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How to Clean Paint Stains from Clothing

Posted by Patricia Spencer on
How to Clean Paint Stains from Clothing


When the time comes to paint a room in our house, we know to put on our least important clothes – old t-shirts, ripped jeans or faded sweats – to avoid staining a clothing item that we love.  But, what happens when you go to someone’s house and brush up against a freshly painted wall?  Fortunately, paint stains are generally simple to remove, if you follow the proper protocol below.

Avoiding Paint Stains: What You Need to Know

Before start covering how to getting rid of paint stains, let’s talk about preventing them from occurring – at least on your favorite clothing.  Whenever you plan on painting, whether it be painting your home or painting a portrait in your studio, you should wear clothes that you don’t mind staining, because the bottom line is that it’s almost impossible to avoid getting paint onto your clothing.  Also, keep some rubbing alcohol and cloths nearby to address potential stains quickly.

Quick Guide to Removing Latex Paint Stains from Clothing

  1. Blot away any wet paint very carefully, not pushing it into the fabric but getting excess paint off of the surface of the material.
  2. Now, remove the garment as soon as you can, and wet it in warm water – it doesn’t need to be soaking, but just damp.
  3. Grab some rubbing alcohol and pour it directly onto the paint stain. The goal is to really saturate the stained area.  The alcohol does a great job at breaking up latex quickly, and thus dissolving the stain itself.  If the stain is more than a few hours old, you’ll want to let it soak for about 30 minutes.  If the stain just occurred, then run the alcohol-soaked stain under running cold water, using the spray nozzle of your faucet if you have one, although a standard faucet will do just fine.
  4. Rub the material of your clothing against itself. In other words, take the stained area in one hand and a clean part of the garment in the other, and start rubbing the clothing.  As long as the material isn’t extremely delicate, you can rub pretty aggressively without doing any damage to your clothing.
  5. Now, apply more of the alcohol to the stain and use a brush to scrub it. If it’s a large stain, use a laundry brush.  Otherwise, you can use a toothbrush.  A pumice stone can also work in a pinch.  Thoroughly scrub to remove the paint.
  6. Rinse the stain under warm water, and then simply wipe off any paint that may come up.
  7. Now, you can place the garment in the laundry. We suggest washing it by itself so that the latex in the paint doesn’t get on any other clothing items.  Wash the item in hot water, using your favorite Grab Green Home Laundry Care product, such as  3 in 1 Laundry Detergent Pods, 3 in 1 Laundry Detergent Powder, Bleach Alternative Pods, or Stoneworks Laundry Detergent Pods, if the care label says that it’s safe to do so. 
  8. Then, dry the item as you normally dry it according to its care instructions.

If you don’t have any rubbing alcohol handy, you can use Grab Green Liquid Dish Soap or laundry detergent as an alternative.  These products can effectively remove paint stains, although alcohol is a far better solution.  In fact, it’s worth it to take about 10 minutes to buy some rubbing alcohol from a nearby store over using an alternative cleaning product, since alcohol is so effective at removing latex that the stain can wait that long before getting addressed.

If the paint is completely dry, then before you follow the steps above, use a dry brush to attempt to scrape off as much of the paint from the surface as possible.  Keep in mind that denim is the toughest material to remove paint stains from due to the nature of its fibers.  So, you might need to really scrub to remove dried paint, or possibly use a blunt knife to scrape it off of the surface.  Solvent-based paint removers may work, but this should be a last resort because they’re extremely harsh and can wear down the fibers of your fabrics.

Removing Washable Paint from Clothing

If you’re dealing with a stain caused by washable paint, you will have an easier time removing it. 

  1. Scrape excess paint off of the fabric.
  2. Turn the clothing item inside-out.
  3. Rinse it thoroughly under cold water.
  4. Wash the clothing in the washing machine using hot water, without any other clothing items in the load and use your normal Grab Green laundry detergent.

Removing Acrylic Paint

Because acrylic paint is water-based, it’s also relatively easy to remove from clothing.

  1. Scrape away excess paint before rinsing the material in only cold water, as hot water will set the stain.
  2. Throw the clothing item into the washing machine, using the heavy cycle with cold water, and your normal detergent.
  3. If you see the stain after washing it, soak the stain in rubbing alcohol, and use a sponge to work out the stain, before running through another laundry cycle.

Removing Oil Paint

Oil paint will be the toughest to remove, because oil repels water.  But, it can be done with the right effort and care.

  1. Scrape off excess paint.
  2. Then, rinse the stain thoroughly in hot water.
  3. Attempt to launder the stain away using the heavy setting on your machine along with hot water, and an extra-strong detergent.
  4. If the stain is still there, you will need a solvent such as ammonia to break it down. Make a solution of 1 part water, 1 part liquid detergent, and 1 part clear ammonia, and apply it to the stain, leaving it there for 30 minutes before rinsing it out and laundering again.  Alternatively, you can use mineral spirits dabbed directly onto the stain, and then use a cloth to blot it out before laundering the garment again.
  5. If the stain remains, the next step is to use a solvent-based paint remover. Again, remember that this can be damaging to certain fabrics, so you may want to be fully sure you can apply it to the type of clothing item you have.

Removing Spray Paint

Some spray paints are water-based, and some are oil-based.  There are specific methods for getting rid of each type of stain.

Water-Based Spray Paint:

  1. Blot up excess paint using a cloth or paper towel.
  2. Now, run the stain under cold water, before attempting to scrub it away using a brush.
  3. Run a laundry cycle with cold water and your normal detergent, and if the stain remains, soak the stain in rubbing alcohol for 30 minutes before laundering again.

Oil-Based Spray Paint:

  1. Blot the stain before rinsing it in hot water.
  2. Spray a solvent, or hairspray, onto the stain and let it sit for about 10 minutes.
  3. Use a sponge or microfiber cloth to lift the stain away using dabbing motions.
  4. Wash the garment in the washing machine on a hot water cycle.

Paint Stains Don’t Have to Ruin Your Clothing

While it can be alarming to spill paint on a clothing item you care about, the good news is that some rubbing alcohol is all you need to remove the stain entirely.  Latex paint isn’t nearly as difficult to remove from clothes as people might think, especially if you follow the right steps as illustrated above, and act sooner than later.  Again, your clothes should be paint-free after using these techniques, and again, look like real masterpieces.

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