Written by Grove Collaborative

Stain Busters: How to remove paint from clothes

Last Updated: December 15, 2020


Discover how to remove paint from clothes effectively. Learn which steps and materials are needed to save your favorite clothing items!

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.

Paint stains can be quite frustrating. Especially when you mess up your favorite pair of jeans or that t-shirt you’ve had since college. Try not to stress though, all is not lost. It is possible to remove paint stains from clothing, provided you’ve got the right help and a whole lot of elbow grease! First though, let’s talk shop.

Different types of paint stains

Acrylic paint stains

Acrylic paint is a water-soluble paint made with pigment, that is suspended in acrylic polymer emulsion and plasticizers. It is water-based, made with chemicals, fast-drying, and becomes water-resistant when dry. Acrylic paints are difficult to remove because after drying, it turns into a plastic-like substance. The stain removal method will depend on the type of surface the stain is on.

Latex paint stains

Latex paint is made from acrylic resin, similar to acrylic paint. It is water-based, quick-drying, and an ideal choice for modern interiors. Latex paint is easy to clean up with water and soap, and cleaning is most effective while the stain is wet.

Oil paint stains

Oil paint is a paint made with pigment that’s suspended in a drying oil. This is most commonly linseed oil. It is slow-drying and forms a water-resistant layer once dry. Oil paint leaves behind greasy stains that can be nearly impossible to remove. The best option is to clean the stain as quickly as you can, while it is still wet.

Best natural stain removers

How to get paint out of clothes

Depending on the composition of the paint, as well as the surface of the spill or stain, there can be different tools and methods for cleaning a paint stain effectively.

Acrylic paint stains

Remember that removing acrylic paint from clothes can be tricky but not insurmountable.

Method 1:

If the stain is still wet when you notice it, flush it with water or soak it in a basin right away until the discoloration decreases significantly. Then use a stain-remover and pre-treat the stained area. Wash as labelled.

Method 2:

To remove dried acrylic paint, soak the stained area with rubbing alcohol so that it is completely saturated. Then, using a dull knife, spoon, coin, or even your fingernail, scratch at the paint to scrape it off. Wash and dry as specified on the clothing item label. Repeat if the stain is not completely removed the first time.

Latex paint stains

Wet or dry, latex paint is by far the easiest to remove from clothing.

Step 1:

If the stain is wet, blot out as much of the excess paint as possible without rubbing it around and making the stained area bigger. If the stain is dry, scrape off the excess with a dull knife or spoon.

Step 2:

Turn over the stained part of the clothing and run it under warm water to try to get out as much of the paint as possible. This will flush out most of it, provided it’s still fresh.

Step 3:

Make a solution of water and liquid dishwashing detergent in equal amounts. Apply the mixture onto the stain with a sponge or clean cloth and let it go to work!

Step 4:

Using a sponge or clean cloth, scrub the stain and try to get a lather from the soapy water. Work at the stain until it comes out completely.

Step 5:

Finally, rinse the clothing with warm water to remove the last of the paint and stain. Launder as labelled.

Step 6:

Optional — if the stain is not removed after scrubbing with detergent, try using a stronger stain-remover.

Oil paint stains

Removing oil paint stains is a multi-step process and is most effective when done carefully and quickly.

Step 1:

Read the back of the paint box for cleaning instructions and use the specified solvent. You can also use a paint thinner or regular turpentine. Set the stained area upside down on a bed of paper towels. With a cotton ball, apply the solvent to the back side of the stain and press it into the paper towels to transfer as much of the paint as possible.

Step 2:

Taking a soft toothbrush, gently scrub the stain to loosen any leftover paint. Dab with paper towels or a lint-free cloth.

Step 3:

Once the stain is completely removed, wash the stained area with soapy water to remove the solvent.

Step 4:

Launder the clothing according to the instructions on the label.

How to get paint out of jeans

For water-based paints, the best way to clean them off of jeans is to treat the stains with rubbing alcohol. For oil-based paints however, the easiest way to remove such stains is to treat them with paint thinners.

How to remove paint from other household objects

Carpeting

To remove paint stains from carpeting, use a chemical-based paint and varnish remover and scrape the paint as it softens. Work on small spots to prevent the paint from spreading and creating a bigger mess.

Upholstery

To clean upholstery, make a solution of dishwashing detergent and water and apply it on the stain with a sponge. Dab, blot, and rinse as needed until the stain disappears.

Truths and myths about products that remove paint stains

Vinegar

Vinegar is an effective way to remove dried paint from hard surfaces such as metal, concrete, wood, etc. Just be sure not to use too much vinegar, and wipe or rinse it away completely to avoid fading.

Hairspray

Due to the alcohol content of hairspray, it is an effective solution to break down paint. Ergo, it makes for a great paint stain remover!

Baking soda

When boiled with water baking soda makes an excellent paint stain remover. Just soak the stained item in hot water mixed with baking soda and let the solution work its magic. Note that the baking soda paint removal trick works best on metal surfaces.

Grove Tip

Don't wait to attack a stain

Remember, as with most stains, the sooner you work to remove paint stains, the higher your chances of success will be.

Stain-removing products


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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