How to Get Paint Out of Carpet

updated Nov 2, 2022
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Maybe you’re painting your living room walls with a fresh coat. Maybe your kids got into the acrylic paints in the craft closet. Even if you’re strategically using a tarp or newspaper barrier it’s way too easy to end up with paint where it doesn’t belong.  Paint is difficult to remove from lots of surfaces, but fabric and upholstery, including carpet and rugs, can be tricky. The key factor here is time: Clean up the splattered paint as quickly as possible after it happens.

Once the paint dries, consider it set—and, unfortunately, pretty much impossible to remove without professional help (or, worst case scenario, replacing your carpet). 

Keep in mind that how to get paint out of the carpet ultimately depends on the type you need to clean up. Water-based paints, like latex or acrylic, will require different cleaners and tools than oil-based paints. Once you have the right cleaning tools and an understanding of the clean-up steps you’ll need to take, you can prevent the carpet paint from becoming a permanent accent in your home.

Here’s everything you need to know about how to get paint out of the carpet.

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Two Things to Know Before You Start

Ready to take care of the mess? Take a pause and consider these tips first.

1. Identify what type of paint you’re cleaning.

Water- and oil-based stains need to be cleaned differently. Often, people use water-based paints (aka latex paint) for bigger projects like painting walls. Oil-based paints, which are more durable, are generally used on trim, doors, or windows.

Most paint labels are clear about whether the paint is water-based or oil-based, but if you’re not sure, try this quick test on a dry, painted wall: Dip a cloth in warm water mixed with gentle detergent, then wash a small section of the wall and dry it with a towel. Then, soak a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and wipe it over the area you washed. If the paint is latex, it will come off. If not, it’s oil-based.

2. Learn how to prevent damage to your carpet—and yourself.

Since paint removers like alcohol, acetone, turpentine, and paint thinner can discolor carpet, make sure to conduct a spot test in an inconspicuous area before attempting to clean up the paint. Prevent damage to the carpet backing by using as little of the product as possible as you clean, and never apply it directly to the carpet itself.

Also, use a white cleaning cloth with these products to avoid transferring color from the cloth to the carpet you’re trying to clean. And as always, protect your health by wearing gloves and making sure your space is properly ventilated in the process.

How to Get Paint Out of Carpet

How you start depends on whether the paint is fresh or dried. The first step to removing paint from carpet is trying to pick up any excess paint that’s sitting on top of the fibers.

How to Remove Excess Paint from Fresh Paint Spills (of Any Type):

Remove any excess paint you can by gently lifting the excess with a spoon or putty knife, taking care not to spread the paint to unaffected areas. You can also lightly blot at the excess paint with a dry rag or paper towel. Don’t scrub or blot so hard that you push the paint deeper into the carpet.

How to Remove Excess Dried Paint (of Any Type):

Use a utility knife or putty knife to scrape, cut, or chip away at the dried paint. Then, vacuum the area to remove any excess debris. If you have a handheld steamer, turn it on and steam over the remaining dried paint for a few minutes to soften the paint. If you don’t have a steamer, pour a bit of hot water on the dried paint, and let the solution sit for a few minutes to soften.

Now, depending on which type of paint you’re cleaning up, you can remove the rest from your carpet.

3 Steps to Remove Water-Based (Latex) Paint from Carpet

1. Blot with a soap and water solution: Apply a mixture of 1:1 dish soap and hot water to the paint stain, gently blotting with a clean cloth. No matter how tempted you are to scrub or rub, resist the urge. “You’ll just force the paint in your carpet’s fibers,” says interior designer and blogger Kate Diaz.

Continue blotting, working your way from the outside to the center gradually until the stain is removed. And be careful to avoid excess moisture on your carpet. If excess moisture accumulates, Diaz recommends blotting it away with a paper towel or clean rag. As you blot the stain itself, you may want to move your cloth around periodically to blot with a fresh, clean area of the cloth or rotate your cloth out for a new one if needed. 

2. Use alcohol on remaining paint: If any paint remains, apply an alcohol-based cleaner, like nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol, and blot using a clean, dry white cloth. Don’t forget to spot test first to avoid discoloration or damage!

3. Finish with a clean cloth: When you’re through, rinse the area by blotting with a clean, wet cloth, then blot with a dry cloth to remove as much moisture from the area as possible.

 3 Steps to Remove Oil-Based Paint from Carpet

1. Blot with turpentine: After you test a section of the carpet, dip the corner of a clean white cloth in turpentine (or a paint thinner recommended on the paint’s label) and blot the affected area. Continue blotting, not scrubbing or rubbing, until the paint is removed.

2. Remove discoloration: If any discoloration remains, you can try and remove it by applying a mixture of 1:1 dish soap and hot water to the stain, then gently blotting the affected area with a clean cloth.

3. Finish with a clean cloth: When you’re through, rinse the area by blotting with a clean, wet cloth, then blot with a dry cloth to remove as much moisture from the area as possible.