Written by Grove Collaborative

We Tried It: How to Remove Paint from Clothes

Last Updated: August 18, 2022

Whether you’re an artiste or you’re just trying to paint the bathroom, we’ve got home remedies to remove acrylic and latex paint stains from your clothes with natural products and a lil’ elbow grease.

“The Color of My Tears When Friends Ended.” “Disco Nap.” “Arsenic.” “Dead Salmon.” These are all names of actual paint colors you might’ve accidentally dripped on your favorite pair of jeans or that t-shirt you’ve had since college. Don’t stress! It is possible to remove paint stains from clothes — yes, even “Barney’s Blood” — provided you’ve got the right supplies and a heavy dose of patience. But first, let’s talk shop.

Different types of water-based paint stains

Acrylic paint stains

Acrylic paint is water-based, fast-drying, and commonly used for crafts. Acrylic paints take a bit more effort to remove because after drying, they turn into a plastic-like substance that really adheres to fabrics.

Latex paint stains

Latex paint is water-based, quick-drying, and often used for painting walls. Latex paints are easier to clean up than acrylic paints, but latex stain removal is most effective while the stain is wet.

Grove Tip

Don't wait to attack a stain

“West Coast Ghost” isn’t going to remove itself — in fact, it’s going to sink deeper into the fabric fibers, haunting your fav sweater for the rest of its days. Remove the paint as soon as you can — the faster you get to it, the higher your chances of a successful stain exorcism.

What you’ll need to remove paint stains

Find the best paint stain removal products on Grove

We tried it: How to get paint out of clothes

Oh, no! Now look what happened!

First of all, we’ve got to say it: What were you thinking, painting in your good clothes? Next time, change into something grubby — or get yourself an apron to wear when you’re doing dirty deeds that can defile your duds.

But let’s not cry over spilled paint just yet — we’re going to try the paint-out-of-clothes method most recommended by experts.

From left to right: 100% cotton top; 87% cotton/12% polyester/1% lycra shorts; 95% rayon/5% Spandex top

Step 1: Scrape

Remove the excess paint on your clothes with a dull knife or the straight, sturdy edge of a credit card or piece of cardboard. Work slowly and carefully so you don’t spread the blobs of wet paint around and make matters even worse.

Step 2: Rinse

Turn the garment inside out or maneuver it so you can run warm water over the paint from the back side of the fabric. Massage the fabric gently to help loosen the stain.

Step 3: Blot

Concoct a 1:1 mixture natural dish soap and water. Dampen the microfiber cloth, dip a corner into the solution, and gently and thoroughly blot at the paint. Dip a clean corner in the solution, and blot a little more enthusiastically — it’s unlikely to spread at this point.

Step 4: Rinse

After you’ve blotted all you can blot, rinse the stain under warm running water, again from the back side of the fabric. Here’s what this looked like after blotting and rinsing. You may feel a little disheartened if the stain hasn’t improved after this step (we kinda did) — but don’t give up yet.

Step 5: Scrub

Grab an old toothbrush, and dip it in the soap and water solution. Scrub the stain in a circular motion. Get it nice and soapy. Scrub, scrub, scrub! Do it again, this time on the back side of the fabric. When you’re all scrubbed out, walk away for 30 minutes and let the paint think about what it’s done. Don’t lose track of the time — you don’t want the garment to dry.

Step 6: Wash

Toss the clothing in the washing machine. Use the hottest water temperature the garment will allow, which you’ll find on the care label. Add your usual laundry detergent and a booster to help release the stain from deep within the fibers.

The verdict: Does paint come out of clothes?

Maybe some clothes, but on the ones we tried, not entirely. But the stains look far better, and repeating the process before tossing the items in the dryer might fade them even more.

The bottom line? It’s not easy to remove paint from clothes, even if you catch it while it’s wet. But it’s definitely worth a shot, since different types of fabrics will have different results.

Paint stain FAQs

How do I remove paint stains from carpet and upholstery?

Uh, oh! First, carefully scoop off what you can. Then, dip a microfiber cloth in a 1:1 solution of dish soap and water, and dab at the paint. Rinse the cloth often, and repeat until the stain (hopefully) disappears.

How do I remove dried paint from clothes?

Removing dried paint from clothes is more difficult than removing wet paint, but if you want to give it a shot, use the same method as for wet paint. If it doesn’t budge, soak a cotton ball or old toothbrush with rubbing alcohol and work it into the dried paint. If nothing happens after a couple of minutes, nothing probably will. But if you notice the stain loosening or lightening, keep at it — it might take some time, but you can probably get it out.

How do I remove oil paint from clothes?

Yikes, are those pants really worth the time and effort it will take to remove oil paint? The hardest paint to remove from anything? If so, paint thinner or turpentine is your solution. Use it like the soap solution — dab it, see what happens, scrub it, let it sit a while. Rinse, and then soak the stain with the 1:1 dish soap and water solution. Let it sit for 30 minutes, then wash as usual. If the paint didn’t come out, it’s probably not going to. Toss the garment in the clothes recycling bag — and next time, put on a smock before you paint!

Shop Grove for more natural stain removers

Spills happen, but Grove Collaborative has you covered with Stain Busters. Each week, we’ll tell you how to tackle a different tough stain around the home or on your clothes. Red wine, grass stains, ink ... no stubborn stain is a match for our grime-busting guides.

Looking for more cleaning how-tos and other sustainable swaps you can make at home? Grove has you covered with our buying and cleaning guides. And let us know how if you have any cleaning questions (or share your own tips using #grovehome) by following Grove Collaborative on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

If you're ready to take on more stains, shop Grove Collaborative's cleaning essentials for the cleaning tools to tackle the job.

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