I've partway through a multi-weekend project involving turning two free-standing metal shelving units into a fully enclosed workshop-cupboard. The enclosing material is MDF and since this will be on my balcony, the MDF needs some weather-protection. So I'm painting it.

Naturally, I don't have space to use a while 2L tin of paint in one session. After a second extended washing of the roller tray, I was wondering whether putting cling-wrap over it for a week would be a good idea, not only saving sending the surplus paint down the drain, but also saving me 20 minutes of washing the thing. And is a week too long to expect the paint to still be usable?

4 Answers 4


As long as you can get it airtight, it will work just fine. I use the disposable tray liners and try to get as much of the paint off the liner as possible, pouring the remaining paint back into the can.

disposable roller tray liners

I leave the liner on the roller tray, cover it with plastic wrap and then put the whole thing in a tie-off garbage bag, trying to get as much of the air out as possible. Keeping it in a cool place helps to cut down evaporation too.

Another tip: 1 gallon Ziploc freezer bags are the perfect size to hold a 9" roller cover between uses:

1 gallon Ziploc freezer bags

I squeeze the roller cover out with a painter's multi-tool, drop it in the bag, and seal it up. It won't keep forever, but it will certainly last a week.

  • Cool! Thanks! I'm learning a lot about my local hardware store...
    – staticsan
    Commented Dec 16, 2010 at 23:37
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    Niall, I up vote a lot of your answers, but this time I gotta disagree. I do hundreds of gallons a year and I would never try to save a few ounces of paint in a tray. No matter how much you seal it, the air in the bag will dry the paint in the nooks and crannies of the tray. I'd fire any of my employees if they did that! lololol Commented Dec 16, 2010 at 23:56
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    @shirlock: perhaps I got lucky, but it has worked for me. My priorities as a DIYer lean more towards saving money, yours as a contractor towards saving time.
    – Niall C.
    Commented Dec 17, 2010 at 0:21
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    Gotta tell you, my grandfather owned a paint store. He and his two sons, (my uncles) were also were painting contractors for over 50 years. I learned from the best. He sold Keystone paint, now Valspar. I was raised with a paint brush in my hand. lolololololol Sure miss that man. Commented Dec 17, 2010 at 0:30
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    I have done this up to several days (maybe even a week) and have still been able to use the disposable paint tray liner and the roller too. As @shirlock homes says you will end up putting some gummed paint on the wall but then I just remove it with my finger, roll it out again, and move on. I find this method of saving the paint tray and roller very useful for a weekend project where you start on Saturday and finish the next day. Commented Dec 17, 2010 at 1:34

I appreciate your effort to save some work with the left over paint in your trays. I always use the disposable tray liners. Tray liners are so cheap, use them. Pour as much as you can back into the can and use your edging brush to direct the paint out of the tray liner into the can, then throw the liner away. If you leave paint in the tray( with or without a liner) I guarantee the thin edges on the sides and spreader area on the tray will get gummy no matter how you try to seal it up, then let flakes loose next time you use it, get stuck on your roller and ruin the rest of the paint in the tray, your roller cover and the job you are working on. My advice is to spend 50 cents on disposal tray liners and save yourself a lot of hassle. You can however seal your roller covers in a plastic bag. Squeeze out ALL the air and wrap them tight, completely air tight and they will be fine for a few days, even a week. That can save a lot of clean-up. I rarely clean rollers, I seal them, and when they get even a little sticky, throw them away, even Purdys!!! Cost of doing business. Brushes however, I use a wire comb and clean them after every hour of use, and after the day is done. A good quality brush can last a year if well cared for.

  • I especially like the tip about cleaning brushes after every hour of use. Commented Dec 17, 2010 at 2:35
  • Does putting the wrapped up roller in the freezer help any? I do this with foam brushes I used for polyurethane, and have used brushes that I put in the freezer over a month later.
    – Tester101
    Commented Dec 17, 2010 at 13:32
  • The worse enemy of a good brush is paint hardening in the heel area. That is why I insist my brushes get cleaned once and hour to remove that paint and keep the entire length of the brush supple. Commented Dec 18, 2010 at 17:09
  • How to you dry your brushes after you have clean them, I think they tend to take many hours to dry.
    – Walker
    Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 16:40

I find is much easier (during painting, cleanup, and short term storage like you want), to use a 5 gallon bucket and a vertical screen for rolling. Pans are very cumbersome, prone to spillage, and over-saturation of paint on your rollers. When rolling, most professionals use these over pans.

screen in bucket roll screen

In your case, you could just leave the roller and screen in the bucket, put the lid on, and come back next weekend ready to roll.

The screens are like $5 and you may already have a 5 gallon bucket at home, or but a new one for like $2 at the closest mega hardware store. If you put a roller extension stick on your roller, you can even apply paint without having to bend over.

Here is a how to from This Old House on how to roll like a pro.

When you really want to put paint on a wall quickly, nothing beats a roller. To improve on that efficiency even further, lose the tray and get a 5-gallon bucket equipped with a roller screen. The bucket holds plenty of paint, you won't step in it by accident, and the handle makes it easier to carry than a tray so you can keep it close by. A bucket also lets you "box" your paint—pour like-colored cans into a single container to even out any minor inconsistencies in color.

Here is another good artice talking about rolling from a can.

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    I love using the 5 gal/screen method on large jobs, especially with PVA primer. It saves tons of time. Just remember to mix your paint or primer every 20 to 30 mins or so, and when you add an extra gallon or two to the bucket. I also have a big square bucket so we can use 18inch rollers on an adjustable pole. Commented Dec 18, 2010 at 17:16

I have in the past put the roller and tray in a bag and found it kept OK overnight so allowing me to do the 2nd coat with only one set of cleaning up. There is no need to get rid of all the air, after all paint tin has some air at the top of it. (I have never tried more then "overnight")

The other related “trick” I have found, is to:

  • Do all the prep first,
  • Then “edge” all the walls with a paint brash
  • Then often I can do all the rolling in one short day, as the rolling is the quick bit.
  • The rolling is indeed the quick bit. I used a brush on the first panel and it was slow and I did not get the finish I expected. Bought a roller and I could do three panels in the same time with a much better finish. :-D
    – staticsan
    Commented Dec 18, 2010 at 1:52
  • Quick hint. When your doing panels or cabinet doors etc., I like to use high density foam rollers to get the paint on fast, then "tip it off" with a very good quality soft tapered end brush designed for the paint/urethane etc. I almost always use Purdy brushes. Simply keep the brush wet with the paint your using and very, very lightly brush over the wet surface by just touching the tip of the bristles to the surface. This will remove any "orange peel" effect left by the roller. Commented Dec 18, 2010 at 17:31

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