Projects & Improvements

These 8 Time-Saving Under $25 Buys Make Paint Jobs Easier

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Oh, goody, you’re about to start a paint project! There’s nothing more dramatic than an amazing color change in a room, so of course it’s well worth the work and cash money. That doesn’t mean we all enjoy the actual work, however, and while it’s still on the low end of budget spectrum, any redo costs can still mount quickly—especially if you splurge on the good paint.

After painting many (many!) rooms in our Detroit house project, and then watching a professional, Sam Ross of Nailed it Contracting, paint our current home, I’ve learned there are a few things you can buy—on the cheap—to save yourself some time.

10-in-1 Painters Tool from Home Depot: $8

A super helpful Home Depot employee told me about these painter tools and I owe him an enormous thanks. This multipurpose doohickey does a bunch of things. It’s handy for scraping off old paint, opening paint cans, or spreading spackle. Pushing the flat edge down on the paint brush helps remove water while cleaning, and the semi-circle cutout does the same on a roller. It’s even a screwdriver, with a few bits stored in the handle.

Plastic Wrap from Amazon: $3

If it’s a decent-sized project, chances are good you may not finish in one day. Or hey, maybe you’re just tired of painting and need a break. Even if it’s recommended, are you going to thoroughly wash your paint brushes and rollers and store them properly for tomorrow’s work? Do you know how long that takes? I used to just use a plastic store bag to wrap up the rolls and keep them from drying out, and thought that was pretty clever. Then I saw our painter Sam wrap his stuff in plastic wrap at the end of his work day. It’s tidier and gets a better seal on the brush or roller, meaning you’re less likely to smear yourself with paint right from the get-go when you remove it the next day. Pro tip from Sam: You can get by with this for two days with latex paint, but after that, tools need cleaning, he says. For oil paint, he adds, you’ll want to not only wrap it, but freeze it!

Sponge from Amazon: $3

Say you have to do a bit of touch-up work. Here’s a trick I learned from Sam: No need to dig out your paintbrush, just tear off a piece of a plain sponge and use that to dab on the paint. Hopefully you still have a little leftover paint so the color will match. Just be sure to stir it really well.

Paint Sample from Home Depot: $3-5

You know all those bargain paints at the home store, the ones people returned? Don’t be those people who spent good money and way too much time painting something only to realize—just kidding! We hate this color! (I’ve been that person.) Spend a few dollars to get a trial size and give it a whirl before you commit. If you like it, great, hold on to it for touch-ups later. If not, congratulations, you just saved yourself a lot of repainting.

Four-Inch Mini Roller from Amazon: $5

Want to save time painting in the corners where your walls meet? Sam says to get a small narrower roller with frame, and things will go way faster than brushing them in by hand.

Spinner Cleaning Tool from Amazon: $24.50

Until I learned the actual name, I just called this the “spinny thing,” but I should just call it a lifesaver. While painting three floors (that’s seven bedrooms, three bathrooms, three kitchens, two dining rooms, three living rooms, and assorted and sundry other spaces), my body protested the hard work. By the time I took my roller and brushes down to the basement to wash at the end of the day, I could barely close my hands, which made it awfully hard to squeeze paint and water out of my tools. Enter this magical device. At risk of sounding like an infomercial, you literally will not believe the difference these make come clean-up time. Rather than trying to sort of squeegee off the water as you rinse and repeat (and repeat), you use the spinner to do exactly that. It’s almost like a salad spinner.

Rubbing Alcohol from Amazon: $7

Before you even pick out your paint, determine if you’re painting over oil or latex. How do you know? I learned the five-second rubbing alcohol test from Sam. Just soak a cotton ball and dab it on the paint in question—if it softens, you’ve got latex. Skip this step at your peril, as latex paint tends to peel when used directly on top of oil-based paint (if it’s not properly prepared).

Extension Pole from Home Depot: $19

You can climb up and down a ladder all day or you can get a bigger stick. An extension pole, that is. Just attach your roller to one of these guys and voilà! Suddenly, you can reach the high spots, no ladder needed (because paint + ladder = unfortunate incident waiting to happen. Not that I would know anything about that.)