Northwest Renovation Magazine

A Home Improvement Magazine

Advertising has conditioned us to see our painting project finished. You see the painter standing proudly in the newly painted room. The ad copy explains how he only needed one coat of custom-tinted brand paint. In reality, getting to that clean finish can be messy. Spilled paint and the subsequent clean up is no fun.

Protect Surfaces
When painting rooms remove as much furniture as possible. Any piece, which cannot be removed, should be placed in the center of the room and covered with plastic drop cloths. Light fixtures, switch plates, and heating grates — anything that is not going to be painted should be carefully removed and placed in labeled plastic bags. Cover chandeliers and drop ceiling lights like swag lamps with plastic bags. For safety, cut the power to the room to be painted.

Use 1” to 2” wide blue masking tape or painter’s tape to hold down 2-mil plastic sheeting. This should cover the floor snugly up against each wall. Then cover the plastic with old bed sheets or several layers of overlapping non-glossy newspaper. Plastic drop cloths alone will not work — they are slippery underfoot, rip easily, and do not absorb any paint drips. If you have some serious painting to do then it does pay to buy several 9’x12’ canvas drop cloths. Canvas drop cloths are washable, last for years, and provide better traction under foot than plastic.

When painting outside, protect shrubs by either wrapping them in a bed sheet or tying them away from the house. To protect plants that might be crushed with a drop cloth, drape sheets over stakes placed every 2’ in the ground. Do not use plastic drop cloths on plants or over plants — they trap heat and quickly kill them. Remove any covering as soon as possible. Protect walks and other hard surfaces abutting the structure being painted with plastic tarps covered with a bed sheet or newspapers or canvas drop cloth.

Finally, remember you too are a surface! Painter’s overalls are nice because they have loops to hold tools but consider any comfortable old long-sleeved shirt, pants, and brimmed hat. Avoid clothes that are really loose — billowing sleeves and bellbottoms can easily slap into wet surfaces. While you might want to cover your hands with disposable plastic gloves, sweaty palms make them extremely uncomfortable. Consider lightweight inexpensive cotton gloves.

Prevent the Paint Spill
Set up a work area on sawhorses covered with an old plank. This will keep paint cans and tools out from underfoot. Children and pets are naturally curious. To avoid a mishap keep them out of the painting area.

Decant several inches of stirred paint into a clean can. A full gallon of paint weighs over 10 pounds — several inches of paint in a container are less cumbersome to handle. A full can of paint might throw off your balance on a ladder. Invest in a bucket hook to hang the can from the ladder. While having only several inches of paint in a can will make less of a mess if it should spill than having a full bucket it also can serve as a reminder to stir the original container every time the paint can is refilled. Painting from the second container also keeps the original paint free of contamination the brush picks up from any surface.

To prevent the paint from dripping down the sides of the can, load the paintbrush like a professional painter. Dip the bristles no more than halfway into the paint, then lift it out gently tapping the bristles against the inside of the bucket. This way the brush is loaded with paint but not dripping. Scraping the brush over the lip of the bucket not only removes too much paint from the bristles, makes the paint can messy and prevents the lid from fitting back on securely.

Removing Spilled Paint
Accidents do happen and the trick to removing spilled paint is to work while it is still wet. The inclination is to grab a rag and to start mopping up spilled paint but this just spreads it. Instead, pick up the paint by brushing your paintbrush into it, working around the outside edge then inward. As the brush picks up paint, scrape the brush back into the painting can. This paint should be solidified with kitty litter and disposed as garbage. After lifting up as much paint as possible, use a sponge dampened with warm soapy water to dab at the latex residue or a rag dampened with mineral spirits to dab at oil-based paint residue. Saturating the area with sudsy water or mineral spirits will only cause the stain to spread. Always work from the outside of the area to the inside and follow the safety precautions for using solvents such as mineral spirits.

Paulette Rossi is a Certified Master Recycler and freelance writer living in Portland, OR.

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