Paint stains can be water-based paint (latex, acrylic craft paint, finger paints) or oil-based paint (enamels, art oils or model craft paint). With either type of paint, follow these steps to remove the paint from clothes before it dries. If you can't treat it right away, keep the area wet until you can. These techniques are for washable fabrics (we'll get to carpet and upholstery next). For dry-clean only garments or home accessories, take to a reputable cleaner immediately.
Latex, Acrylic or Any Water-Based Paint
If there is a big blob of paint, use a dull knife or spoon to remove as much of the excess paint as possible. DO NOT use a rag or paper towel because you will push the paint deeper into the fabric fibers.
As quickly as possible from the wrong side of the fabric, flush the paint from the fibers with a forceful stream of warm water. Next, work a solution of liquid laundry detergent and water into the stain, soaping and rinsing until the stain is removed. You may need to repeat several times. Then wash the garment as usual.
If the paint has dried, you may be able to remove the paint with a bit of rubbing alcohol. Use a cotton swab and work from the outside of the stain toward the inside. Use a dull knife or the edge of a credit card to gently scrape away the paint as it loosens from the fibers. This works best on "new" paint stains that have not been set by heat.
Or, try a commercial paint remover like OOPS! following the instructions carefully.
Oil-Based Enamel, Art or Model Paint
Oil-based paint must be removed from clothes while it is wet. If it dries, it is nearly impossible to remove. So, keep it wet until you can start cleaning.
If the paint label lists a specific paint thinner to use, start with that or some turpentine.
Working from the back of the fabric, place the stain over a thick pad of paper towels or old white rags. Wet the area with paint thinner and tap the area with an old spoon or scrub brush to force the paint out. Keep changing the paper towels underneath to a clean area as paint is absorbed into the towels. Be patient, this will take time.
Once the paint is removed, saturate the area with liquid detergent and work it in well. Submerge the stain into the hottest water temperature recommended for the fabric and let it soak overnight. Scrub again with some detergent and launder as usual.
Paint Stains on Carpet
It's a bit more difficult to remove paint from carpet because you can't toss it in the washer. Again, the key is removing the paint as soon as possible.
Water-based paint stains on carpet
For fresh, wet paint stains, use a dull knife, edge of a credit card or spoon to lift any excess paint away from the carpet fibers. Then use a clean, wet paper towel or white cloth to blot - NO RUBBING - away the remaining paint. Keep moving to a clean area of the towel and don't stop until the paint is gone.
For paint drips that have dried on the carpet, mix some hot water and bit of laundry or dish detergent into a solution.
Use a toothbrush or soft brush to apply the mixture to the paint stain. Let it sit for five minutes to soften the paint. Grab the dull knife and begin to scrape away the paint. Blot with a clean cloth often and apply more hot water and detergent as you go. Don't rub or you may smear the stain making it worse.
If the paint is still not softening, consider using a hand-held clothes steamer to add a boost of heat. DO NOT use an iron because it can be too hot and actually melt synthetic fibers. Just be patient and keep working. Allow to dry thoroughly and then vacuum to lift fibers.
Oil-based paint stains on carpet
Oil-based paint is much more difficult to remove. If the drip is wet, blot with a clean white cloth or paper towel to absorb as much paint as possible. Use a light touch and try not to push the paint deeper in the carpet.
Use a hand-held steamer to keep the paint damp and soft. Use a heavy needle or straightened paper clip to separate carpet fibers as you keep blotting, blotting, blotting.
Next, dip a clean white cloth in acetone, paint thinner or turpentine to blot away remaining paint. Be sure to test the cleaner first in a hidden spot to be sure that it doesn't remove color from the carpet. Work slowly and be patient.
As a last resort, let the stain dry and use tiny sharp scissors to trim away stained fibers. Cut as little as possible or your carpet will look bare.
Paint on Upholstery
Start with the same dull knife to remove the drips of paint. But you must know what type of fabric you have on the sofa before you can move to the next step. Take a look under the sofa cushions or the fabric skirt to locate a tag with letter codes that indicate how to clean the furniture. Here's how to decipher the code:
- W - Sofa can be cleaned with a water-based detergent.
- S - Sofa must be cleaned with a dry-cleaning solvent.
- WS - Sofa can be cleaned with a water-based or dry-cleaning solvent.
- X - Sofa can only be cleaned by vacuuming or by a professional cleaner.
- O - Sofa is made from organic materials that require cleaning with cold water methods only. No heat.
These codes will tell you what you can and can not use to remove either type of paint stains. Obviously, you need a solvent to clean up an oil base on any type of fabric. If you have any questions, it's best to call a professional.