How to Get Paint Out of Your Clothes

Evelyn Long

Jun 8, 2023

Two people painting a wall.

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When you paint your home, your clothes are common casualties. However, there are ways to get paint out of your clothes. 

There are two main types of interior paints: water/latex paint and oil-based ones. Acrylic paint is becoming a popular choice for exteriors and small projects. 

Oil-Based Paint

Oil-based paints are the hardest paint to get out of our clothes and other items. The paint sticks, which might seem like a good thing but getting it out of things can be a pain. Here are some tips for getting this type of paint out of your clothes. 

Tip 1: Tackle The Stain While It Is Still Wet. 

This may seem obvious. Most stains are easier to clean when the culprit is still wet. However, this can be critical for tackling oil paint. Though it is not impossible to get out dried oil paint, sooner is better for starting the process. 

Tip 2: Use The Recommended Solvent.

While you can often remove other paint stains with alternative methods, most oil-based paints will require a solvent – often a form of paint thinner. Read the back of the paint can for the manufacturer’s recommended solution and cleaning method. 

Ensure that you spot test the solvent on a very small area of the stain before covering the whole thing. If it is too strong, it could melt the fibers or cause the dye to bleed. If you notice this happening, you may need to patch or replace the clothing item. 

If it doesn’t happen, you can proceed with the stain removal. Since the fumes can be pungent, do this outside. Lay your garment on a thick layer of newspaper or disposable fabric to absorb the excess solvent. Wear gloves to protect your hands. If using a large amount of the solvent, wear safety goggles to prevent it from splashing into your eyes. 

Turn the clothing inside out with the stained side against the paper or towels. This way, the solution will push the stain away from the fabric. Place the solution on a cotton ball and dab at the stain. Never rub the stain. That could make it spread. If you need to, you can use a toothbrush to make a circular scrubbing motion. 

Work mainly from the back of your clothing, but check on the front to ensure the process is working. You can add small amounts of solvent to the stained side of the garment for particularly stubborn stains. Blot the rest of the stain away and place the area with the solvent on it inside a mixture of half dishwashing soap and half clean water. Once as much solvent residue is removed as possible, presoak and wash as normal. 

Latex/Water Based Paint 

Both “water-based” and “latex paint” are the same formula, with manufacturers choosing to call it one or the other. This is one of the easiest types of paint to remove, as long as you have the right tools. 

Tip 1: Scrape It First 

As tempting as it can be to just grab the soap, scraping excess paint off of the stain can make your cleaning solution much more effective. Use a dull but strong edge to get as much wet or dry paint off of your clothes. 

You could use a butter knife or the side of a spoon to remove as much as possible. Start with a light touch and increase the amount of pressure until you reach the fabric’s surface. If you think you might puncture the fabric, stop and move on to the next step.  

Tip #2: Drench it With Warm Water

If most of the stain still isn’t gone after scraping or the paint is on a delicate fabric, drench the stain with water before adding your soap. Like the oil paint stain, you’ll want to target the back of the stain, with the front of it laying against your cleaning surface. Pouring the water on the other side will push some of the pigment and particles away from your garment. 

Tip #3: Use Dish Soap 

The good news about this formula is you probably won’t need to purchase a remover to get the stain completely out of your clothes. 

Combine equal parts water and liquid dish detergent in a container that you can dip a sponge or paper towel in. Use it to blot the rest of the stain away. 

Tip #4: Consider Acetone

If soap and water doesn’t get your stain completely out of the clothes, check and see if the fabric contains triacetate or acetate. If it DOES NOT, then you can try dabbing a small amount of acetone onto your garment. It is an effective stain-removal option. 

Avoid using acetone if it does contain one of those ingredients as the formula might melt your fabric. You can check your item’s label to see what it contains. If you choose to use acetone, you can often find it as nail polish remover. 

Once you get your stain out of your clothes, wash them as you normally would to complete the process. 

Acrylic Paint

Many exterior home paints are now acrylic which can stain your clothing. However, acrylic is typically the easiest paint to get out of your clothes. 

Tip 1: Scrape It Off

Most of this paint should come off easily with scraping. After, scrub the stain in a sink with warm water and a small amount of detergent until it disappears. 

Tip 2: Use Alcohol 

If you are still unable to get the stain out, using a toothbrush and a small amount of rubbing alcohol should do the trick. You can try scrubbing at the front of the stain or placing the front on a clean surface and adding the alcohol to the back of it. 

As always, once the stain dissolves, wash your clothes as you normally would. 

Removing Paint from Your Clothes 

When painting your home, getting some of it on your items is almost inevitable. Accidents happen. Instead of preparing to get rid of your clothes or hide them away until its time for the next project, you can save them. 

You can get paint out of your clothes in a few easy ways. By using these tips, you should be able to remove almost any stain, from oil to acrylic. Whether you must use paint thinner, or can just get out the soap and water, your clothes can live another day.

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