Not a Drop: A Dozen Tips and Hacks that Make Painting Cleanup Easy


We all like to give a good-natured ribbing to those folks on House Hunters that see the paint color on the wall as a major obstacle on their homebuying journey. “It’s so cheap and easy to paint!” we say.

You know what? I’ll say it: Painting is not always cheap and it’s certainly not easy. Not that I think you should pass up your dream home if the bathroom is a shade of yellow you’re not jibing with. But I do think we could all stand to learn a few tips and tricks that make painting—and, most importantly, the eventual cleanup—easier.

Here are 12 smart tips and hacks that will make your next painting project spotless and splatter-free.

As soon as you open the can, poke a hole in the very bottom of the rim with a hammer and nail, as shown here in a video from PaintCare. The hole lets paint drip down to avoid paint sitting in the rim—making a mess later when you go on to close the lid.

From the same PaintCare video, here’s a tip to make pouring paint easier: Take two wide strips of painter’s tape and use them to create a “V” shape on the edge of the can.

Painting straight from the can? Stretch a rubberband around the paint can to have a tidy place to scrape tap off your brush, as seen here on Good Housekeeping.

To keep splatters to a minimum, first stick your paint brush through a slit cut into a takeout or coffee can lid, as seen here from Real Simple.

If you don’t have dropcloths handy, you can protect floors with broken-down cardboard boxes (like all those boxes from Amazon), according to The Family Handyman. Thinner cardboard boxes—like cereal boxes—can come in handy, too, if you use them to wedge between your baseboards and carpet when you’re painting the trim.

Instead of taping off in-the-way fixtures (or worse, just trying to “be careful”—that’s a disaster waiting to happen!), try wrapping them up with aluminum foil, an idea spotted on Real Simple.

And here’s another tip from Domestic Adventure to skip the time-consuming taping step: Wedge a large spackle knife between the trim and the wall or floor, and use it to block the clean surface as you go.

And if you need to protect a tight spot, you can use press-and-seal wrap as a shield, as seen here on The Family Handyman. It can’t mask areas—so it’s no substitute for painter’s tape— but it can be used to get a tight cover to block light fixtures, hardware or appliances from getting hit with a paintbrush.

While you’re painting (and when you’re ready to clean) you can keep your paint brushes sorted with a pool noodle. You can see how it’s done here on Little Things. Wrap a noodle onto the edge of your paint try to sort brushes while you paint, or clamp it onto the edge of a plastic container filled with water to clean brushes and hang them to drip dry.

If you do get paint on the floors, you can use face-cleansing wipes: The Family Handyman says that “the alcohol in them softens latex paint, but won’t harm most surfaces,” but they suggest spot-testing first, to make sure.

If you’re coming back tomorrow to finish up, Refunk My Junk suggests that you can stash your still-wet paint roller in a perfectly-sized pringles container. Seal it up, stick it in the fridge overnight and the next morning, your wet roller should still be ready to go.

We all know the hardest part of paint cleanup might be getting the paint off your skin at the end of the day. The Family Handyman suggests that a fresh layer of lotion will help make paint easier to take off, and you can coat your nails with a thin layer of petroleum jelly to keep them spotless.

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