Paint Brush & Roller Storage Tips

Paint brushes and roller sleeves can be expensive so you’ll want to get plenty of use out of them. For someone who only does the odd bit of painting and decorating a decent quality set of brushes should last for years – provided you look after them.

More often than not brushes are rendered useless when they are stored in a jar of water between jobs and forgotten about. In no time at all the water evaporates and the paint on the brushes dries as hard as nails.

You can sometimes recover brushes that haven’t been left for too long by soaking them in a solution of paint-stripper but this isn’t an ideal solution and the brushes will never be the same again.

The obvious answer then is to make sure you clean your brushes properly after each job and store them away safely until they are needed again.

However, if you are certain you’ll be using them again in a day or so there are safe ways to store brushes and rollers without having to clean them out and without doing any term long-term damage.

Water Based Paints – Bag it up!

For brushes and rollers that will be left overnight, or over the weekend, you can simply wrap them tightly in a plastic bag – ensuring there is no air trapped inside – which will prevent the paint from drying out and allowing you to simply pick up where you left off.

This method is fine when using water based paints like vinyl matt but you should take care with oil based paints as they can dry out fairly quickly even when not exposed to air – left overnight you’ll probably get away with it, but don’t leave it any longer than that.

Brushes and rollers used with spirit based paints and varnishes or two-pack epoxy paints should always be cleaned after use with the appropriate thinners as these kind of paints will dry-out regardless of what you do.

OK, you can sometimes get away with leaving the brush inside the tin of unused paint but it’s not something I’m going to recommend. Not only can it get very messy but you’ll be doing your brushes some serious long-term damage if you do.

Paint brush protective cover
Paint Brush Cover
These plastic covers snap shut to provide an airtight seal and can be washed after use. At £3, it may be an expense too far for some – but if you’ve spent good money on brushes it’s worth protecting them.
Paint roller cover
Roller Cover
If you’ve invested a few quid in some decent roller sleeves then it may be worth using one of these plastic covers? They fit all standard sleeves (up to 9″) and snap shut securely. You can even leave the sleeve on the roller frame if you want to?

Oil Based Paints – Put it in a water!

If you’ve been using conventional oil-based gloss or undercoat then it’s perfectly ok to store your brushes in a jar or can of clean water. You can do this successfully for an almost indefinite period of time provided you keep the water topped-up.

There are, however, a couple of downsides to this method – OK, three, if you forget to top the water up!

Firstly, because the weight of the brush will be resting on the end of the bristles you can soon find your brushes getting out of shape.

Secondly, the handle of your brush will slowly absorb some of the water and will swell – when the brush is eventually cleaned out and stored in a dry condition the wood will dry out and contract.

The end result of this could be that the bristles become loose and start to fall out; a professional painter needn’t worry about this because he can keep his brushes in water all of the time – an occasional user is probably better off only using this method overnight.

Brush Storage

There are a few products on the market for storing wet paint brushes, from a couple of quid to over £50 depending on what you need.

If you do a fair bit of painting then it may be worth taking a tip from the professionals and investing in some proper kit?

Paint brush storage size 4
The Brushmate Wet Brush Storage System
A must-have for any professional painter – allowing the safe storage of brushes without having to clean them out after use

They use a unique vapour system which prevents oil-based paints from drying out. The special fluid soaked pads used can be replaced periodically to ensure that stored brushes never dry out – so, in theory, brushes can be stored in the Brushmate indefinitely.

Although this is aimed at the trade user the low cost makes it a practical alternative to the simple water filled tub for a keen DIY’er.

Paint brush storage container size 20
The Brushmate also comes in a large size
Holding up to 20 paint brushes and can be bought online from Amazon or from most decorators merchants.

This might appear an expensive option but when you consider the cost of replacing brushes it’s an investment which will pay back year after year.


Just wandering if I washed out all my oil based brushes that I use frequently as I am an apprentice decorator, with white spirit will this eventually cause damage to them. READ MORE…

If you wash them out afterwards with warm soapy water this should remove any residues and keep your brushes in good condition.

However, if you are using the same brushes fairly regularly you’ll find keeping them in a Brushmate box is a lot easier. You do have to clean the boxes out from time to time but only once every few weeks or so.

My Dad lent me a lovely old paintbrush that belonged to my Grandad. My husband left it in a tub of artex remover and has ruined it. The bristles are fine but some of the paint has come off the handle and the metal has gone rusty. Can I repaint the handle? READ MORE…

I assume paint brush manufacturers use a special formulation of paint for the handles but I have no idea what this would be?

However, I think you could use any regular paint but you’ll need to let it harden for a a couple of weeks before using it. With the metal part you’ll need to remove the rust, if you can, and then seal the surface with a clear varnish – again leaving it to harden before use.

In both cases I would be careful about leaving the brush in paint or any other kind of solvent for prolong periods though.

If I’ve used a paintbrush for satinwood paint, and have then cleaned it well in turpentine and washed in soapy water, is it OK to then use it for a water based paint? READ MORE…

Should be fine, yes. If you were using brushes on a daily basis it would make more sense to have a set for each but, for occasional usage, this would be overkill.

What is the best way to clean brushes and brush mate after a project is finished? Is it a case of lots of white spirit and time? Do you have any tips please? READ MORE…

Yes, lots of white spirit is the traditional way although you can buy Brush Cleaning fluid (like this) which is a bit less messy and smelly.

When all paint residue has been removed a good wash in warm soapy water followed by a good rinse should ensure your brushes stay in tip-top condition.

Will a brush mate 4 hold a mini roller handle? READ MORE…

No, the only way you can do it is to just store the sleeve in the brushmate. It’s OK for a day or so but can get messy if you leave them in for long periods of time.

See Also
Stripping paint with a heat gun
Which is the Best Heat Gun?
Using a steam stripper on an artex ceiling
The Best Steam Stripper