Paint Rollers and the environment: Wash or waste?
September 17, 2007 4:11 PM   Subscribe

My wife has come to the conclusion that it's more environmentally friendly to use a paint roller once (and then let it dry out and throw it away) as opposed to wasting upteen gallons of water cleaning all the paint out in order to reuse the roller. This seems crazy and a waste of money to me. What say you AskMetafilterians?
posted by ssmith to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Me thinks your wife doesn't want the hassle of washing out a paint roller and I don't blame her one bit.
posted by Sassyfras at 4:13 PM on September 17, 2007 [3 favorites]

How eco-friendly is the paint? Maybe it shouldn't be rinsed down the drain. Seems like one of those six-of-one/half-dozen-of-another situations.
posted by macadamiaranch at 4:15 PM on September 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

This is exactly what I do. Cleaning paint rollers means that then you have to clean the sink afterwards, and probably the whole area around the sink, and the roller is never very nice after the first use. So I buy the really cheap ones, and just toss them. Same for paint brushes. Honestly, I paint anything so rarely that I don't think that the environmental costs of tossing an extra roller or brush every year or two is all that devastating, relative to all the other ways I rape the earth on a daily basis.
posted by Forktine at 4:19 PM on September 17, 2007

If you're painting several days in a row, just put it in a bag and stick it in the fridge. If you paint infrequently, toss it.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 4:27 PM on September 17, 2007 [5 favorites]

I do tend to agree that if you're cleaning the roller and just letting the water run the whole time and it takes a while, the environmental advantage of reusing the roller is somewhat negligible. But can't you just fill up a bucket with water and scrub the roller in the bucket? That way you're not just letting the water run while you do the cleaning part. Waste water is minimized and you can reuse the roller. Or use greywater to rinse it off and then a final rinse of clean water. To truly weigh the consequences of each one, though, we'd need to factor in how and by whom the roller was manufactured, what its composition is, what you do with it after its done, how far away from you it was manufactured and sold, the scarcity of water in your area, and a whole load of other factors. You can only really go so far with this analysis, I think.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 4:36 PM on September 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Water is a renewable resource. The oil used to create the plastic in that roller? Not so much.
posted by chrisamiller at 4:38 PM on September 17, 2007

it depends how often you paint, but if youre doing a large renovation, multiple rooms, etc., then just put it back in plastic sleeve (while its still wet with paint) and seal it for later use.

also, using the round edge of a five-in-one to scrape the paint off should reduce the amount of water needed.

repeated use will eventually make it lose its shape, but it will still be fine for priming and first coats.
posted by brooklynexperiment at 4:40 PM on September 17, 2007

I imagine that the manufacture of more paint rollers has a larger effect than the washing...
posted by marty_ftes at 4:55 PM on September 17, 2007

put it back in plastic sleeve (while its still wet with paint) and seal it for later use.

Put that in the refrigerator and it will stay soft way longer. Really.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:59 PM on September 17, 2007

put it back in plastic sleeve (while its still wet with paint) and seal it for later use.

Put that in the refrigerator and it will stay soft way longer. Really.

Actually - lightly wet a couple paper towels. Wrap around the roller, then seal in a ziploc. Refrigerate if it is hot weather. I've been able to keep a roller usable for about 6 days using this method.
posted by jkaczor at 5:03 PM on September 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

chrisamiller, there is ample reason to doubt your simple rule of thumb.

First, in many areas (like much of the US south west) fresh, potable water, which is what most people have available to wash their paint rollers, is renewable only on a geologic time scale. Communities and agriculture in the northern and central high plains of North America are drawing water that was deposited a million or more years ago at a rate faster than it is being replenished. Phoenix is in a similar position, as are many other parts of the world.

Even in areas where watersheds and aquifers are recharged annually, there are competing uses for water. Water that comes out of a tap in Seattle is water that is taken out of a stream that might otherwise be able to support a rich salmon run.

