How to Keep a Paint Brush From Drying Out (and save $)

Over the last few years, I’ve become somewhat of an expert at doing home improvement projects with as minimal effort as possible.  Part of it has been because I simply had to; it’s not easy doing a renovation on my own, and being only 5’2″, things tend to literally be out of reach when I need them.  So I develop methods for moving heavy furniture or using ladders that are low-center-of-gravity friendly.  But far more often, I’m just plain lazy.  Most of my habits and shortcuts are made with the idea of getting the job done without having to do a massive cleanup afterward.  So I’ll skip the taping step and get better at painting straight lines without it – or I’ll find a way to keep a paint brush wet for a long time.

The benefits

Laziness.  I find that dreading the cleanup will make me procrastinate starting a project.  If I know something will take a few days, I think of the mess afterward – and it will sometimes cause me to see what’s on Netflix rather than looking around for a paint key.  For a busy girl like me, this kind of avoidance is what turns a Before and After project into a Before and Maybe Next Week.  It’s pure evil, and I need to stay motivated.  Keeping a wet paint brush gives me a little sense of urgency (so that I don’t wait too long and come back to a ruined brush) and a sense of now-ness – I can pick it back up as soon as I walk in the door and move that much closer to the finish line.

Savings.  I’m not much of a green blogger, but I am a cheapskate.  So technically, not having to clean brushes nightly is both a good thing for water conservation and for my water bill.  Double whammy.

Time.  When I’m finished for the night, I can simply wrap the brushes and go rather than drag everything to the sink and spend precious sleeping/TV watching minutes on cleanup.  Charlie doesn’t realize the connection, but an earlier bedtime equals a more cheerful me in the morning, which equals more treats when I get back home.

See?  This practically saves the world, you guys.

What you need

  • high quality sandwich bags (I find that the regular molded plastic closure works better than the slider/zipper kind for keeping brushes from drying out)
  • plastic wrap
  • tape (optional – I sometimes use it, sometimes skip it)

For brushes

Store the wet brush using the sandwich bag.  For cutting in, I use a short-handled brush (Wooster brand with a rubber grip is my absolute favorite – I must own 4 or 5 by now), so it’s really easy to just pop it in the bag and squeeze out the air before snapping the bag closed.  I then do the ol’ bread bag wrap trick (you know the one, when you lose the twist tie) and wrap the excess plastic around the brush.  I sometimes then tape the end of the bag to the rest of the plastic to keep it from unwrapping, but most of the time I just make sure that the end is on the bottom when I lay the brush down, which basically uses gravity to keep the wrap in place.

For long-handled brushes, snip one corner of the bag and stick the handle through, and squeeze out the air.  Tape the hole around the handle to prevent air from getting inside the bag once closed.

For rollers

Again, this isn’t rocket science – wrap the roller in plastic wrap.  I usually don’t take the roller off of the handle; some do.  Use tape if you want, but plastic wrap sticks to itself, so to me this is overkill.

Fridge?  Freezer?  Nope.

You can find tutorials all over the place for variations on how to keep a paint brush wet (I think this one is great).  Some involve wrapping the roller in a wet towel before wrapping in plastic.  Some involve using wax paper or sticking the brush/roller in the fridge or freezer.  But I suppose it’s about personal preference.  I have had plenty of success with a wet roller and a wet brush for a week without sticking them into the fridge or freezer, and if I put the brush anywhere other than in the middle of the project I’m working on, it’s out of sight, out of mind – which means that this method only serves to help me forget.

There you have it.  It’s not a new method for keeping brushes wet, but sometimes it’s best to keep it simple.  Got any of your own tips to share?

Never Miss a Post


  1. says

    I use a plastic grocery sack on my rollers. Put the roller at the bottom, pull the bag towards the metal axle – squishing out the air as you go, turn the roller so it twists the bag around metal part. As long as the bag is hole free, it keeps your roller good for days.

  2. Jeremy J says

    Plastic wrap and I don’t get along, instead I use the bags that newspapers come in to cover my paint rollers.

  3. says

    Here’s another trick for rollers that I learned from a neighbor- leave them submerged in the paint can/bucket! Making sure they’re completely submerged is key- so this doesn’t work very well for the large rollers, but I use the smaller 6″? one like you have- it fits fine into a 1 gallon paint bucket. For painting with the roller, I like to pour about 1/2 gallon of paint into a 2 gallon bucket (an old primer bucket with lid) and use a paint screen. When I’m done for the day I just leave the paint and the roller in the covered 2 gallon bucket until I get back to it (I do wash the roller handle and the screen with a hose each time). I’ve been painting the outside of my house for 6 months using the same 2 rollers (one in the white primer bucket, one in gray the paint bucket)!

