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How to remove paint from clothes

Paint can be great for art, play or serious decorating – but stains can be a pain to remove. Read on to find out how to remove paint from clothes.


Reading Time: 5 minutes

Written by Eunice Samson

A  basket with clothes inside

Whether you’ve been getting messy with your kids for an art project or have simply had an accident while decorating your home, this article will show you how to remove paint stains from clothes and household surfaces!

If you are planning an art activity with your kids, make sure you use acrylic or water-based paint – it washes out easily if caught when wet.

How to remove paint from clothes

The first step is to find out what kind of paint you’re trying to tackle. If possible, read the label on the paint tin or tube to find out what you’re dealing with. Acrylic or water-based paints usually dissolve in water, so their stains are much easier to manage. Oil-based paints are trickier to get rid of, but they’re less common then acrylic or water paints.

  • Whichever paint has been used, start by scraping off the dried excess with a wooden spoon or blunt instrument to remove paint from clothes. Be careful not to cut yourself or the fabric!

  • Try to stop the stain from drying out. Using a damp sponge, dab the paint stain with a water and detergent solution, such as Breeze Scrub, then rinse, and repeat until satisfied. If the stain is acrylic or water based, and still wet, the paint should simply wash out. Just make sure to test any product on a small area of the garment first and read the label carefully before use.

  • For an acrylic or water based dried-on stain, use a hard-bristled brush to scrape away as much as possible. Try dabbing a few drops of varnish remover with a clean cloth – be careful not to get these solutions in your eyes on bare skin, and ensure the cloth is clean – replacing one stain with another would be a disaster!

how to remove paint from clothes
  • If the paint is oil-based, but still wet, you still have a chance to remove paint stains from clothes. Scrape any excess paint off with a dull knife or a spoon, then place the fabric on a clean cloth with the stain facing down. Sponge the back of the stain with turpentine, making sure the dye doesn’t run. Make sure you wear gloves when handling turpentine as it can have adverse effects on exposed skin. Don’t rinse, but rub in a strong detergent such as Breeze and leave overnight, rubbing occasionally. The following day, wash according to garment instructions.

  • If the paint is oil-based and dried on, the stain might well be permanent. If possible, check instructions for removal on the paint tin or tube – a specific removal product might be recommended. Scrape the fabric to remove excess paint, and use turpentine from the reverse side of the fabric – but be careful as some fabrics (such as rayon or acetate) will react with the turpentine.

Painting can be a great deal of fun but removing stains less so. Follow the simple preparation steps on how to remove stains from clothes outlined in the above guide. There’s no need to avoid paint stain situations, so if they do arise, you should now be well equipped to deal with them and have fun!

  • Identify which type of stain you’re dealing with to determine your removal method.

  • Keep the stains from drying out as soon as possible to avoid it solidifying and staying permanent.

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Frequently asked questions on removing paint from clothes

How do you get gloss paint off of clothes?

Gloss paint is a durable, high-sheen paint that makes surfaces stand out - particularly in kitchens and utility rooms. It's more reflective than matte or eggshell paints due to the higher proportion of reflective binding agents in the paint. Luckily, this doesn't change how to get gloss paint off of clothes. As most gloss paints are water-based, the same advice above still applies: scrape the excess off your garment first, dab the stain with a water and detergent solution, rinse and repeat!

What paint is best for decorating clothes?

There's a lot that paint can do to make a boring bit of clothing look brand new! But choosing the right paint to withstand daily wear and washing is critical. For this reason, fabric paints - particularly acrylic-based paint - should do the trick. They come in many forms and hues, so whether you need to add a bit of pop to your shoes with a fine paintbrush or you want to spray paint on an item to recolor it entirely, there will be an option for you.

How do you remove a paint stain from your skin?

Unless you're wrapped up for the job (which most of us in the DIY world aren't), then it's likely you're going to get a bit of paint on your skin! As with any stain, speed is the key to removing it. A simple rinse with soap and water (and an abrasive cloth if you prefer) should remove recent paint stains. The catch is, the advice changes if you're dealing with oil-based paints. Remove as much of the stain as you can with soapy water or isopropyl alcohol. For the most stubborn stains, use common oils found at home (such as baby oil, vegetable oil or mineral oil) to soak the stain for a few minutes before gently scrubbing it out with an abrasive cloth.

Do the same tricks work for getting paint off shoes?

The same tricks largely work for removing stains from shoes, though you should always pay attention to the care guides for your shoes before attempting any cleaning methods not recommended by the manufacturer. Exceptions should be made for suede shoes, which should never be washed with more than a tiny amount of water. You can dab suede shoes that have got paint on them with a foamy water and detergent mix but it is preferable to use a leather cleaner in this case.

Originally published