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How to remove paint from clothes

Paint stains seem to happen when we least expect it, and never on old clothes! Tackle paint stains on your clothes with these tips from Cleanipedia.


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a colourful painting of a rocket next to pencils and an artist palette

Paint, particularly gloss paint, is one of the most stubborn stains around – but only if you don’t know the trick to removing it properly. This article explains it all!

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

how to remove paint from clothes

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 paint from clothes – both water- and oil-based paints.

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

  • Act as fast as possible — Once the paint dries, it will be much more difficult to remove. 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.

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:

  • 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.

  • Treat the stain with laundry liquid and warm water — If you don’t have OMO laundry liquid at hand, you can also use dishwashing liquid 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 both the cleaning product and the 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.

  • 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.

  • Finally, pre-treat with a commercial stain remover and wash — 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.

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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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Rub in washing powder and soak in hot water overnight — Make sure to saturate the stain area with the detergent and soak in the hottest water your fabric allows; check the garment care tags to be sure.

  4. Afterward, scrub at the stain again and wash as usual — Give the garment one final hand-scrub with detergent, and then wash it immediately in the machine.

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 stains from clothes as quickly as possible. You can now be confident that an unexpected paint accident isn’t necessarily a disaster!

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Originally published