Don’t toss those paint-stained clothes out. Here’s how to get different paints out of your clothes so you don’t have to say goodbye to your favorite sweatshirt.
No matter how careful you are, if you’re doing an art project or home revamp, you’re likely to get a bit of paint on your clothes here and there. While you may be tempted to throw them out, there are actually ways to fully remove paint before it stains, but you have to act fast. That said, let’s get right to the instructions.
How to Get Acrylic Paint out of Clothes
Knowing how to remove acrylic paint from clothes is knowledge to keep in your back pocket if you’re a painter. Acrylic paint can be tricky to remove given its composition. As it begins to set, it turns into a plastic-like substance. Because of that, you want to act especially fast. Time is of the essence when it comes to removing acrylic paint. (If the paint has already dried, skip to the bottom of the blog.)
First, remove any excess acrylic paint from the fabric. If you can avoid it, don’t use a paper towel or other material to blot or wipe the paint. That will just push the paint in further and spread it around. Instead, take an object like a butter knife and scrape away as much paint as possible.
If you’re able to toss it in the washing machine, do so right away and let soap and hot water take care of it. Add a pre-treat product to the affected area first if you have any on hand. If you can’t get to a washing machine, submerge the piece of clothing in water until you can. The key is to avoid letting the paint dry. Wet acrylic paint is much easier to loosen and remove. If you can’t remove the article of clothing where you are to submerge it, splash a bit of water on it or keep a damp towel over the area until you can get it in the wash.
Check the area before you put the piece of clothing in the dryer. If there’s still a bit of paint left, try using a butter knife again to scrape stuck-on paint from the fibers, and then put it back in for another wash. Don’t put it in the dryer until the paint is fully out, or you’ll set it into the fibers and make it harder to work with.
How to Get Latex Paint out of Clothes
Latex paint is by far the easiest to remove from clothes. It’s water-based and quick-drying and is often what’s used to paint home interiors. Luckily, you’ll likely have good luck removing latex paint from your clothes, as long as you haven’t let it sit too long.
As with acrylic paint, you’ll want to take a butter knife or similar object and remove as much excess paint as you can. Then, flush the backside of the stain with warm water. Add a couple drops of detergent to the wet spot and scrub it with a sponge or old toothbrush. Rinse and repeat until the latex paint is fully removed. After that, you can wash it as normal when you’re ready. Just be sure to follow the label’s care instructions.
How to Get Oil-Based Paint out of Clothes
Oil-based paint can be tough to remove, given that the residue it leaves behind is greasy and water doesn’t do the trick as well as it does with other paints. First, see if the paint you’re using has cleaning instructions. If it does, use the cleaning agent recommended. If not, follow these steps.
Turn the piece of clothing inside out and lay it on a towel or old t-shirt you don’t mind getting dirty. Apply turpentine or paint thinner to a rag and test it in a hidden area to make sure it doesn’t discolor the fabric. If there isn’t a bad reaction, blot the cleaning agent into the affected area until no more paint comes up. Rinse it thoroughly with water.
Next, fill a basin, tub, or sink with hot, soapy water and leave the garment to soak overnight. The next day, rinse the garment again and wash it in the washing machine as you normally would.
How to Get Dried Paint out of Clothes
If the paint has dried, it will take a little more effort to loosen up. There are a few ways you can try this.
- Hairspray: Saturate the stain with hairspray, and then use a knife or other scraping tool to lift the paint away from the fibers as it softens.
- Nail polish remover: Acetone is great for removing paint. Just soak the tip of a rag in it and press it onto the stain for about a minute. Blot and gently rub away the paint. Make sure to test any acetone-based products on a hidden area before trying this one. Also, be sure to thoroughly rinse the acetone from the garment before putting it through the washing machine and dryer to avoid a fire hazard.
- Isopropyl alcohol: You likely have this in your medicine cabinet. Dab a bit onto the stain and use a sponge or old toothbrush to scrub the paint until it lifts.
After trying any of these methods, run the garment through the washing machine. If no method works, it’s time to take it to a professional dry cleaner.
What to Avoid
Aside from putting paint-stained clothes in the dryer, there are a few other things you should avoid if you want to make stain removal easier. While you may have heard that cleaning agents like vinegar and window cleaner can help remove a paint stain, experts disagree. These cleaners have a high water concentration, which makes them ineffective on insoluble stains. Also, if you consider using ammonia, never mix it with other cleaning agents.
Hopefully at least one of those tips will save your clothes if you spill a bit of paint. As much as possible, try not to use hard cleaning agents that run the risk of damaging your clothes — and ending up on your skin. If you really want to take great care of your clothes (and your health), use a natural laundry detergent, like our detergent pods. They’re gentle but super effective on stains, and they don’t contain any of the nasty ingredients many detergents do.
Download Our Free Guide to Sustainable Living.
From reducing waste to recycling and upcycling, our e-book shows simple ways to make choices you can feel good about.