How to Remove Paint Stains From Carpet

Red oil-based paint stain on gray carpet wiped with paper towel and paint thinner

The Spruce / Michelle Becker

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 30 mins - 2 hrs
  • Total Time: 2 - 8 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5-10

Getting a paint stain off the carpet is a bit tricky since you can't toss it in the washing machine. The key is to remove the paint as soon as possible, and the remaining stain can be removed from the carpet or rug with a few simple household products you most likely already have on hand.

With either type of paint, whether it's water-based or oil-based, follow these steps to remove paint from carpets and rugs.

   Stain Type   Oil-based, water-based
   Detergent Type   Heavy-duty 
   Water Temperature   Cold to hot

Before You Begin

Water-based paint stains and oil-based paint stains on carpet are equally unattractive, but the process for removing each is different. Before you begin trying to remove the paint, you first have to determine if the paint stain on your carpet or rug is water-based or oil-based. Refer to the paint can or tube to determine the base of the paint.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

Water-based paint on carpet

  • Dull knife, spoon, or credit card
  • Paper towels
  • White cloths
  • Toothbrush or soft-bristled brush
  • Handheld clothes steamer (optional)

Oil-based paint on carpet

  • White cloths
  • Paper towels
  • Handheld clothes steamer
  • Heavy needle or paper clip
  • Scissors

Materials

Water-based paint on carpet

  • Liquid laundry or dish detergent

Oil-based paint on carpet

  • Acetone, paint thinner or turpentine

Instructions

How to Remove Water-Based Paint Stains on Carpet

  1. If Dry, Re-Wet the Stain

    If the paint stain is completely dry, you'll need to re-wet it to lift up what you can.

    • Mix some hot water and laundry or dish detergent into a solution.
    • Apply the mixture to the paint stain with a toothbrush or soft-bristled brush. Let it sit for five minutes to soften the paint.

    A wet paint stain that is still a glob of paint does not need to any added moisture.

  2. Lift Excess Paint

    Once the stain has been sufficiently softened (of if it began wet), you can lift any excess paint away from the carpet fibers with a dull knife, the edge of a credit card, or a spoon.

  3. Blot With a Clean Cloth

    Then use a clean wet paper towel or white cloth to blot—not rub—away the remaining paint. Keep moving to a clean area of the towel and don't stop until the paint is gone.

  4. Re-Wet the Stain If Necessary


    If you're working on a dried paint stain, continue to re-wet it to lift the stain. Blot the stain until the paint stops lifting, then apply more of the hot water and dish detergent solution and blot more.

    Tip

    If the dried paint is still not softening, consider using a handheld clothes steamer to add a boost of heat. Do not use an iron because it can be too hot and actually melt the synthetic fibers. Just be patient and keep working.

  5. Air-Dry and Vacuum

    Allow to dry thoroughly away from direct heat and then vacuum to lift any matted carpet fibers.

How to Remove Oil-Based Paint Stains on Carpet

  1. Remove Excess Paint

    Blot the wet paint with a clean white cloth or paper towel to absorb as much excess paint as possible. Use a light touch and try not to push the paint deeper into the carpet. As you blot, use a handheld clothes steamer to keep the paint damp and soft. Separate the carpet fibers with a heavy needle or straightened paper clip as you keep blotting, blotting, and blotting.

    Red oil-based paint stain on gray carpet wiped with paper towel and paint thinner

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

  2. Treat the Stain

    Dip a clean white cloth in acetone, paint thinner, or turpentine to blot away the remaining paint. Work slowly and be patient. Only dab clean spots of the cloth on the stain so as to avoid spreading it, and be careful not to let the dirty parts of the cloth come into contact with anything else it could stain.

    Warning

    Be sure to test the cleaner first in a hidden spot to be sure that it doesn't remove the color from the carpet.

  3. Trim Off the Stain (As Needed)

    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 have a bald spot.

Additional Tips for Handling Paint Stains

  • Oil-based paint is much more difficult than water-based paint to remove on any type of material. Be patient and work methodically as you try to remove an oil-based paint stain.
  • Though dried paint stains may seem harder to fix, wet paint stains pose their own particular challenges. Because the paint is wet, it's very easy to accidentally transfer it to another surface and stain it by accident. Keep multiple clean cloths on hand and have a designated spot for dirty cloths to avoid creating more stains.