How to clean up after painting

How to clean up after painting

Enhancing your living spaces with fresh coats of paint is a stimulating and satisfying experience. However, your task is not done even after you lay down your brushes and apply the last stroke of colour. Knowing how to clean up after painting is crucial to ensure you get a pristine result, extend the life of your painting tools, and maintain an organised workspace. So in this guide, we’ll provide the steps to help you tidy up after a painting project.

Step 1: Set Aside Unused Paint

Once you’ve finished your painting project, you must properly handle unused paint. If a significant amount is left, store it for future touch-ups or other projects. Seal the paint containers tightly to prevent drying out or leaking. If you have a small amount of leftover paint you don’t intend to use again, consider donating it to a local community centre or nonprofit organisation.

However, if you need to dispose of the paint, check local regulations for proper disposal methods. Many areas have recycling facilities that accept leftover paint. Never pour paint down the drain or throw it in the regular trash, as it can harm the environment.

Within Australia, leftover paint can be disposed of via Paintback. Initiated in 2016, this program aims to gather unused paint and prevent them from ending up in landfills or crucial water sources. Its partners mainly consist of the companies responsible for supplying about 90% of the country’s architectural and decorative paint.

Step 2: Clean Your Paintbrushes and Rollers

Properly cleaning your painting tools is essential to maintain their quality and longevity. If you used water-based paints, rinse the brushes and rollers thoroughly with water until the water runs clear. For oil-based paints, use the appropriate solvent or paint thinner to remove excess paint.

After rinsing, fill a container with the appropriate cleaning solution and soak the brushes and rollers for a few minutes. Gently agitate them to loosen any remaining paint.

Step 3: Clean Your Paint Trays and Containers

Paint trays and containers can accumulate paint, dirt, and other debris if left uncleaned. So after rinsing off your brushes and rollers, move on immediately to your trays and containers.

How to Clean Paint Tray

  1. Remove Excess Paint. Start by scraping out as much leftover paint as possible back into the paint can using a putty knife or an old credit card.
  2. Identify Paint Type. Determine whether the paint used is water-based or oil-based, as this will dictate the cleaning method.
  3. Start the Clean-up. Start by scraping excess paint from the trays using a putty knife or an old credit card. Once most of the paint is removed, proceed with the following:
    1. If the paint is water-based, rinse the tray under warm running water. Use a scrub brush to remove any stubborn paint.
    2. If the paint is oil-based, pour a small amount of paint thinner or mineral spirits into the tray. Use a brush to scrub the tray until the paint is dissolved. Gently rinse with warm water.
  4. Dispose of the Cleaning Solution. Always dispose of the cleaning solution responsibly, according to local regulations.
  5. Dry the Tray. After cleaning, dry the tray thoroughly before storing it to prevent rust and other damage.
  6. Using a Tray Liner. If you used a plastic tray liner, remove and dispose of it responsibly. This leaves you with a clean tray ready for your next painting task.

Step 4: Remove Painter’s Tape and Drop Cloths

Knowing how to remove the painter’s tape and drop cloth properly is crucial to avoid any damage to the freshly painted surface. Begin by carefully peeling off the painter’s tape at a 45-degree angle. This technique helps prevent any paint from being pulled off the surface.

For drop cloths, fold them inward to contain any paint drips and spills. Take the drop cloths outside and shake them to remove any loose paint and debris. Once they are clean, fold and store them for future use.

Step 5: Clean Paint Spills and Splatters

Accidents happen, and paint spills or splatters may occur during painting. If you notice any wet paint spills or splatters on the floor or other surfaces, act quickly to prevent permanent damage.

How to Clean Paint Spill

  1. As soon as the paint spills, grab a cloth or paper towel to address it promptly before it dries.
  2. Gently blot the spilled paint with a cloth or paper towel to absorb as much liquid as possible.
  3. Use a spoon or blunt object to scrape off any excess paint without spreading it further.
  4. Dampen a clean cloth with soapy water and gently dab the spill, working from the edges toward the centre.
  5. Rinse the area with clean water and repeat the process until the spill is removed entirely, ensuring no residue remains on the surface.

How to Clean a Floor After Painting

  1. Start by removing any drop cloths or painter’s tape (see Step 4 above).
  2. Gently wipe the paint with a clean, damp cloth. Do not rub, as this can spread the paint. Instead, try the dabbing motion.
  3. For stubborn spots, a bit of mild dish soap mixed with warm water can help. Always test any cleaning method on a small, hidden area first to ensure it doesn’t damage the floor.
  4. Use appropriate paint removers or scraping tools for dried paint, being careful not to damage the underlying surface.
  5. Once the floor is clean, mop it with warm water to remove any soap residue, then dry it thoroughly to prevent slipping.

Step 6: Wipe Down Painted Surfaces

Once you finish the major cleaning tasks, give the painted surfaces a final wipe-down. Use a damp cloth or sponge to gently wipe painted areas, removing dust or debris. This step will give your artwork a clean and polished look.

For stubborn stains or spots, use a mild cleaning solution that won’t damage the paint. Test the cleaning solution in an inconspicuous area first to ensure it doesn’t affect the paint’s finish.

How to Clean Up After Paint Stripping

  1. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to ensure safe and effective use.
  2. Apply the paint stripper to the painted surface as directed and let it sit for the recommended amount of time.
  3. Use a scraper or putty knife to remove the softened paint gently. Be cautious not to damage the underlying surface.
  4. After scraping off the paint, wipe the area with a cloth soaked in mineral spirits or the recommended solvent to remove any residue.
  5. Dispose of the paint stripper residue and used rags according to local regulations.

