How to Remove Paint From a Paint Tray

Updated April 17, 2017

It is possible to clean your paint trays so they can be used repeatedly without having to be replaced. Whether you are using a metal or plastic tray, cleaning the paint before it dries is an important step in the process of cleaning up after a project. You can clean your paint trays using mineral oils, paint thinner, and dish detergent to bring them back to their original state they were in before you started your painting project.

Pour any excess paint that remains in the tray back into your can of paint. Take any paint you don't plan to use to a recycling centre. It is important to clear the tray of as much paint as possible before washing the tray in your sink.

Pour paint thinner onto a cloth and scrub the tray over the sink. This will loosen any hardened oil paint that may have already dried. Acrylic paints are water-based and don't require a paint thinner to remove.

Place the paint tray flat inside your sink and run hot water over it. Most of the remaining paint will be removed from the tray.

Scrub the remaining paint off of the tray with the sponge and dish detergent liquid. Drain the water from the sink to avoid staining the sink. The paint tray is now ready for future use.


One layer of dried latex paint in a metal tray can sometimes be peeled out in a continuous sheet, leaving your tray looking like new.


Allow the paint tray to fully dry before using it again for another painting project.

Things You'll Need

  • Paint thinner
  • Dish soap
  • Hot water
  • Sponge
  • Sink
  • Cloth
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About the Author

Based in Florida, Robert Ceville has been writing electronics-based articles since 2009. He has experience as a professional electronic instrument technician and writes primarily online, focusing on topics in electronics, sound design and herbal alternatives to modern medicine. He is pursuing an Associate of Science in information technology from Florida State College of Jacksonville.