How to Remove Paint Stains From Clothes

How to Remove Paint Stains from Clothes

The Spruce / Joules Garcia

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

Paint stains can involve water-based paint (latex, acrylic craft paint, and finger paints) or oil-based paint (enamels, art oils, or model craft paint). Unfortunately, these paint stains are usually harder to get rid of than paint fumes in a room. Acrylic paint and other types of paint can sometimes come out of clothes, but you must act quickly. Whatever you do, do not grab a paper towel or rag and rub at the stain or you will embed it further into the fibers making the stain even hard to remove. If you can't treat the stain right away, try to keep the area wet until you can. But don't fret, as there are still techniques to get dried paint off, too.

Fortunately, it is possible to remove paint stains, and it can be done with a few simple household products you most likely already have on hand. With either type of paint, water-based or oil-based, follow these steps to remove paint from washable clothes.

 Stain type  Oil-based, water-based
 Detergent type  Heavy-duty
 Water temperature  Cold to hot
 Cycle type  Varies depending on the type of fabric

Before You Begin

Take a peek at the care label on the stained piece of clothing. Any garments that are labeled dry-clean only, grab a dull knife or spoon and try to remove any blobs of paint as soon as possible. Then take the item to a professional dry cleaner as soon as possible and point out and identify the stain.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

Water-based paint on clothing

  • Dull knife or spoon
  • Soft-bristled brush (optional)

Oil-based paint on clothing

  • Paper towels
  • White cloth rags
  • Spoon or scrub brush

Materials

Water-based paint on clothing

  • Liquid laundry detergent
  • Stain remover, gel, spray or stick

Oil-based paint on clothing

  • Turpentine or paint thinner
  • Liquid laundry detergent

Instructions

How to Remove Water-Based Paint From Clothing

If there is a big blob of a water-based paint, such as latex paint, acrylic paint, or finger paint, follow these steps to get your clothes looking new again.

  1. Remove Solids

    Lift and remove as much of the excess paint as possible carefully using a dull knife or spoon.

    Warning

    Do not use a rag or paper towel because you will push the paint deeper into the fabric fibers.

    Water-based paint scraped off white shirt with dull knife closeup

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

  2. Flush the Stained Area

    As quickly as possible, flush the paint from the fibers from the wrong side of the fabric with a forceful stream of warm water.

  3. Treat the Stain

    Work a solution of liquid laundry detergent and water into the stain, using your fingers, soaping and rinsing until the stain is removed. You may need to repeat this several times. Then wash the garment as usual.

  4. Check the Stained Area

    Double check the stained area before putting the garment into the dryer. If the stain removes, do not dry the clothing as the heat will set the stain in, possibly permanently. Move to the next step.

  5. Treat With Stain Remover

    Put a few drops of an enzyme-based stain remover (such as Zout, Shout, and Spray 'n Wash) on the stained area of the still-wet garment. Use a soft-bristled brush or your fingers to work the stain remover into the fabric. Allow the stain remover to work for at least 15 minutes before rewashing the garment.

How to Remove Oil-Based Paint From Clothing

Whether you are using oils meant for canvas, oil-based spray paint like Behr Premium Spray Paint, or oil-based wall paint, it must be removed from clothing while it is still 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 use some turpentine to remove oil-based paint from clothing.

  1. Treat the Stain

    Work from the back of the fabric, and 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 the paint is absorbed into the towels. Be patient, as this will take time.

    Oil based paint stain on gray sleeve soaked with paint thinner and spread by spoon

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

  2. Soak the Garment

    Once the paint is removed, saturate the area with liquid detergent and work it in well using a soft-bristled brush or your fingers. 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.

  3. Check the Stained Area

    Before tossing the garment into the dryer, check the stained area. If a stain still remains, do not place in the dryer as the stain can permanently set. Instead, repeat the steps.

Additional Tips for Handling Paint Stains

Clothing Tip

If the paint has dried on the garment, you may be able to remove the paint with a bit of rubbing alcohol. This method will only work for water-based paints.

  • Dip a cotton swab into the rubbing alcohol.
  • Dab the wet cotton swab on the stain, working from the outside of the stain toward the inside.
  • Gently scrape away the paint as it loosens from the fibers using a dull knife or the edge of a credit card. This works best on "new" paint stains that have not been set by heat.
  • Or try a commercial paint remover such as OOPS! and follow the instructions carefully.