Saving Paint Rollers & Brushes

If you’re doing a multi-day painting project – like, say, painting the bottom of your boat – the daily clean up can be a pain.

When we remodeled our house six years ago, we worked as our contractor’s assistants to help keep the cost down. We picked up lots of great tips, including this one.

Instead of cleaning your rollers and brushes every evening, just wrap them in plastic and put them in the refrigerator.

Obviously, this assumes that you’ll be using the same paint. I’ve been able to keep rollers and brushes three and four days this way, when weather made it impossible to paint again the next day.

I just use grocery-store type bags. I put the first bag over the roller and pull the cover off the handle (you can leave it on if you have enough room in the refrigerator; I don’t). Wrap the bag around the roller and then drop it in a second bag, roll that one up tightly, then a third. Then I take some tape (usually the roll of blue tape is handy), put a few wraps around it to keep the bags from unrolling and letting air in, then plop it in the refrigerator.

For brushes, it’s pretty much the same. Wrap the first bag around the brush, then a second bag, then a third and tape. Then into the fridge.

The next morning (or whenever), tear the bags off and start painting. If you took the roller off the handle like I do, open one end of the bags, push the roller on the handle, then pull the bags off. Since the bags are pretty messy, I unwrap them while standing next to the dumpster or a big trash bag!

I’ve used this method for both oil- and water-based paints with great results. I’m not sure that I’d try it with varnish – both for the life of that expensive varnish brush and I don’t know if it might cause slight imperfections in the finish.

An added bonus is that since you start the day with a paint-soaked roller, you’re not wasting paint by first cleaning out yesterday’s paint and then having to get the roller soaked again. Ditto if you normally don’t clean out a roller but just throw it out – and in addition, you use fewer rollers. With most bottom paints costing over $150 a gallon, I want it all going on the boat!

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9 Comments
  • Diane Ericsson
    Posted at 06 December 2014 Reply

    My mom always did that when she painted at our house. The food from the fridge always smelled like paint for days after the project was done. Works fine if all food is in glass. But some food might smell & taste weird for a while.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 06 December 2014 Reply

      I’ve never had that problem. Maybe it’s because I use at least three bags and wrap them around multiple times.

    • Diane Ericsson
      Posted at 06 December 2014 Reply

      Plastic wrap is not a 100% reliable barrier. Depends on the polymers, thickness and if it is sealed. Also people have various levels of ability to taste and smell, just like various levels of touch, vision and hearing. Senses are lost or change with age and exposure. You may not notice any flavor change but others might. And guests won’t mention that the appetizers tasted like bottom paint.

  • Sana
    Posted at 06 December 2014 Reply

    I used to do this by wrapping tinfoil around the brush and putting it in the freezer. This could last for weeks or months this way.

  • Ted Broom
    Posted at 07 December 2014 Reply

    I have never put them in the fridge or freezer. I just wrap them in plastic bags for the rollers and found that the rubber/latex gloves I just took off cover the brush, one to cover and one yo wrap around and tie to seal it..Always good for a day or two..
    Ted
    Punta Gorda/Key West..

  • Charlie Jones S/V Tehani
    Posted at 09 December 2014 Reply

    works very well with epoxy rollers and brushes also- use the freezer instead of the frig.

  • Barbara Lowell
    Posted at 11 December 2014 Reply

    Hi, doing this for years and just wrapping carefully. Nowadays lots of paints that are healthi-er can be purchased as well, i.e. milk based. I always keep touch up paintbrush in my freezer. My whole (little) house is creamy white and I can just take it out of the freezer for an hour, do touch up often with the paint still in the brush, and put it back. I am always amazed to discover so many smudges, fingerprints and cat paw art on my walls and doors that need freshening! Love this idea of making life easier and work better.

  • Zachary Schweter
    Posted at 12 May 2016 Reply

    What a great idea , thank you

  • Tina Gonsalves
    Posted at 12 May 2016 Reply

    I’ll bet all subscribed to this page know what I learned on Sunday. Boat paint and red solo cups do not mix. ‘Nuff said. 🙂

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