This falls under the category of "I should have asked before starting the job"! I've been painting a bedroom with latex paint and to clean the brushes/rollers/etc at the end of the day I take them to the outside sink in garden (basically just a basin with drain that leads to main drain and then out to sewer system in street). I fill a bucket with water and throw everything in, then a few hours later, I wash everything in the sink and put away. I'm noticing that the sink is starting to back up. If I leave it, and come back in 1 hour, it's drained, but it's worrying. I do throw the bucket of painty water on the garden but apparently the paint still on the rollers/brushes is still significant when I squeeze them and brush them to get paint out over the sink.

My two questions are:

  1. How should I clean up brushes/rollers/etc that are covered in latex paint to a) get them clean and (b) not clog up my sink.

  2. Should I worry if I've poured latex paint down sink in terms of clogging up sink? If so, what should I do about it?



  • No paint thinner in the sink! Paint thinner doesn't work on latex paint anyway and it could damage plastic drain lines and be an explosion hazard in the sewer. You may have gotten some object down the drain and the clog may be in the trap under the sink before it goes into the wall. – Jim Stewart Nov 20 '16 at 20:59

I doubt that diluted latex paint could clog a drain, though personally I wash latex paint rollers and trays in the yard. Only a final cleaning when necessary with warm detergent to remove the last traces of paint is ever done in the utility sink which drains to the sanitary sewer.

Is the next drain in line with the outside sink draining properly? Are any other sinks draining slowly? Is this garden sink the first drain into the sewer line or does it drain into a middle branch off the main line?

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  • Thanks Jim. To answer your questions. Garden sink is final drain in the drain line before entering city drain. I believe it directly enters main line. No other sinks are draining slowly. I did investigate more and found many bits of dried latex paint which I removed by hand. I had a screen over the hole but clearly it didn't keep stuff out. May I ask, what sort of warm detergent do you use? Kitchen liquid soap? Tide? With just water, I find I never remove all the paint even after bucket soaking and putting under tap sink and using hands to squeeze out paint. Thanks! – Dave Nov 21 '16 at 13:22
  • I use very dilute dish washing detergent to remove the last traces of paint. Even that doesn't get it all. – Jim Stewart Nov 21 '16 at 21:29

Latex paint uses water as it's thinner. It's water soluble and won't dry as long as it's wet. If you wash your brushes and rollers with plenty of running water you should be fine. I clean mine with the sprayer and even then it takes quite a while to remove all of the paint. You can also set your brush in a bowl of water and let water run over it for a few minutes to thoroughly flush it.

If you dumped it down the sink, you might have a problem but should be OK if you flushed it down with plenty of water. Hopefully your problem is just in the p-trap, which you can easily remove for cleaning or replacement. I'd remove the trap, clean if possible and replace if not, and see how your sink runs. If it's still slow you might need to get the drain camera'ed to see where and what is blocking it up.

As far as disposing unused paint, either leave it until your county/city/whatever has a free haz-mat drop-off, or add kitty litter to it to dry it out before throwing it away.

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I try to let as little paint as possible go down the drain (& eventually into lakes & rivers) & I’d never dump paint water in my garden. It’s a pollutant, after all. What I do is this. When breaking for a few hours or days, I toss my brushes or roller into a plastic bag (after getting out as much paint as I can by brushing or rolling onto a newspaper or something) then I put them in the freezer. (They thaw out fast.) When I’m completely finished with the job I again try to get as much paint out of the brush as I can before soaking & washing it. The roller I throw away. Rollers are cheap and you can never make them like new again anyway. They’re impossible to clean. (Brushes should be dried bristles up, by the way. Any paint residue will flow downward and stiffen the bristles if you dry them handles up.)

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