The key to removing paint stains lies in identifying the type of paint – is it oil-based or a water-based acrylic? The best way to work out what type of paint stain you’re dealing with is to read the label on the paint tube. From there you can move onto proper stain removal.
Acrylic or water-based paint stains: These paints are designed to dissolve in water, which makes them a stain-removal favourite.
Oil-based paint stains: Are a lot more difficult to remove, but thankfully a little less commonly used than acrylic/water-based.
Removing paint stains from clothes or fabric
To deal with a fresh water-based paint stain on your clothing, try using a spoon or dull knife to scoop up as much paint as possible, before blotting gently with a cloth. Try to stop the paint stain from drying out. Using a sponge, work a detergent and water mix directly into the water-based paint, rubbing gently in between your fingers, before rinsing thoroughly. Keep repeating this process until most of the stain has disappeared from the clothing. If you notice some of the paint stain remaining, apply a touch of nail polish remover on an absorbent cloth and blot, before rinsing well again and laundering.
Other removal solutions for paint stains on clothes include:
- For a dried-on water-based or acrylic paint stain, brush off as much of the dried paint stain as possible with a hard bristled brush, before applying a soapy water mix or gently dabbing on a varnish remover with a clean cloth. Once the paint stain has softened in the clothing, scrape off as much as possible (testing for colour fastness). Then, work a detergent mix into the stain, as above, and follow the same steps until the dried paint stain has been removed.
- For an oil-based paint stain that is still wet, remove as much of the paint as possible with a knife or spoon before blotting and rinsing well. Place the fabric stain-side down over an absorbent cloth, before sponging the back of the garment with a touch of turpentine (keeping an eye on the colours to make sure they don’t run). Continue this process until the stain disappears, replacing the cloth underneath when it becomes wet. Do not rinse. Follow by rubbing in a good quality laundry detergent before soaking in hot water overnight (occasionally rubbing the stain gently), before rinsing and washing as per garment directions.
- If the oil-based paint stain has dried into the clothing, brush off as much as you can with a hard bristled brush, and if you have access to the paint tin or can, read to see if it contains directions for their preferred paint-remover and apply. Once the stain has loosened and becomes wet again, scrape off as much as possible before following the above steps to remove a wet oil-based paint stain.
- In general, oil-based stains should be treated immediately by applying white spirit or turpentine from the reverse side of the fabric – though not on fabrics like rayon, acetate or triacetate. If the paint is allowed to dry, a skin forms and the stain is impossible to remove. But remember there are many different paints and it is best to consult the paint manufacturer for specific advice.
Removing paint stains from unwashable fabrics
Unfortunately, both acrylic and water-based stains usually mean the end of any unwashable fabric, but do talk to your drycleaner first and see if they think they can do anything.
Removing paint stains from carpet or furniture
If you somehow managed to smear paint on the couch, or you forgot to put a drop cloth down before getting out the paints, try these tricks:
- For water-based paint stains on carpet and upholstery, scrape up as much of the paint as you can, before blotting with an absorbent towel. Try to keep the paint stain moist for best stain removal. If dried, use a hard-bristled brush and brush off as much caked paint as possible, before adding soapy water or a paint/varnish remover, and then scraping off any remaining paint. Spray with water and blot with rubbing alcohol. Repeat the steps until removed.
- For large paint stains, soak the stain with water and lay towels over the stain to blot, before applying the above method.
- Another solution for water-based paints stains is to apply turpentine, soap and water to a soft stain. Should the paint stain have hardened, brush as before and then apply a little turpentine to soften. Never use liquid paint remover if the stain is wet.
- To remove oil-based paint stains off carpet and upholstery, scrape off as much wet paint as you can, and blot, or if hardened brush off and use the recommended paint-and-varnish remover to soften (this information can be found on the paint label). Scrape away excess, blot, and spray the stain with water. Use a touch of turpentine to dab the stain (keeping a close eye on the stain to be sure the colours don’t run). Alternate blotting with the turpentine and clean water until the stain is gone. Sponge a lukewarm detergent mix on the stain and blot again until you can’t remove any more paint. Blot well with clean water and let the carpet or upholstery dry before vacuuming.
Stain remover notes
- The quicker you deal with a stain, the more likely you are to remove it.
- Unless it’s a fat stain, cold water is best for rinsing a stain, so as not to set it and make it harder to remove later.
- Before using a cleaning solution, test on an inconspicuous section, such as the inside of a sleeve, to check it won’t ruin the fabric.
- Always rinse out one cleaning solution before trying another to remove a stain as certain chemicals are not supposed to be mixed.
- Read the care instructions on the item of clothing before attempting vigorous stain removal. Some clothing may be too delicate to attempt stain removal and are better taken straight to the drycleaners.
- Don’t rub fabric harshly to remove stains as this can abrade fibres and cause fading.
- The white towel blotting method is often recommended for stain removal. Simply fold a clean white towel and, once you have treated the stain with water, gently dab it with the towel and check to see how much of the stain has transferred to the white towel.
- If using commercial stain removers and detergents, always follow the product label to understand the proper use and safety precautions you may need to take.
- It’s always easier to treat a stain on a washable fabric.