Tricks Every Do-it-Yourself Painter Must Know

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If you’re anything like me, you start out a painting project determined to be neat about it, but by the end of the first hour you have already managed to make a mess.

The amount of mess is, at first, directly proportional to how long the project takes. For instance, a one-day project results in a mess  that takes one hour to clean up. Two days, two hours…but when you get to a long project that takes four or five days, cleanup time begins to rise at an exponential rate.

blue paint brush

I could have used these tricks back when I started painting my own walls and projects, but alas, I had to muddle through with paint-stained clothes and messy paintbrushes. Now that I have been in the trenches for a while (and in more than a few painting trays!), I have some advice to pass along. Read it, heed it, and keep your painting neat.

Create your own long-handled brush

Have you ever tried to paint behind a toilet or in other areas that were difficult to reach? Most paintbrushes aren’t that long, and the ones that are tend to be astronomically expensive. You can remedy the situation by using a painting pad attached firmly to the end of a long stir-stick or a wooden dowel. It’s inexpensive and gets the job done

Heat the tape for easy removal

If you use cheaper painter’s tape (as I have often been guilty of doing), it might stick or actually rip off a spot of paint if it is too “stuck” on there. Remove it easily by heating up the area with a hair dryer. This will allow you to peel the paint off easily, no matter how low-quality it is.

Try the coat hanger trick

I have a tendency to dip the brush in the paint and then rub off the excess paint with the edge of the can. The problem? The paint eventually runs off the edges or sticks in the groove at the top, making it tough to remove the lid the next day. By winding a wire coat hanger around the handles with the long side over the can, you have a way to rub off that paint and it will fall right back into the can, where it should be!

Protect items with plastic wrap

Look for sticky plastic wrap, the kind that can be bought cheaply at any big box store. Use it to cover up things that can’t be moved, such as radiators or toilets. This is a very cheap way to protect those areas from drips of paint, which inevitably happen.

Clean it up cheaply

What about those drips that happened anyway? How do you remove them? Using rubbing alcohol is the key. Use a simple makeup pad, dip it in alcohol and rub it over the area. The only caveat: beware when using this on hardwood floors, as it can ruin your finish or stain.

Drop cloths are your friend

Have you ever noticed how expensive a drop cloth is? Rather than buy them, go to the thrift store and snatch up old sheets. You can likely find a few very old ones that have rather unattractive designs. These are perfect for laying down on the carpet or anything else you want to protect, because you can simply throw them away when you’re done.

Plenty of others

There are plenty of other neat tricks, such as lining the paint tray with heavy-duty aluminum foil to keep it clean, or putting masking tape around the top of the bristles of your brush, to prevent from dipping it too far and thus getting paint into the top, near the handle, where it won’ t come out. Do you have any awesome painting or cleanup tips that have made life easier?


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Shannon Dauphin Lee

Shannon Dauphin Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.