There are few things worse to see in clothes than paint stains. Whether your kids came home from school doused in acrylic, or you accidentally brushed up against a freshly painted wall, knowing how to get paint out of your clothes can save your favorite outfit — without the cost of dry cleaning.
Before you start painting
Prevention is better than cure, so if you are working with paint, it’s always a good idea to take a few simple precautions. These steps will help you avoid getting paint where you don’t want it to be, and make cleaning up much easier.
- Wear old clothes
Whatever painting you’re doing, from home renovations to following along with Bob Ross, it’s best to assume some paint will end up where it’s not supposed to be. Wearing old clothes that you don’t mind getting stained will save a lot of effort later. If you’re doing a lot of painting, consider investing in some painter’s overalls, or repurpose an old shirt.
- Keep cleaning solution and rags handy
Check the type of paint you’re using, and look for the best cleaner to lift it immediately. Water based paints can be treated with fresh water or isopropyl alcohol. For oil based paints, you’ll need dish soap, rubbing alcohol, or the recommended solvent. Check the manufacturer’s instructions on the paint can, but remember to test an inconspicuous area of your clothing first, because most paint thinners aren’t designed for use on fabric.
Before you start cleaning paint from clothes
If the worst happens and you do get paint on an item of clothing you want to clean, don’t be tempted to reach straight for the strongest cleaning solution you can find. Many cleaners capable of removing paint will also cause irreparable damage to fabrics, either bleaching them, making the colors run, or even destroying the fibers. Instead, start with the least invasive method, and work up through cleaning methods until you find one that works.
If no cleaning methods work, you may have to consult a dry cleaner, or accept that the stain is permanent.
How to get wet paint out of clothing
It’s easier to remove paint while it’s still wet than it is to treat a stain that has dried in. When you notice the stain, try to scrape off as much wet paint as possible to minimize the stain. Then wet the stain with a little warm water to prevent it from drying out. You can use almost any detergent or stain remover to treat the stain before it dries.
Try not to soak it too much, or you risk the paint running. Laundry detergent is a good solution, or use dish soap in a pinch. Just be careful because dish soap can make fabric colors run. Use just a little detergent to start and see how easily the stain comes out, and try not to soak the surrounding area. Rinse the clothing through with warm water to remove the last traces of paint, and wash normally.
Pro Tip: How clean is your washing machine? Check out our ultimate guide to cleaning your washing machine.
How to get dry paint out of clothes
Dry paint is difficult to remove from clothing because the pigments can stain fabric. The type of paint also makes a difference, because some are designed to be water resistant when they dry. In general, start with the gentlest cleaning method (such as soap and water) and work up through harsher solutions until you find a method that works. Follow these tips to discover how to get old paint out of clothes.
Step 1: Remove as much paint as you can with a stiff brush. Do this while the paint is still dry.
Step 2: Rinse the stain with warm water. Turn your garment inside out and try to get the water to flow from the underside of the stain, in the opposite direction it got onto your clothes. The aim is to push loose particles back the way they came.
Step 3: Make a 50/50 mixture of laundry detergent and warm water, and use it to blot and scrub the stain. Depending on the type of paint, this could take a while!
Step 4: Rinse the garment to remove the detergent and use a stain remover, following the instructions. Then wash the clothing on its normal cycle.
Step 5: If the stain is still visible, try using a little non-acetone nail polish remover, hairspray, or rubbing alcohol. Test a small area first, then apply the solution directly to the stain. Leave for 5 minutes and then wash again on a normal cycle.
How to get dried paint out of jeans
It can be particularly difficult to remove dried paint from denim. The features that make your jean so hard wearing also make paint stains stick fast. The good news is your denim can take harsher treatments than other fabrics and still be okay, so if you’ve tried the above methods without success, here’s some other tips to follow.
- Use a blunt knife
Either before attempting cleaning, or after the fabric has dried again, take a blunt knife and scrape away as much paint as possible.
- Use a toothbrush
Once you’ve removed as much paint as possible, return to the cleaning solutions above, but use a toothbrush or stiff-bristled brush to really scrub them into the fabric.
- Use liquid glycerin
This amazing ingredient is a Pro’s best friend. Glycerin is very effective at removing oil and paint stains. Simply apply it to the stain and leave for an hour or two, or even overnight. Then apply a little water and dish soap, using a toothbrush to scrub the stain and create a lather. Then launder as usual.
- Use solvent or paint remover
This may be necessary, especially if you used oil-based paint that won’t respond to water-based treatments. Oil solvents are the least likely to discolor your denim in the process, but you should spot-test an inconspicuous area first.
Types of paint stains in clothes
The type of paint that caused a stain in fabric will be the most important factor in how easily it can be cleaned. Different paints will respond better to different cleaning solutions than others. So if you know the kind of paint you accidentally got on your clothes, it will be easier to find a solution to removing it that works.
HAIR SPRAY OR WD-40
Pro Tip: Spring is here! Don’t miss our spring cleaning checklist.
