until the water runs clear. It takes effort, but it would be more of a hassle if there was damage to the septic equilibrium.

Once my brushes, tools and hands are mostly free of paint, I then take everything back inside and wash them with warm soap and water at my kitchen sink.

So there you have it, if you ever wonder what I do on a daily basis besides paint and decorate…. paint clean up is usually a part of my day.

Do you have any paint clean up tips to share that make the chore easier?

More Paint Tutorials and Tips You May Like:

Do you dislike having to clean up after finishing a paint project? These paint clean up tips will have the job done in no time. Try will see.

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  1. Linda L Weeks says:

    Hi, Diane, I am re-reading your painting tips, and don’t know how I missed this one! I didn’t know about the septic issue, but I can testify that the dishwasher should never wash anything with paint on it or in it! I lost a dishwasher after putting a glass that had paint in it into the dishwasher! I have a Bosch now, and I don’t want anything to happen to it! I love that thing.

  2. I’m glad I read all the way to the septic tank section as this is my first house without public sewer. Thanks Diane!

  3. Valerie Leeds says:

    Well, I’m a whole year late at reading this, but I loved these hints. I keep a cheep bottle of red nail polish to paint my nails on painting days. When I’m done cleaning my hands, simply remove the polish and all the tiny little spatters from the job come off your nails with it!

  4. Jimmy Rey says:

    Fabulous information and easy to follow. I love your work! Thanks for sharing.

  5. I use a dog grooming brush to help clean paint out of my brushes, I find it works very well.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Great idea and clever way to repurpose something you already own. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Martha N. says:

    This is EXACTLY the information I need as I begin painting my home’s interior. Thanks so much!

  7. Amanda Corney says:

    Hi, Diane. You solved one of my big problem. My Husband always struggles with paint color whenever we change our home color. I will definitely suggest him to follow you instruction.

    1. I also don’t like gloves either. I find it helps in cleaning hands, if you put some really good hand lotion on before painting. I also do so each time right before restarting.. I think there is less “tack” for the paint to begin to adhere to and it helps for under the nails. ( I really get into my work, sometimes. ?)

  8. Pam Clark says:

    Why would you ever paint directly from the paint can? My husband is a professional and that is NEVER done. Paint is always poured into a smaller container so the whole can is not continuously exposed to air.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Pam –

      Your are correct, it is not the best practice to dip straight into the can. It can contaminate the paint. My dad taught me this many years ago. He was a a painting perfectionist. :-) When I am too lazy or only have a small touch up to do, I do dip into the can. I know it is bad, but the can is only open for a very short time.

      When I have a bigger job, I usually pour paint into a tray or another smaller can, usually in an empty coffee container. I will add this to the post. Thanks for the reminder. :-)

  9. As an owner of a hardware store please do not bring paint back in to be re-shook after you have punched holes in the rim. It makes a horrible mess in our paint shakers. :(

  10. Thanks for the reminder about the septic system. Our lake house is on a a septic and it didn’t even occur to me that the latex paint might be harmful. Taking a bucket for sand up on my next trip!

  11. Melissa Leach says:

    Thanks, Diane. I’ve pinned your suggestions.