  4. says

    No tips for the paint brush. I do the same thing. I throw out the rollers when done. Such a pain to clean! (LAZY too) I do have plenty of tips on great Netflix series to watch though….

  5. says

    Thanks for the heads up! I’m currently in the process of repainting the guest bathroom. We finally decided on Behr’s Liberty Blue! I’m sadden to stay my roller and paint brushes are just sitting in the garage unwrapped! Next time I’ll know better!

  6. says

    I do the same as you – either a ziploc bag or a leftover grocery bag taped shut. Right now I have two rollers on the go – one for primer, one for paint – so I had to make sure I labeled the bags!

    • Sarah says

      Good thinking! I would have probably forgotten to do that and assumed I would “figure it out later” (I can be my own worst enemy).

  7. Brian says

    Ahhhhhhhhhhhh! Nooooooooooo! naps and brushes are so easy to clean. You don’t want to spend $15-$20 on a paint brush and ruin it on one room. A good quality roller cover is a bit cheaper but they can last years too.


    The jet sprayer is less than $3 @ lowes. It’s good for teasing the dog too.

    • says

      I’ve never found that putting my paint brush in a plastic bag for a day or two while working on a multi-day project has ever been much of an issue (only when it’s left out in the air to dry). Cleaning them each night is simply a pain in the ass when I know I’m going to do it all again the next day. Definitely wash them after the room’s complete & you aren’t going to use them again immediately, but it’s ok to put them in an airtight container overnight if you’re going to be using the same brush with the same paint the next day.

  8. Andy says

    Wow, can I just say I like you. Your writing style is very fun. And it’s great to see some good ideas from someone like me who just wants to make projects easier.

    I’ve heard this tip before but wasn’t sure how long it would last. Very surprised that you were able to keep it for a whole week without it drying out.

    Thanks for posting.

  9. Beth D. says

    Hi! fellow DIY enthusiast I was wondering if the same method would or has worked for you with stain? 6 hours between coats and i am soooooooo lazy as well lol lots of breaks thanks

    • says

      I haven’t ever tried it with stain, but I’m betting it would be less successful. More often than not, I don’t use a brush for stain. Just an old sock or t-shirt (something that’s been washed a bunch of times so has no lint, but very soft and flexible in-hand). Then I stick them into a plastic baggie when done, and toss.

      • Beth D. says

        Well Thank you! I will soon find out if it worked or not since I haven’t been back to it since Monday!!!! I am going to try the rag thing thanks so much for the suggestion. I am giving a bakers rack a makeover…this was a trade for a huge coffee table that was given to me so what a find! The bakers rack is wood and metal going from light wood and weird green speckled over black paint to classic black glossy stain and a cool bronze hammered look courtesy of rustolium spray paint lol Figured this was a good project to learn to stain!

  10. andrew hanham says

    when my partner first told me about this plastic bag thing i did not believe her but hey what a great idea.

  11. says

    I’m painting wooden doors – going from natural/varnished to white semi-gloss. I used Zinsser Bulls-eye 123 latex Primer. Do I have to clean the brush and roller now that all priming is done to switch to the Behr latex semi-gloss finish coats? Searched everywhere & can’t believe no one has asked this question before since the primer looks a lot like the finish paint!

    • says

      Yes, you should rinse off the brush before switching to the other paint. Even though it’s the same color, it’s not the same sheen, and the primer will dull the finish if it’s mixed in.

  12. Robin says

    Thank you so much for the idea, I feel like I found the holy grail of painting tips, haha. I just found your website and I’m hooked! It’s totally bookmarked now. I live in the Atlanta area also and just started renovating a 1968 house, oh the joys. The biggest thing here lately is while cleaning out a flower bed I apparently inoculated (dermatologist’s wording) myself with poison ivy, I will NEVER forget what it looks like now. Anyway thanks again and happy renovating!

Leave a Reply

Comment Policy: I love comments, especially if they make me laugh. Feel free to let your words of wisdom and humor fly (there's no swear jar on this blog), but if you're overly spammy, rude, or just plain boring, you're just going to have to accept that your comment may not see the light of day.