How to get washable paint out of clothes
Washable paint is one of the easiest to get out of clothes, because it’s designed to be removed with soap and water. Check the manufacturer’s instructions on the paint for the best method to use, or try the following steps:
Step 1: Remove any excess wet paint by scraping it off the fabric
Step 2: Turn the garment inside out and rinse thoroughly with hot water
Step 3: Wash on a hot wash using the heavy cycle and your normal detergent
Step 4: If a stain is still visible, soak the clothing in a solution of 2 tablespoons OxiClean to 2 cups of water (scale up if necessary at a rate of 1 tablespoon per cup of water) for 10 minutes, and then wash again as usual
How to get acrylic paint out of clothes
After washable paint, acrylic is the next easiest to remove from fabric because it’s water based. That means it can be diluted and removed without resorting to any harsh chemicals. Follow these simple steps to learn how to get water based paint out of clothes.
Step 1: Scrap away any excess paint using a paper towel (if the paint is wet) or a spoon to scratch away dried paint
Step 2: Rinse the fabric using cold water — hot water will set the stain
Step 3: Launder on a heavy cycle using the cold water setting and your usual detergent
Step 4: If the stain is still visible after washing, soak it with isopropyl alcohol
Step 5: Using a sponge or microfiber cloth and more isopropyl alcohol, work the stain out
Step 6: Wash the clothing again to remove the last traces of paint
How to get oil based paint out of clothes
Oil based paint can be difficult to remove because it repels water. That means you can’t easily dilute it or wash it away. Many oil based paints will list the manufacturer’s recommended solvent on the can. This is a solution designed to thin the paint, making it easier to remove. However many solvents will damage fabric, so only use it as a last resort and always test it in a small area first.
Step 1: Scrape off as much paint as possible
Step 2: Rinse the stain with hot water — hot water is best for oily stains
Step 3: Try washing the clothing using a heavy cycle and strong detergent
Step 4a: If the stain remains, you need to use ammonia or mineral spirits to break it down. If using ammonia, make a mixture of equal parts water, clear ammonia, and dish soap or laundry detergent. Cover the stain and leave for 30 minutes, before rinsing through and laundering again.
Step 4b: If using mineral spirits, soak a cotton ball and dab the stain. Blot with paper towels to lift out the paint as it breaks down, don’t rub it. Rinse the clothing and launder again.
Step 5: If the stain still hasn’t come loose, try using the solvent recommended on the paint can.
Pro Tip: Ammonia works by breaking down proteins, and can’t be used on natural fibers such as wool or silk.
Oil based paint is one of the most difficult things to remove from fabric, and you may not be able to entirely clear the stain. If you still want to save the garment, consider covering the stain with a patch, or consulting a dry cleaner.
How to get dried wall paint out of clothes
Wall paint can be water based, oil based, or latex. Many general painting projects use latex paint because it’s fast drying and easy to clean up. If your wall paint is water based or oil based, use the tips above for those types of paint. Here’s how to get latex paint out of clothes.
Step 1: Remove any wet paint as quickly as possible
Step 2: Rinse the fabric thoroughly with warm water
Step 3: Scrub the stain with dish soap to remove as much as possible
Step 4: Treat with a stain remover such as OxiClean and launder in hot water
Step 5: If the stain is still visible, apply rubbing alcohol using a microfiber cloth and blot
Step 6: Launder again in hot water
Step 7: To treat a really obstinate stain, spray it generously with hairspray. Leave to soak for 10 minutes then scrub with a toothbrush, before laundering a final time in hot water
How to get spray paint out of clothes
It’s easy to slip up with spray paint and accidentally get some on your clothes. The first thing to check before you attempt to treat the stain is whether your paint is water based or oil based. Look on the can for information. If the cleaning instructions suggest using paint thinner or mineral spirits, the paint is oil based. Otherwise it will be water based. If the can says the paint is acrylic, treat it as water based.
Removing stains from water based spray paint
You’re in luck, water based paint is easier to remove than oil based.
Step 1: Blot up as much wet paint as possible with paper towels
Step 2: Put the fabric in a sink and run through with cold water (hot will set the stain)
Step 3: Apply dish soap to the stain and scrub to remove it
Step 4: Launder on a cold water cycle
Step 5: If a stain remains, treat it with isopropyl alcohol and launder again in cold water
Removing stains from oil based spray paint
Oil based spray paint can be harder to remove than water based, but it isn’t impossible. Just follow these steps.
Step 1: Blot the stain and rinse with hot water
Step 2: Generously spray the stain with a solvent such as WD-40, or hairspray, and let stand for 10 minutes
Step 3: Using a clean microfiber cloth, rub the stain to lift it. If the cloth becomes too wet, replace it with a new dry cloth
Step 4: Launder on a hot water cycle
Step 5: If the stain remains, use mineral spirits or the thinner recommended on the can — spot test an inconspicuous area first
Step 6: Launder again in hot water
Pro Tip: Once your clothes are free from paint, make sure your iron isn’t dirtying them again. Find out how to properly clean and maintain your iron.
How to remove paint from clothes with baking soda
If you don’t have any rubbing alcohol or other cleaners handy, you can still remove many paint stains using ordinary baking soda.
- For oil based paint stains, try mixing 2 tablespoons of baking soda into a cup of boiling water and soaking the stain
- For water based paint stains, create a paste by adding cold water to baking soda to achieve the desired consistency, and spread it across the stain. Leave for 10 minutes and then scrub with a toothbrush
- To remove old paint, sprinkle the fabric with baking soda and then spray white vinegar onto the soda and leave for 10 minutes. The reaction will lift the paint
Getting paint onto your clothing is a pain, but it doesn’t have to be a disaster. With our Pro tips, you’ll be able to remove paint from your clothes in no time.