How to Prepare a Paint Roller for Painting

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Things You'll Need

  • Paint stripper made for plastics, aerosol
  • 2-inch putty knife
  • Painter's rags
  • 2-inch masking tape
  • Water
  • Paint thinner

Preparing a paint roller helps keep fibers out of your paint. A roller cover nap is made up of thousands of tiny hair fibers attached to a plastic or cardboard core. These fibers can come loose during manufacturing and packaging. Before you use the roller cover nap, you will need to remove these loose fibers. The spool on the paint roller should also be kept clean to allow the roller nap to spin freely. A stiff roller can cause uneven paint and paint lines.

Lay down a 4-foot by 4-foot piece of cardboard and place the roller in the middle of it.

Spray the ends of the paint roller spindle with stripper. These are the areas of the spindle where paint buildup is common. Allow the stripper to sit on the dried paint for 24 hours.

Scrape the stripped paint off the spindle with a putty knife blade.

Wipe off excess stripper and peeling paint with a painter's rag dipped in paint thinner. Clean the spindle thoroughly to allow the spindle to spin freely and the roller cover nap to seat properly on the spindle.

There is a frame side and an open side of a paint roller.
paint rolller image by Wayne Abraham from

Slip the roller cover nap over the spindle until it bottoms out on the frame side of the paint roller.

Pull up the tape on the roll of masking tape and stick it to one end of the roller nap. Loop the tape around the roller nap until the entire nap has been encased in tape. Break the tape off the tape roll.

Pull the tape off the roller nap. Notice how the loose fibers in the nap stick to the tape. These would have ended up on your painted surface. Repeat this process until the tape comes off clean of all fibers.

Wet the nap in water if you are using water-based paints, and paint thinner if you're using oil-based paints. Shake off any excess liquid before dipping the roller in paint. This wetting process allows for better paint absorption when you're loading the roller with paint.

Screw an extension pole into the handle of the paint roller frame. The paint roller is now prepared for painting.


  • Cleaning a roller shortly after painting is easier because the paint is still wet.

    Remove the roller cover nap immediately after the paint job is complete to keep it from drying and sticking to the roller spindle.


  • Cheap paint roller cover naps may continuously shed fibers, so buying the higher-quality naps may be a better choice.