Cleaning Up After Painting a Room

A family painting a white room green.

You’ve finished your painting project, ensuring that everything in the room was covered before you started. Still it is inevitable that some paint will manage to flick or splash somewhere. Removing all your painting equipment carefully from the room will help to eliminate any accidents.

Paint on Fabric

It is obviously sensible to wear old clothes or overalls and old shoes while painting, as paint can be very difficult to remove from clothing. If you do accidentally manage to get some paint on decent clothing, it will be easier to remove once dry - otherwise you run the risk of spreading the paint and embedding it in the clothing, making it almost impossible to remove. Try working the paint out of the fibers with plenty of warm water and scrubbing with a small brush. Depending on the type of material, you may be able to cut off small blobs of paint from the surface.

TIP: Painting professional Pam Estabrooke, of ProTect Painters, suggests, “Rubbing alcohol is a great product for removing paint from clothes. Use regular drug store alcohol. Take a paper towel and saturate the fabric and stain. Use your fingernail or small wood stick to scrape and work the alcohol into the fabric to loosen the paint. Periodically apply more alcohol and blot any loosened paint. After several minutes, the stain should be completely gone. Wash the garment immediately per label instructions.”

Paint on carpets may also be difficult to remove. Again, any blobs on the surface may cut of easily; otherwise, as with clothing, use plenty of warm water, but blot, don't scrub, as this may damage the pile. Stubborn paint spots may loosen off by gently using a blunt knife. Always work in the direction of the pile and then blot dry.

Always fold dust sheets in on themselves before removing to shake outside. Make sure that you always know which is the clean side of your sheets before you place them back down the next time you paint.

TIP: Pam reminds you, “Frequently check the bottom of your shoes. You do not want to track wet paint out of the room and onto other floors.”

Paint on Windows and Fixtures

When removing masking tape from the edges of windows and carpet edges, always make sure the paint is dry first and peel the tape off gently - never rip it off quickly. Any paint on windowpanes can be scraped off with a bladed scraper. The glass can then be washed and polished with a chamois leather. Professionals recommend waiting two weeks before having interior or exterior windows professionally cleaned after the trim is painted. It can take paint this long to thoroughly dry and cure.

Any spots of paint on fixed fittings can usually be removed by wiping with a damp cloth. For more stubborn spots, try scraping very gently with a blunt knife, taking care not to scratch any delicate surfaces.

TIP: Pam suggests, “While the furniture is pushed away from the walls, take a few minutes after the drop clothes are picked up to vacuum, dust or mop the floor under these pieces. It may be a few years before you move them again. Be careful of the trim if it was freshly painted too.”

Paint on Applicators

An important job to do as soon as possible after painting is to clean out paintbrushes and rollers. It is very important to clean them all thoroughly after each painting session; otherwise you will constantly need to replace them.

Remove excess paint by either working the brushes on newspaper, or running a scraper carefully over the bristles. Then try to get the worst of the paint off in a bucket of water. Water base paints wash out very easily under running water once the worst of the paint has been removed.

Oil base paints need to be cleaned in a bowl of white spirit first, then rinsed under a running tap. Finally, wash them in soapy water and give them another rinse. Remember, if you are working with alkyd paints, the paint and the solvent are volatile. Wear a respirator and use adequate ventilation. Beware of open flames and never store or simply throw away solvent soaked rags. Soak the rags in water overnight

Shake out all excess water from the paintbrushes, and wrap them in wax paper and then seal with a rubber band. This will help them to retain their shape.

Rollers used for water base paints can be washed in the sink, by part filling it with water and rolling the roller back and forth. Finally, rinse under running water until the water from the roller is clear. The curved section of the 5-in-1 tool is designed to remove paint from the roller. Run this curve up and down the roller under running water to aid in cleaning the roller.

For oil base paint, rolling it in a paint tray containing white spirit can clean out the roller. Finish off by washing in soapy water and rinsing thoroughly. Hang rollers up to dry once they are clean.

TIP: Pam says, “Many good quality paint rollers are reasonable priced. Weigh the difficulty of cleaning the roller with its cost. Most painters consider these disposal supplies and just throw them away.”

A good tip for keeping brushes soft and ready to use later in the day without the need for cleaning, is to wrap them in cling film. This will exclude air and prevent them from drying out. In the case of rollers, wrap them in a sealed plastic bag.

Paint on Your Skin

Finally, unless you wear gloves, it is virtually impossible to keep paint off your hands. Luckily there are a number of special hand cleaners available which are very effective in removing paint from the skin without causing any irritation.

Always make sure that all the paint is thoroughly dry before you begin to clean up. Although clearing up can be a very tedious task, it is an important part of any job and ensures that you always have clean reliable equipment available for your next project.

Pam Estabrooke, district manager of ProTect Painters, contributed to this article.