It is surprising how many do-it-your-self home painters will buy top quality paints, varnishes or other finishes, and then purchase an inexpensive, low quality, so-called "throwaway" paint brush or roller cover to put it on with.

Buying cheap paint brushes or rollers is not only more expensive in the long run (a new tool must be purchased for each job), it also makes it difficult, and sometimes impossible, to get a really smooth, professional looking finish that will stand up the way it should. All paint manufactures agree that no matter how carefully they formulate their products, unless it is properly applied with a good quality brush, roller or other applicator, it is highly improbably that a smooth, uniform finish will be achieved.

Thus, it makes sense to buy top quality paint brushes and roller covers, and then clean them thoroughly after each use so they will be ready when needed again. Contrary to what some people think, through cleaning of a brush or roller cover does not take a lot of time and does not require using gallons of thinner - as long as the job is tackled promptly after each use.

The first step in cleaning either of these painting tools is to try and get as much of the paint out of the fibres or bristles as possible. The more paint removed before cleaning is begun, the less there will be to rinse or wash out.

To remove excess paint from a brush, start by wiping it vigorously across the rim of the can several times so that excess paint runs back into the can. Next, rub the brush out on scrap material such as old lumber, scrap pieces of plasterboard or plywood, or even on sheet of cardboard. Don't just rub the tips of the brush; hold it almost flat against the surface and rub the full length of the bristles against the surface.

If the brush was used with a later (water-thinned) paint, then wash under running water if possible. While letting water run over the bristles, rub back and forth against the bottom of the sink or pail, and be sure the bristles are spread apart so that the water gets in near the heel to flush out paint that is caked there.

When running water is not available, use a pail of water, but work the bristles vigorously under the water with your fingers. Pour the dirty water out, then replace with fresh water and repeat. Three or four rinses may be required before the water runs clear after the brush is washed in it.

If the brush was used in a solvent-thinned paint, then use a small container such as a coffee can or plastic food container which is only slightly wider than the brush to rinse it. Pour about half an inch of solvent or thinner into this container, then work the brush vigorously against the bottom of the containr by pressing down hard on the handle, and by turning the brush over each time. Then wipe the brush across the rim of the can to remove excess liquid and pour the dirty solvent away.

Add about the same amount of fresh solvent to the can again and repeat the process twice more, for a total of three rinses. Since only a small amount of solvent is used each time, all three rinses required only a few ounces of liquid.

If desired, the first dirty solvent can be poured into a separate container and allowed to settle, then only the dirty portion at the bottom has to be thrown away after the top is poured off and saved.

When a brush will be used again the next day, this cleaning will be sufficient. However, if the brush will be stored for some time, then one more step is advisable. Rinse the brush in a warm solution of detergent and water, or use one of the water-washable brush-cleaning solutions sold in most paint stores.This final rinse should be followed by a clear water rinse, then the brush is dried and wrapped before storing. To dry the brush, hold the handle between the palms of your hands with the bristles pointing down inside a can or bucket. Now spin back and forth between the palms of the hands by twirling the handle rapidly. This will spin all water or solvent out of the bristles, but the spattering will be contained inside the can.

Brushes that are heavily caked with paint, or those whose bristles get tangled and knotted when spinning or twirling them, will benefit from being combed out with a steel-tooth comb