How to Remove Acrylic, Latex and Oil-Based Paint From Clothes

Paint stains aren’t as stubborn as you think. Take action early and you'll be able to remove all types of paint from your clothing.

Paint splatters and spills happen, but don’t let that hold you back from your next project. If you’re worried about ruining your clothing, there are several tried-and-true methods for removing paint from your clothes. The most important thing to keep in mind is that early treatments yield the greatest chance of success.

Stain close up on tshirt, blue paint dirty spot on children clothing

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Stain close up on tshirt, blue paint dirty spot on children clothing

Photo by: Shutterstock/JpegPhotographer

Shutterstock/JpegPhotographer

Whether you showered your shirt in splatters while rolling paint on the ceiling or accidentally rubbed against fresh paint, never fear. With a little work, you can successfully remove the paint from your clothing so that it doesn't become a permanent stain.

Materials and Tools You May Need:

  • plastic knife or spoon
  • cotton cloth
  • Dawn liquid dish soap
  • liquid laundry detergent
  • old toothbrush
  • stain removal spray
  • rubbing alcohol
  • acetone nail polish remover
  • hand sanitizer
  • aerosol hair spray
  • essential oils
  • salt
  • white vinegar
  • ammonia
  • baking soda
  • water

How to Remove Paint Stains From Clothes

  1. Remove excess paint. Use a flat scraping tool, like a plastic knife, a spoon or a cotton cloth to remove any globs of paint. If the paint has already hardened, don’t risk chipping at it — you might damage the garment.
  2. Pretreat the stain. It’s really important to fully treat a stain before laundering a garment. Spot treat the stain with a generous amount of liquid dish soap. Dawn soap is formulated to tackle oils and dirt, making it a great option if you have it on hand. If not, liquid laundry detergent is also a good option. Cover the stain completely and gently rub it into the fibers, including the fibers behind the paint stain. Let it sit for five minutes.
  3. Soak the garment. Once the soap has saturated the fibers around the paint, place the garment in a large bowl or sink basin filled with warm water. Agitate the soap and stain slightly with your fingers so that water circulates around the paint. Then, let it sit for an hour.
  4. Scrub the paint. Remove the garment from the sink or bowl and use a toothbrush to gently agitate the paint stain. Most of it may easily loosen. Some of it might even be gone! Rinse the garment in the sink to wash away the loosened paint. This is a good opportunity to apply a little liquid laundry detergent or stain remover spray directly to the affected area for an extra kick of cleaning power as it enters the washing machine.
  5. Wash the garment. Load the garment with similar items or old towels and wash in warm or hot water.
  6. Inspect the stain and re-treat if necessary. It’s important to check the stain before transferring the garment into the dryer. It may still need more treatment. Avoid putting the garment into the dryer until the stain is no longer visible; the dryer heat can make stains more permanent.
A gray shirt with a yellow paint stain is pretreated with dish soap.

How to Remove Paint From Clothing

A latex paint stain on a t-shirt is being pretreated with liquid dish soap.

©Emily Fazio

Emily Fazio

A latex paint stain on a t-shirt is being pretreated with liquid dish soap.

How to Remove Latex and Acrylic Paint Stains From Clothing

Latex paint, commonly used for both interior and exterior spaces, is water-soluble and easy to wash from solid surfaces, as is artistic acrylic paint. However, when either product gets embedded in the fibers of your clothing, getting the paint out takes a little work. The above treatment should work well, but there are other effective solutions, too.

  • Use alcohol. Several common alcohol-based household items are great at lifting latex paint from clothes. In a pinch, soak the paint stain with rubbing alcohol, apply a squirt of your hand sanitizer, mist it with your aerosol hair spray or soak it with acetone nail polish remover. If you saturate the fibers and rub the paint with a toothbrush, it will scrub away.
  • Use baking soda. Mix baking soda and water to form a paste and apply it directly to the paint stain on your clothing. As it dries, the baking soda will help treat the garment and lift the stain.
  • Use essential oils. Applying a few drops of essential oil to a paint spot will soak into the fibers around the stain and make it easy to loosen the paint.
  • Try a tougher pre-soak. Soak the affected garment in a mixture of two parts ammonia, two parts white vinegar and one part table salt. Allow the garment to sit in the mixture overnight. In the morning, you’ll be able to remove the paint with an old toothbrush.

How to Remove Oil-Based Paint Stains From Clothes

Unlike water-soluble paints, oil-based paint is durable (and stubborn). The resin in the paint adheres very well to all surfaces and dries to a hard coating. Not only is it difficult to remove from solid surfaces if you leave splatters during a project, but it’s also a little more complicated to remove from the fibers of your clothing. Keep in mind: These cleaning treatments should be performed in a well-ventilated space or outdoors.

  • Use mineral spirits or paint thinner. Just like you’d use these products to clean your paintbrushes at the end of an oil painting project, paint thinner or mineral spirits can be applied directly to a garment to thin the paint. After thinning and rinsing the stain with water, pretreat as usual and launder until the stain is gone.
  • Use turpentine. Powerful enough to treat dried oil paint stains, you can apply a little turpentine to your garment to soften and dissolve the stain. Use a toothbrush to scrub away the paint and rinse until the garment is clean.
Happy little child having fun doing finger painting at home

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A child fingerpainting with water-soluble paints.

Photo by: RainStar

RainStar

A child fingerpainting with water-soluble paints.

Are Water-Soluble Paints Easy to Remove From Clothes?

Acrylic, tempera, watercolors, gouache, milk paint and children’s finger paints are examples of water-soluble paints. Latex house paint is also water-soluble. These paints more easily dissolve with water, making it less likely that they’ll permanently affect surfaces and garments.

Nonetheless, being water-soluble doesn’t mean you can just throw these garments into the washing machine. Diligently follow the pre-treating steps to give the fibers a fighting chance and avoid putting the garment into the dryer before the stain is entirely removed.

cleaning stain off of a shirt

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Dabbing an oil-based paint stain with solvent to loosen and remove the paint.

Photo by: Andy Vinson of Loch & Key Productions

Andy Vinson of Loch & Key Productions

Dabbing an oil-based paint stain with solvent to loosen and remove the paint.

Tips For Removing Dry Paint From Clothing

It’s always easier to remove paint from clothing if you pre-treat before the paint dries, but if the paint is already dry, not all is lost. It’s most important to remember that you should remove the stain before putting your clothing into the dryer because the dryer heat can set stains into the clothing fibers.

  • Soaking dried latex paint stains in a 2:2:1 mixture of vinegar, ammonia and salt is a powerful way to lift paint from clothing fibers before laundering.
  • Use a paint solvent like turpentine to tackle dried oil-based paint stains on clothing. The turpentine will soften the stain and make it easier to follow the traditional stain-treating process.
  • Water-soluble paints that have dried won’t require as much elbow grease, but you should still coat the paint in liquid dish soap or laundry detergent for an hour to loosen the stain and prepare the fibers.

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