How to Remove Paint Stains from Clothes

Paint stains on clothes need not be a permanent fixture! Check out the advice in this guide for suggestions on removing paint from your clothes ASAP.

Top Tip

As with any stain, the faster you remove a paint stain, the better. Both oil and water-based paints become much more difficult to remove when dry – so as soon as you spot a paint spill, treat it!

If you do DIY, or want to let your kids be creative, then paint stains are going to be a common occurrence. Coupled with that, it’s not always clear just how to get paint out of clothes. Treat each paint type appropriately, however, and paint stains can be tackled like any other.

Removing Paint from Clothes: Different Solvents

There are two main types of paint: oil-based and water-based. The best way of getting paint out of clothes depends on what type the stain is and whether it’s wet or dry. For example, while water, being electrically charged, is an excellent solvent for most things, it’s useless for shifting non-charged grease, which is where the soap and detergents we all know and love come in. However, in the case of paints, it’s often slightly trickier than that.

Removing Paint from Clothes: Water-based Paint

Acrylic, emulsion, and poster paints are usually more common than their oil-based counterparts and it’s easier to remove such paints from clothes. So we’ll start with them first.

If wet:

  1. First get as much paint off the clothes as you can. Gently lifting off with a spoon or knife is a good way to achieve this. Try to avoid pressing the paint down into the fibres.
  2. Flush the garment with water from the side opposite to the paint. Try to hold the garment so that the stream of paint water doesn’t touch any other part of it.
  3. Dab the area with a cloth, but don’t rub at it.
  4. Mix up a 50:50 solution of water and detergent, such as Omo Liquid and gently work at the stain using a sponge. Repeat several times.
  5. If the stain persists, use a small amount of nail varnish remover to blot again. (Not suitable for certain synthetic fabrics – always check the care label first.)
  6. Launder in the washing machine as normal.

If dry:

  1. Scrape off the bulk of the paint using a butter knife or blunted kitchen one.
  2. Using a stiff brush, work out some of the finer paint particles.
  3. Soak in a 50:50 mixture of water and detergent for 20 minutes.
  4. Gently work at the stain using a sponge.
  5. Launder as normal, making sure to follow the garment’s care instructions.

Removing Paint from Clothes: Oil-based Paint

If wet:

  1. Lift off as much of the paint as you can; a spoon or knife is good for this.
  2. Soak a rag in turps and dab from the other side of the stain. Oil-based paints aren’t soluble in water, but they are in these. Place a rag under the garment when doing this to avoid staining the surface. If treatment takes a while, it may be necessary to replace the rag with a clean one a few times.
  3. Now that the paint has been lifted off by the mineral solvent, it’s time to remove the resulting paint–solvent mixture with water. Mix a 50:50 solution of detergent (again, Omo is a good choice) and warm water.
  4. Leave the clothes to soak in this for a few hours.
  5. Rinse and launder as normal (as always, following the garment’s care instructions).

Safety note: Step 2 is not suitable for synthetic fabrics – always consider the material, and only continue if you are certain it will not cause damage. Always follow the instructions carefully.

If dry:

  1. Using a stiff brush, remove as much dry paint as you can.
  2. If you can get the tin, see if the manufacturer recommends a paint-remover. (If you can’t, leave some turpentine or white spirit to soak into the paint instead. This, however, may not be suitable for certain synthetic fibres.)
  3. The paint should now have softened, and you can follow the steps above as if it were fresh, wet paint.
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