Furthermore, many of the biofuels posed as alternatives to oil depend on the availability of ample fresh water to irrigate the crops they are derived from.

I'd store the roller in plastic with the wet paint on it for the duration of my painting project (or until it wears out). If you just can't stand to throw it out, I'd scrape the bulk of the paint out of it, either back into the can, or somewhere it can dry, then wash it thuroughly in a bucket and rinse it in a small amount of fresh water. It may be stiff the next time you get it out, but it should loosen up.
posted by Good Brain at 5:04 PM on September 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

The underestimation of the cost of manufacturing and transportation is overwhelming. The small energy cost of a couple of gallons of water vs. fuel for the container ship that brought the rollers over from china, the materials themselves, the mining and transportation of the materials, the energy in refining the metals and plastics, etc etc etc. There are orders of magnitude difference. Heck, there is probably more water used in the manufacturing during one of the cooling stages than you use in washing the roller.

It is crazy and a waste of money. Welcome to the western world.
posted by defcom1 at 6:19 PM on September 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Have you guys every really washed out a paint roller? It takes a long time and probably hundreds of gallons of water to do it well.
posted by jcwagner at 6:50 PM on September 17, 2007

Best answer: Professional painters use a brush & roller spinner and a 5 gallon bucket to spin the brush or roller in:
posted by zaphod at 6:54 PM on September 17, 2007

I use warm water and detergent to clean - cos that's what it says on the tin.

In between coats I use plastic food wrap / cling film to cover it in the fridge. It's good for a couple of weeks -- if you're a serious procrastinator like me.
posted by NailsTheCat at 8:50 PM on September 17, 2007

Having just painted two rooms in two days in one of our rentals last month:

Do yourself a favor and get yourself a Wagner PaintMate Plus.

And the way to clean the rollers (without using hundreds of gallons of water!) is in a five-gallon bucket using a spinner attachment for an electric drill. First, you soak the roller overnight, then you run a roller cleaner (the tool with a concave edge) along the roller, then you spin-dry it in the bucket (an old cardboard box will do, too). You can also spin it in water using a drill (battery powered please!). The rotation helps restore the roller's loft, too.
posted by dhartung at 11:17 PM on September 17, 2007

Seconding the spinner idea, and also look into the Wagner roller washer, which reduces the amount of water needed considerably.
posted by pullayup at 5:10 AM on September 18, 2007

Best answer: Cleaning rollers and brushes without using a heap of water is actually not terribly hard. You do it the homoeopathy way, with successive dilutions.

Get three buckets: call them Filthy, Dirty and Clean. Fill them all with water. Squeegee as much paint off the brush or roller as you can, then rinse in Filthy (with a soak period first if you want); the water will get filthy. Squeegee, shake or (preferably) spin as much of the Filthy water out as you can, then rinse in Dirty. You will notice that less paint goes in the water, and the brush or roller comes out cleaner. Once again, shake or spin out as much as you can, then rinse again in Clean. You should see that the Clean water gets only mildly cloudy. Shake or spin once again and you're done.

Now dump Filthy, pour Dirty into Filthy and Clean into Dirty, then refill Clean with fresh water and you're ready for the next day's cleanup. You end up using only n+2 buckets of water for an n-day project.

Exactly the same process works equally well with jars of turpentine for oil-based paint. If you're super-fastidious, use four dilutions instead of three.

This is actually kind of fun to do - much more so than washing under running water - and you should do it yourself if your wife can't be arsed.
posted by flabdablet at 5:39 AM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you have left-over paint, and it's in a big tin, you can simply leave the roller in the paint indefinitely. You get a bit on your hands when you fish it out (for second, third use etc.), but beyond that, it saves on washing, drying or storing hassles.
posted by kisch mokusch at 6:22 AM on September 18, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the responses and the great tips.
posted by ssmith at 9:57 AM on September 18, 2007

I agree with your wife totally!
posted by seekingsimplicity at 12:23 PM on September 28, 2007

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