It is always best to clean your brushes out as soon as you’ve finished with them. But to keep them fresh for use later in the day with the same paint, wrap them in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. This will exclude the air and prevent them drying for a short time.
Remove excess paint, either by working it out on a piece of newspaper, or by running the edge of a scraper or paint mixing stick along the bristles or down the side of the roller cover.
If You Used A Water-Based Coating...
Wash the brush or roller with warm water and detergent. Detergents with petroleum distillates have more cleaning power.
Rinse out under a running tap or hose. Work them in a bucket of water first, much of the paint build-up can be removed. This makes rinsing them under the tap quicker and easier. Make sure the water is clear before finishing. Use a wire brush to remove and built up dry paint from the bristles and metal band on the handle.
What if your applicator just isn't coming clean? Many water-based paints today contain special resins that improve adhesion to the surface, gloss, and durability. The resins are similar to those used in oil-based paints! You may need to rinse the applicator with mineral spirits in order to clean it completely. Follow by a final washing with detergent and water in order to remove all of the thinner.
If You Used A Solvent-Based Coating...
Brushes and rollers used in oil paint should be worked in a bucket of paint thinner first. Normally 2 - 3" of thinner in each rinse is enough.
When the wash thinner is coming clean in the process, shake out the excess and wrap your brush in waxpaper or aluminum foil and hang it rather than sitting it on end. Roller covers should be placed back on the frame and spun out and placed in plastic.
Bread wrappers are perfect. Some folks suggest rinsing out your oil tools in water, Bad Idea! The water tends to make the bristles dry out and become brittle. Keep your brushes soft by rubbing them with a little vaseline before storing. Simply rinse in thinner prior to use.
Save your dirty thinner in a seperate container, allow to settle for a few days then pour off the clean thinner on top and save for another day. The remaining sludge in the bottom can be left open to dry out and then properly disposed of. Check local ordinances for regulations regarding proper disposal.
Did you forget to clean the finish from your paintbrush after your last project? Don't throw it away! There's still a good chance it can be salvaged. Soak the brush in a small container of the appropriate solvent (see can for instructions). As a general rule of thumb, you can use alcohol to loosen up shellac and lacquer thinner for lacquer. For water based or oil finishes try using paint and varnish removers such as acetone, xylene, or tolulene.
After the brush has soaked for a while, work the solvent into the bristles with your hands (wear gloves) and a brush comb (available at most paint stores) or an old fork.
Repeat this process until most of the old finish has been removed and then soak the brush in one of the liquid or powdered prepared brush cleaners or a strong solution of TSP (trisodium phospate). You can find TSP at most hardware and paint stores.
In many cases these steps will help reclaim the brush. Be sure to wrap the bristles in brown paper or a heavy paper towel to help maintain their shape. Store the brush on a hook or flat on its side.