Learn how to clean up right after the job is done.
Cleaning Paint Brushes
Gearing up for some painting? Good brushes will last for years if you treat them well so make sure to leave enough time at the end of each paint session for some brush work.
Start by removing paint from the bristles: For latex, rinse thoroughly under warm, soapy water until the water is clear. For oil-based, wear gloves as you work paint thinner through the bristles until the thinner comes out clear. If you have an empty baby wipe container, use it as a holder for your brushes while they soak in the thinner. The slit in the top should hold the handles of most brushes in place. But don't let the bristles touch the bottom because the paint residue will settle down there.
After soaking, use a brush comb to separate bristles that stick together near the heel of the brush. Then shake them out or put the brush in a spinner if you have one. Finally, dry the bristles with a rag and fold the brush tightly into a piece of butcher paper or in its protective sleeve to help keep its shape – otherwise it'll fan out over time and become useless for any sort of detail work. Store on a nail or hook.
Cleaning Up Interiors
After the painting comes the cleaning. This involves three areas: your house, your tools and yourself. For the first, pick up the drop cloths, remove masking tape, use a one-sided razor blade to clean paint from the glass (best if done within 24 hours) and replace fixtures and wall plates.
If you use latex paint, clean your tools and do personal cleanup with warm, soapy water. Scrape excess paint off brushes and then rinse them, working water through the bristles until the water is clear. Use a paintbrush comb or small wire brush to clean the bristles.
Empty leftover paint from the paint tray into the can, and rinse the tray with water until clean, using a sponge to scrape more stubborn residue. For rollers, throw away the cover and use water and a sponge on the frame and sleeve.
With oil-based paints, use thinner to clean your tools. Soak brushes in thinner. While wearing rubber gloves, keep working thinner through the bristles until the thinner comes out clear. Comb with a wire brush and shake dry outdoors. Throw away paint trays and liners entirely. Throw away roller covers; clean the roller carriage and handle with thinner.
Store leftover paint in accordance with manufacturer's guidelines. Dispose of empty paint cans at a recycling facility. Also, try to share leftover paint with those who can use it (i.e. schools, churches, your local Red Cross chapter, etc.) For disposal, please refer to these guidelines.
Liquid paint is usually considered hazardous waste and must be disposed of properly. Never pour paint down the drain, on the ground or into a garbage can. To safely dispose of significant amounts of leftover paint, take it to a special household waste collection center. (Check with your True Value associate, town hall or environmental web site for proper legal disposal.)
For products that have dried up, wrap tightly closed container in newspaper and put in the trash. Significant amounts of liquid paint should be taken to a special household waste collection center.
Cleaning Up Exteriors
After you have completed your painting projects, there is still one more thing to do: clean up. Here are helpful ideas for cleaning the outside your home, your tools and you.
First remove all masking tape, protective covers and drop cloths. Use a razor blade to remove paint from glass.
Paint sprayers should be cleaned according to the manufacturer's instructions. Thorough and immediate cleaning is essential to ensure many years of service from your equipment.
With latex paint, clean tools and yourself with warm, soapy water. Scrape excess paint off brushes and work the soapy water through the bristles. Rinse thoroughly. They're clean when the water is clear. Comb the bristles with a paintbrush comb (available at your local True Value hardware store). Twirl the brush dry and wrap it in its original cover or wrapping paper.
Oil-based paint can be removed from tools and brushes with thinner. Soak brushes in thinner. Wearing gloves, work the thinner through the bristles until the thinner comes out clear. Comb with a wire brush and shake dry outdoors. Because paint thinner is harsh on skin, use a mechanic's hand cleaner for yourself. You can also use the cleaner for wet paint on clothing, but launder clothes immediately after application.
Store leftover latex paint in a tightly sealed container (preferably the original can) in a warm, dry place. Liquid paint (i.e. paint that isn't dried) is usually considered hazardous waste and must be disposed of properly. Never pour paint down the drain, on the ground or into garbage cans. To dry paint in the can, put newspapers in it to soak up and dry the paint; then dispose of it in the trash. To safely dispose of significant amounts of leftover paint, take it to a special household waste collection center. (Check with your True Value associate, town hall or environmental web site for proper legal disposal.) It's best if you can share your unused paint with a neighbor or a charitable organization such as a school, church or local Red Cross chapter.
