How to Get Paint Out of Clothes

published Oct 10, 2020
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Not all stains are created equal. If you want a stubborn spill or splatter to disappear, you’ll need the right tools and process. Get some Sharpie on your shirt? Take some Amodex to it (and always use a piece of paper towel underneath to prevent transferring the ink). Pet stain on your rug? Make sure to use an enzyme-based cleaner, which breaks down proteins, so you can remove the spot and the smell. Splatter some paint on your clothes? Buckle up for the ride. 

Paint is a peculiar beast. While it’s not impossible to get out of your clothes, it will definitely take some time and work. One thing to keep in mind along the way: How you remove paint from your clothes depends not only on how long it’s been there, but what kind of paint you’re working with. So for the best results, always do your homework and make sure you have the supplies you need before you start. 

Ready to remove all evidence of your living room trim refresh or your latest craft project from your favorite jeans? Here’s everything you need to know about how to get paint out of clothes, no matter what kind of stain you’re dealing with. 

Things to Know Before You Start

Since removing different kinds of paint from textiles requires different tools and processes, the first thing you’ll need to do is determine what type of paint you need to remove. Water-based paint, such as acrylic paint (often used for crafts) or latex paint (generally used to paint walls), responds well to soap and water. For oil-based paint, which is often used to paint trim, doors, and windows, you’ll want to use a solvent (such as turpentine, alcohol, or paint thinner). 

If you’re using a solvent, always exercise caution. Make sure you properly ventilate the room you’re working in and wear gloves to avoid burning or irritating your skin. You may even want to don a face mask, since you probably have one on hand.

Jump to the right directions:

How to Get Paint Out of Clothes 

Now that you’ve identified what type of paint you’re working with, it’s time to get started on the stain-removal process. 

5 Steps for Removing a Fresh/Wet, Water-Based Paint Stain 

1. Remove any excess paint

Very carefully lift any excess paint with a spoon or dull knife, being careful not to spread the paint around to unaffected areas. 

2. Flush with warm water

Flush the area with warm water. Tide & Downy scientist Mary Johnson recommends making sure you flip the garment inside out and run water over the reverse side of the stain, too. 

3. Apply soap

If flushing with water wasn’t enough, then apply a mixture of 1:1 dish soap and warm water, gently blotting with a clean cloth to remove the paint. 

Or, Johnson says you can pre-treat with a high-quality liquid detergent and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Keep the detergent on the garment when you wash it—Johnson says leaving the detergent on the stain will give your wash an extra boost of cleaning power. 

4. Launder

Place the garment into the washer with other items, and wash on the usual cycle, on the hottest wash temperature indicated. Always check the instructions on the garment’s care label.

5. Repeat if necessary

If the stain is still there when you pull the garment out of the wash, repeat steps 3 and 4 until it’s gone. And one reminder from Johnson: Make sure not to toss the item in the dryer, which can set the stain.

5 Steps for Removing a Dried, Water-Based Paint Stain

1. Remove as much paint from fabric as you can

Try to scrape as much paint as you can from the fabric with a spoon or dull knife.

2. Flush with warm water

Flush the back side of the stain with warm water, then apply a mixture of 1:1 dish soap and warm water, gently blotting with a clean cloth to remove as much paint as possible. 

3. Use an alcohol-based cleaner

If paint remains, apply an alcohol-based cleaner, like nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol, and blot using a clean, dry white cloth. (Always spot test first!). 

4. Launder 

Place the garment into the washer with other items, and wash on the usual cycle, on the hottest wash temperature indicated. Always check the instructions on the garment’s care label.

5. Repeat if necessary

If the stain is still there when you pull the garment out of the wash, repeat steps 2, 3, and 4 until it disappears. (But skip the dryer until it’s gone.) 

5 Steps for Removing a Fresh/Wet, Oil-Based Paint Stain

1. Remove any excess paint

Carefully scrape off any excess paint with a spoon or dull knife, then blot up as much as possible with a clean white cloth, then rinse with warm water. Don’t let the fabric dry.

2. Blot with turpentine

Turn the garment inside-out and lay the stained section on a thick stack of rags or paper towels. After you spot test, blot the stain from the back with a clean white rag dipped in turpentine (or whatever paint thinner is recommended on the paint’s label). Continue blotting until the paint is removed.

3. Treat with dish soap if needed

If stain remains, treat it with dish soap, then leave it soaking in a bucket of hot, soapy water (Johnson suggests a half dose of liquid laundry detergent per gallon of water) for up to 30 minutes. Add a white towel to the bucket to help keep the stained garment submerged in the solution. 

If any stain remains after soaking, try a pre-wash stain remover.

4. Launder

Without rinsing off the detergent, place the garment into the washer with other items and wash on the hottest wash temperature you can. 

5. Repeat if necessary

If the stain persists after washing, repeat the previous steps before tossing in the dryer, as drying will set the stain.

6 Steps for Removing a Dried, Oil-based Paint Stain 

1. Soften the dried paint with turpentine 

First, soften the dried paint by blotting it with a white rag dipped in turpentine (or a paint thinner recommended on the paint’s label).

2. Remove any excess paint

Carefully scrape off any excess paint with a spoon or dull knife, then blot up as much as possible with a clean white cloth, then rinse with warm water. Don’t let the fabric dry.

3. Blot with turpentine

Turn the garment inside-out and lay the stained section on a thick stack of rags or paper towels. After you spot test, blot the stain from the back with a clean white rag dipped in turpentine (or whatever paint thinner is recommended on the paint’s label). Continue blotting until the paint is removed.

4. Treat with dish soap if needed

If stain remains, treat it with dish soap, then leave it soaking in a bucket of hot, soapy water (Johnson suggests a half dose of liquid laundry detergent per gallon of water) for up to 30 minutes. Add a white towel to the bucket to help keep the stained garment submerged in the solution. 

If any stain remains after soaking, try a pre-wash stain remover.

5. Launder

Without rinsing off the detergent, place the garment into the washer with other items and wash on the hottest wash temperature you can. 

6. Repeat if necessary

If the stain persists after washing, repeat the previous steps before tossing in the dryer, as drying will set the stain.