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How to get paint out of clothes

Paint stains are a common sight after craft activities or DIY! These tips on removing paint stains from clothes will make it easy to get rid of them.


By Cleanipedia Team

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Key steps:

  • Remove as much paint residue as possible first with a blunt implement.

  • Hand-treat the stain with Persil detergent or rubbing alcohol for really stubborn stains. Know the type of paint you're dealing with and act accordingly - try this advice for acrylic paints.

  • Pre-treat with a stain remover before washing in the machine. Read our article on removing paint stains from carpet for help with this material.

Common sense tells us that we should wear old clothes when painting, but this is an easily forgotten step in the rush to transform a room. Thankfully, paint can be removed from clothes, especially if you act quickly. This article explains how to remove gloss paint from clothes, as well as other kinds of paints, both water-based and oil-based.

Before using any method to remove paint from clothes, first remember to:

  • Act as fast as possible — Once the paint dries, it will be much more difficult to remove. So work as quickly as you can on the stain. If you can’t get access to the right materials, at least keep the stain wet until you can treat it properly.

  • Remove excess paint before treating the stain — Use a spoon or dull knife to scoop up any excess paint from the fabric. Then use an old cloth or tissue to blot gently at the stain and soak up as much of the wet paint as you can. After this, you can start to treat the stain.

  • If the paint has already dried, scrape away as much as you can before treating it — Use a dull knife, blade, or hard bristled brush to carefully scrape away the dried paint from the fabric. This will take away a layer or two and make it easier to remove the stain itself.

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Tiny paint flecks on your clothes can be tricky to remove without smearing them into a larger area – try carefully blotting the mark with a cotton bud before rinsing it.

How to Get Paint Out of Clothes: Water-based Paints

In the meantime, you should find out if the paint is water-based or oil-based. Water-based paints include latex or acrylic paints, but many gloss paints also fall into this category – check the label to find out. If the paint is water-based, your stain will be much easier to remove. Bear in mind that paints vary wildly, and complete stain removal is not always possible – if the method below is unsuccessful, you may want to contact the manufacturer for further instructions. Once you have removed any excess paint from the fabric, just follow these steps:

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  • Flush the stain with warm water — Flip the fabric so the reverse side of the stain is facing up. Then use a forceful stream of warm water (a kitchen tap is ideal) to flush the stain from the reverse side, trying to wash as much of the paint out away from the garment as you can.

How to get paint out of clothes
  • Treat the stain with detergent and warm water — If you don’t have laundry detergent to hand, you can also use dishwashing detergent in a pinch. Regardless of your cleaning product, it’s essential that you test it on a small inconspicuous area of the fabric first, and always check the labels of your detergent and garment to ensure that they are compatible. Using a sponge or clean cloth, work the lather into the stain and blot until the paint comes out. You may need to rinse and repeat this process a few times.

How to get paint out of clothes
  • Try rubbing alcohol for stubborn stains — If the above technique isn’t quite robust enough, blot the stain repeatedly with rubbing alcohol (once again, test a small area first). You can use nail polish remover, which is even stronger, but this will damage synthetic fabrics (such as acetate) so be sure to check the garment care tag first.

How to get paint out of clothes
  • Finally, pre-treat with a commercial stain remover and launder — If you have a commercial stain remover compatible with your fabric, apply this to the stain to be extra certain, and then wash the clothing immediately in the washing machine as usual.

How to get paint out of clothes

How To Remove Paint From Clothes: Oil-based Paints

If the paint is oil-based, the stain will be much harder to remove – but it’s still possible. Remember to remove as much excess paint first, following the advice above.

How to get paint out of clothes
  • Read the paint can to find out which paint remover to use — The can should provide instructions on how to remove your specific kind of paint. If you cannot find this, it is better to treat the stain before it dries, so move onto the next step.

  • Treat the stain with white spirits, turpentine, or the suggested paint remover — Place the fabric stain-side down on a piece of absorbent cloth or kitchen roll. With a cloth or sponge, blot repeatedly at the stain with white spirits, turpentine, or the suggested paint remover until the paint comes out. You may need to change the cloth or kitchen roll underneath several times. Rayon, acetate, or triacetate should not be treated with white spirits or turpentine, so be sure to check both the garment care tag and the paint can instructions and adjust your method accordingly.

How to get paint out of clothes
  • Rub in laundry detergent and soak in hot water overnight — Make sure to saturate the stained area with the detergent and soak in the hottest water your fabric allows, check the garment care tags to be sure.

How to get paint out of clothes
How to get paint out of clothes
  • Afterward, scrub at the stain again and launder as usual — Give the garment one final hand-scrub with detergent, and then wash it immediately in the machine.

How to get paint out of clothes

As long as you act quickly and pay attention to instructions on the garment care tag and paint can, these handy tips should help you remove paint from clothes as quickly as possible. You can now be confident that an unexpected painting accident isn’t necessarily a disaster! 

If your paint stains have been caused by DIY, not arts and crafts, then you might also like our articles on tackling paint smells or cleaning paint brushes and rollers after decorating.

Originally published