Removing Paint from Clothing

Paint is a chemical compound designed to cling onto surfaces and stay there for long periods of time. By default paint is a transparent liquid chemical which is dyed with special pigments in order to give it the desired colour. It is these pigments in combination with chemicals in the paint that amplify the pigments and cause them to stick and spread over surfaces and materials. Removing paint stains from clothing may seem impossible, but there are ways to succeed. Here are some basic consideration when tackling paint stains:

  • Paint boxesRegardless of what type of paint you are dealing with, number one priority is to act fast. Once paint dries up, the stain is permanent and will not be removed. If you cannot apply the right cleaning products there and then, at least keep the stain wet for the time being.
  • Remove excess paint from the fabric – best done using a spoon or a butter knife, scrape as much of the paint as possible, then daub at the stain with a wet cloth to soften and remove some of the paint stuck between fibres.
  • If the stain has dried up, again try and scrape off as much as you can using a dull blade or butter knife, hard bristled brush might also help.

Water based paints

Removing water based paint stains from clothing is much easier than dealing with oil based paint (acrylic although water based is harder to remove than normal water based). Remember, paint is designed to stick to things, and to stain them so there is a chance that stains will not come off completely.

  • Flush out as much of the paint as possible off the fabric under stream of hot water. Do this on the reverse side of the fabric (reverse to the stained area).
  • Treat the stained area with detergent while still wet, apply your selected detergent using a sponge and blot at the stain. Rinse and repeat the blotting as many time as necessary to yield optimal results. Stain will not likely come off first time around.
  • Treat the stain with rubbing alcohol, spirit will dilute and remove many stains. However do not use things like nail polish remover as they will burn through synthetic fibre clothing and most likely destroy the garment.
  • Using commercial stain removers (industry grade detergents) – if you have access to such cleaning products, it might be worth giving them a go, but remember to read labels and follow instructions before application. For best results, wash clothing immediately in washing machine after treating the stain.

Oil based stains

Removing oil based paints from any surface or material is much harder so be patient, and keep in mind the stain might not come off.

  • If possible read the label on the particular oil based paint tin to see what paint remover/thinner to use for cleaning.
  • If no specific thinner instructions are provided, treat the stain with white spirits (not alcohol beverages) such as mineral turpentine (turps).
  • Follow up the spirit treatment by soaking the fabric in laundry detergent and hot water, for at least eight hours.
  • As final step, scrub at the stain using a hard bristled brush or something similar and then wash it in washing machine.


About the author: Nathaniel Jamesson, a seasoned cleaning consultant, boasts over two decades of expertise in sustainable and efficient cleaning practices. Recognized for his innovative techniques, Nathaniel aids both commercial and residential spaces in achieving pristine environments, promoting health and elevating aesthetics.