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Here’s How to Remove Paint from Clothes

It may not be too late to save your favorite shirt.

Country Living

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a blue shirt stained with white paint

CaptionPhoto by czarny_bez/Getty Images

You probably have a set of old clothes that you use for painting, but sometimes, accidents happen! You brush by the door and get wet paint on some of your good clothes. Now what? Whether you’re painting the kitchen cabinets, giving a dresser a makeover, or crafting with the kids, it’s a bummer when you get splatters or spills on a favorite item of clothing. “The biggest thing to remember is that you’ve got to act quickly,” says Michael Silva-Nash, executive vice president of Molly Maid of Greater Little Rock. “The longer you wait, the more work you’ll have to do later.” And, unfortunately, once the paint dries, there’s a good chance you may be out of luck at removing a stain—though it’s always worth a shot! Besides, if a favorite garment is already ruined, there’s no harm in trying to remove the paint with these simple techniques, which can be used on both wet and dry paint.

How do I get water-based paints out of clothes?

Both latex (used for painting walls and ceilings) and acrylic or craft paints are water-based so they’re easier to remove than other types. Start by scraping off any blobs of paint with a flat edge such as a putty knife or butter knife. Then from the back side of the garment, start flushing with warm (not hot!) running water. If possible, do this in a utility sink or at an outdoor faucet with a hose because it can be messy, says Silva-Nash. Keep flushing with water for several minutes; the stain should begin to dissipate. Garments such as a T-shirts rinse out more quickly than heavier ones like jeans.

Next, dab on a few drops of dish soap, such as Dawn, directly on the stain on the front side of the garment. Don’t rub it into the fabric; a scrubbing action will make the stain worse! Keep rinsing from the backside. Repeat until no more paint is removed. Once you’ve removed all you can, rinse and wash the garment separately. But don’t put it in the dryer unless you’re sure the stain has been removed. If a shadow remains, you can attempt the process again.

How do I get oil-based paints out of clothes?

Oil-based paint is used for areas where you need durability, such as moldings and trim work. This type is tougher to remove from clothes, says Silva-Nash. Scrape off the excess, then use a clean white rag to blot up as much paint as you can. Place a piece of cardboard between the layers of the garment so you don’t spread the stain to another section of the clothing. Next, dab the stain with paint thinner (the type recommended on the paint can’s label) from the back side of the fabric with a clean rag or white paper towel. But don’t try this on acetate fabrics because they will melt!

Keep dabbing with a fresh paper towel or rag until you don’t pick up any more paint from the spot. It’s also a good idea to do this outside or over a dishpan so you don’t get the mess everywhere. If no more paint is coming off, apply a few drops of dish soap directly to the stain, then flush with water from the inside out. If a stain remains, treat with a pre-wash and launder separately.

What if I can’t get paint out of clothes?

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, the stain won’t budge. “Cut your losses and splatter it with some more paint,” says Silva-Nash. “If it’s not salvageable, you might as well make the best of it. People pay lots of money for this look from designers!”

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This post originally appeared on Country Living and was published October 22, 2020. This article is republished here with permission.

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