15 Quick Clean Up Painting Tips and Hacks from the Pros

Paintbrush dripping paint into a can.

Nothing can so quickly improve a room or space like painting. Of course, nothing can make such a mess so quickly, either! To keep you from spending more time cleaning up than painting, we’ve assembled the best 15 quick clean up painting tips and hacks we know—all from the Pros who do it every day. Peruse and use at-will.

Prepare To Paint With Our 15 Quick Clean Up Painting Tips and Hacks

  • Use canvas drop cloths. They absorb paint without letting it bleed through to the floor. You’re less likely to track paint around a clients house (or your own) if you step in it. You also avoid the slippery situation of non-absorbent, plastic drop cloths, and you avoid the bleed-through of that old sheet you thought would work so well.
  • Cover immobile or oddly-shaped furniture with cling plastic wrap.
  • Cover paint trays in aluminum foil. Alternatively, you can cover them in a plastic bag or garbage bag. Alternatively, Pros will often use a 5-gallon bucket with a metal screen grid. It’s easier if you’re doing a lot of paint than trying to keep a roller tray clean. 
  • Can rims collect paint and cause a splattery mess when replacing the lid. Use a hammer and nail (or nail punch) to poke holes in the rim’s channel where paint collects so that it drains back into the can. If you want a nifty way to mix paint, the Rockler Mixing Mate might do the trick.
  • Stretch a rubber band around the can so that it crosses the open top of the can and use the rubber band to wipe excess paint from the brush. This minimizes paint collecting in the rim’s channel.
  • Put a paper plate or foil baking dish under paint cans to catch drips.
  • Keep a damp cloth or sponge handy to immediately wipe up drops before they dry.
  • Use a good painter’s tape to protect border surfaces that shouldn’t be painted. Use a putty knife to press down on the tape, applying good pressure especially where the painted and unpainted surfaces meet. This will minimize paint bleed.
  • Believe it or not, wet strips of newspaper can substitute for painter’s tape in a pinch—though we don’t recommend this as normal practice.
Tools of the trade.
15 Quick Clean Up Painting Tips and Hacks

Dried and True

  • If the job isn’t done, but you don’t want to wash your brushes and rollers, put them in a plastic bag in the freezer. Another shorter term method is to wrap them in a wet paper towel. This might be the most helpful of these 15 quick clean up painting tips and hacks. Here are some pointers for choosing the right paintbrush for the job. And here’s are some other ideas on caring for and cleaning paintbrushes.
  • Remove any painter’s tape before the paint dries. This will give you a nice, crisp paint line without the danger of chipping. If the paint has dried, use a razor knife to cut gently along the tape/paint edge.
  • Clean all painting tools immediately with the appropriate cleaner for the type of paint. Use soapy water for water-based paints and mineral spirits or paint thinner for oil-based paints. Go ahead and throw out rollers used for oil-based paints.
  • If the paint has dried on brushes, soak them in vinegar for 20 minutes.
  • A little rubbing alcohol can quickly clean up latex paint on floors.
  • Oily rags are a fire hazard if improperly handled. Hang them to dry or launder them before reuse or disposal.

We hope you’ve found these 15 quick clean up painting tips and hacks helpful! If you’re a Pro and you have a painting tip, add them in the comments below—or contact us with your own Pro tips.

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