How to Remove Paint From Glass

  1. Start by wiping the surface with a damp cloth to remove loose paint.
  2. Next, apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol or glass cleaner to a clean cloth and gently scrub the painted areas. Avoid using abrasive materials or harsh chemicals that may damage the surface.
  3. Rinse the area with water and dry thoroughly with a clean towel.

How to Clean Up After Using Spray Paints or Aerosols

  1. Cover surrounding areas and objects with drop cloths or plastic sheets before spraying. This will minimise the potential for overspray and make clean-up easier.
  2. After spraying, immediately clean the nozzle and can by wiping them with a damp cloth or paper towel. This will prevent clogs and ensure proper functioning for future use.
  3. If there is overspray on nearby surfaces, use mild soap and warm water to scrub the affected areas gently. Alternatively, you can use a specialised spray paint remover for more stubborn overspray.

Step 7: Clean Up Other Paint-Related Messes

Painting projects can be messy even for professional home painters, and you may find paint on your clothing or skin. If you get paint on your person, act quickly to avoid permanent stains.

How to Get Rid of Paint on Clothing

  1. As soon as you notice paint on your clothing, act promptly to increase the chances of successful removal.
  2. Gently blot the affected area with a paper towel or cloth to remove excess wet paint. Use a spoon or dull knife to scrape off any dried paint without damaging the fabric.
  3. Rinse the stained area under cold running water, working from the backside of the material to push the paint out.
  4. Apply a small amount of dish soap to the stain and gently rub it with your fingers. Allow it to sit for a few minutes before rinsing again in cold water.
  5. After treating the stain, wash the clothing in the washing machine using the recommended detergent and settings for the fabric type. Check the stain before drying; if any paint remains, repeat the process before drying, as heat can set the stain permanently.

How to Get Rid of Paint on Skin

  1. If you get paint on your skin, immediately attend to it to prevent it from drying and setting.
  2. Rinse the affected area under running water to remove as much wet paint as possible.
  3. Apply a small amount of soap or baby oil to the paint-stained skin and gently rub it in to help loosen the paint.
  4. Use a soft brush or cloth to gently scrub the stained area while continuing to rinse with water.
  5. If the paint doesn’t come off entirely in one attempt, repeat the process until the skin is clean. Avoid using harsh chemicals or solvents that may irritate the skin.

Step 8: Dispose of Other Paint-Related Waste Responsibly

Properly disposing of paint-related waste is crucial for environmental preservation. Dispose of used rags, paper towels, and other waste materials contaminated with paint according to local regulations. Some communities have hazardous waste facilities or special collection days for these items.

Never pour paint down the drain or in the regular trash, as it can harm the environment and may violate local regulations. A study by Patrick-Iwuanyanwu and his colleagues has also noted that continuous exposure to paint thinner fumes can pose risks to your health. So best keep the newly-painted room well-ventilated to eliminate these gases.

How to Ventilate the Room and Get Rid of Paint Fumes

  1. Open all windows and doors to create cross-ventilation.
  2. Set up fans near the open windows to promote air circulation.
  3. Use exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchen to help pull out fumes.
  4. Place portable air purifiers with activated carbon filters to remove paint odours.
  5. Use box fans with furnace filters taped to the intake side to trap fumes.
  6. Avoid blocking any vents or airways to allow smooth airflow.
  7. Take short breaks outside to breathe in fresh air during the ventilation process.
  8. Keep the room ventilated for at least 48 hours after painting to ensure fume removal.
  9. Avoid using air conditioning systems that recycle indoor air while the fumes remain.
  10. Re-enter the room only when the paint fumes are no longer noticeable or have significantly reduced.

Step 9: Inspect and Touch Up

Before calling it a day, take a moment to inspect the painted surfaces for any of the following:

  1. Missed Spots. Carefully examine the painted surfaces to check for areas where the paint coverage might be uneven or patchy.
  2. Drips and Runs. Look for any paint drips or runs that might have occurred during the painting process. These can be gently sanded and touched up.
  3. Paint Lines and Brush Marks. Check for visible brush or roller marks and ensure the paint is evenly distributed, especially in areas with overlapping strokes.
  4. Surface Imperfections. Look for surface imperfections such as minor dents, scratches, or nail holes that may need patching before touch-up.
  5. Dust or Debris. Ensure that the painted surfaces are free from dust or debris that might have settled during drying.
  6. Paint Odour. Check for any lingering paint odour, which may indicate incomplete ventilation or the need for additional fresh air.
  7. Cleanliness. Keep the area clean during touch-ups to avoid transferring dirt or paint particles onto freshly painted surfaces.

Step 10: Organise and Store Your Painting Tools

Lastly, organise and store your painting tools properly. Ensure your cleaned and dry paintbrushes, rollers, and other tools are kept in a clean, dry area. Proper storage will keep your painting tools in good condition for future use.

Tips to Store and Organise Your Painting Tools

  1. Use appropriate storage containers or bags to keep brushes and rollers protected.
  2. Store brushes with bristles facing upward to maintain their shape.
  3. Hang brushes with holes in the handles or use brush hangers to prevent deformation.
  4. Store rollers on dowels or hooks to avoid flat spots and ensure even drying.
  5. Keep paint trays and containers clean and free from dried paint before storing.
  6. Store painting tools in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.


Following the ten steps above is crucial to ensure a successful and efficient clean-up after your painting project. By adopting our advice, and you can turn every painting project into a rewarding and satisfying experience. Happy painting and responsible clean-up!

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