Cleaning Spilled Paint
With paint accidents, time is critical. So just like we read in 1st grade: "See Spot? Run." Be prepared to move fast with the right materials and the information provided here.
Step 1: Consider the type of paint you're using:
Latex paint cleans easily with water. So always keep a damp rag handy to clean as you go along.
Oil-based or alkyd paints require mineral spirits for clean up. When you're through painting, air-dry your rags and dispose of them in a safe manner. The rags should be put into an area that does not allow combustible fumes to accumulate and present a fire hazard.
Do NOT think that water-based paints can be cleaned up with water when dry – it'll be too late. You'll need products specially formulated to clean-up dried paints...so move quickly.
Step 2: Consider the Location:
The worst-case scenario is a whole can of paint spilling and getting into your carpeting – this happens even to those people who have taken precautions. You'll need plenty of clean towels and rags on hand. And if you don't own a carpet cleaner that uses liquid solvents, rent one and keep it on standby. If you have expensive carpet, consider this an insurance policy.
More than likely, the bulk of the paint will be on your plastic drop cloth. Take the drop cloth by the four corners and carry it out. Put it into a trashcan or someplace outside where it won't harm anything. Be sure there's nothing on your shoes because you don't want to compound the nightmare.
If there's pooled paint, scoop up as much as possible with your hands and dump it into the roller pan. With latex, use water and lots of it. With alkyd paint, use lots of paint thinner (it's wise to stock up beforehand). Soak the spot repeatedly, massaging the water or thinner into the carpet and blotting it up with all the towels and rags to get out as much as you can. Finally, treat it with the carpet cleaner.
Smaller spots probably won't require the carpet cleaner equipment, but the other steps will be necessary. If you discover drips or extremely small spots only after they have dried, you might be able to pinch them out with your fingernails or cut them out with a razor without doing noticeable damage to the carpet's appearance. Some "miracle" carpet spot removers may also handle small spots of alkyd paint.
To avoid huge spills on carpets, you may want to transfer paint from a big can to a smaller one before climbing a ladder. Store the big cans in a safe place, removing paint only as needed.
For spills on clothing and cleaning your skin, latex paint requires lots of water and scrubbing. With alkyd paint, don't use paint solvent. It's not good for your skin or your clothing. To clean alkyd from skin or clothing, use mechanic's hand cleaner; a solvent that handles paint, grease and motor oil.
On Window Screens
Since your windows will be open for ventilation, your wet walls will be like flypaper if you don't have the screens up. And once dripped paint dries on a screen it'll never come clean, so be sure to tackle it immediately. Blot, don't smear, the excess, and then treat with water, thinner or mechanic's hand cleaner while the paint is still wet.
On Hard Floors
If it's a big spill, use your hands (just as with carpeting above) to get rid of the puddle. Then soak and blot repeatedly with water or thinner. Use a wire brush for crevices in a stone floor or an old toothbrush for vinyl or wood.
What to Do with Leftover Paint
Congratulations. You finished your paint job but you have some paint left over. What do you do with it?
Paint can be stored for years when done right. Just close the lid securely and then turn the can upside down to create a tight seal around the lid. That keeps it fresh. And here's how to avoid playing the game of "What color's in the can?"
Put a color swatch on the label, put a mark on the can to show how much paint is left, write the date and which room the paint was used for on the lid with a permanent marking pen.
An even better idea is to transfer leftover paint into see-through containers such as a plastic 1/2-gallon milk or water bottle or a glass spaghetti sauce jar. Write all pertinent information on the outside and put plastic wrap under the lid to prevent sticking. You'll save space and be able to see what's inside.
Now you can use it for touch-up jobs, other projects or even mix with other leftover paint to create more of a single color.
Donate leftover paint to community groups, theater groups, schools, churches, etc.
You CANNOT discard latex paint that is still wet, so be sure it has already dried and solidified before tossing it in the garbage. Adding shredded newspaper or cat box filler speeds the drying process. If the can is empty, find out if your community recycles empty steel paint cans before tossing them in the garbage.