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Be Water-Wise: Washing Paint from Paint Equipment

Freshly painted green room.Foto Miki Digital is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

Freshly painted green room.
Foto Miki Digital is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

Painting is a lot of work. Once you finish, you must clean up. How do you wash your paintbrushes?

Many people wash their paintbrushes in the sink with running water or clean them outside with a hose. These practices not only increase your water bill but can damage your septic system and pollute the groundwater supply. We can do better!

Limit the amount of washing needed by:

  • Using disposable liners in your pans.
    • After painting, pour any left-over paint back into the container, then throw away the liner.
  • Wringing out brushes and rollers to reuse extra paint.
    • A 5 in 1 painters’ tool can make this quick and easy.

Remove wet latex paint by:

  • Using three 5-gallon buckets – fill each 2/3 full of water.
    • After scraping paint off, thoroughly scrub the brush in the 1st bucket to remove the bulk of the paint.
    • Move to the 2nd bucket and scrub the brush again to loosen and rinse any remaining paint.
    • By the third bucket, there should very little paint left. Rinse the brush clean here.
    • Allow the paint to settle to the bottom of the buckets. Slowly pour the water into the house drain and scrape the paint into the trash to dispose of appropriately.

Clean oil-based or dried latex base paint by:

  • Using solvent to remove paint.
    • Pour the solvent into a metal or glass container. Swirl the brush to separate the paint from the bristles.
    • Press the bristles against the side of the receptacle to remove excess solvent.
    • Wipe down brushes with a throwable rag to remove any remaining solution and dry them.
    • Recycle solvent by allowing the paint to settle to the bottom and pouring the clean solvent into a sealable glass or metal container.

Be careful when soaking brushes in solvent or water. Prolonged contact can damage adhesives or bristles.

Being water-wise while washing paintbrushes can help keep water bills low, save septic systems, and protect the environment. Whatever water-wise technique you use, NEVER pour paint waste down a storm drain or in the yard!

For more information on illicit discharges or paint recycling and disposal, see HGIC 1850, Illicit Discharges and Water Pollution ; and Recycling Hard-to-Manage Items.

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

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