How to Remove Paint From Clothes


Of course we all know that we should wear old clothing when painting, but there are times when getting paint on our clothes is unavoidable. It doesn’t take much to brush up against a freshly painted door frame or rub slightly against a wall and there you have it. Your best outfit is ruined. Or is it? Chances are if you are near a water source you may be able to get that paint out easily enough. But if you are not in a place where you can get that garment off, you just might need to take further steps.

Is It Oil Based or Latex Paint?

If in a quandary over how to remove paint from clothes, the first thing to do is try to determine whether it is oil based or latex paint. They both have their advantages and disadvantages as far as trying to remove them from clothing should you inadvertently get paint on you. While latex is water based and easily removed with soap and water if you catch the stain before it dries, latex also dries rather quickly within an hour or two. This makes it much more difficult to treat the stain. Oil based paint stains, on the other hand, are much more difficult to remove once they have dried but the beauty is, it can take as long as 24 to 48 hours for this type of paint to fully dry so you have a little more time to ‘play with’ should you need to get home to remove your clothing.

How to Remove Latex Paint

Remember, latex paint is water based so if you catch the stain right away your chances are very good for removing the paint completely. If you don’t know what kind of paint it is you might be able to tell by the odor. Latex does not have that strong odor to it and if the smell of paint in the room or area where you are is really strong, chances are it’s not latex. With wet latex paint simply rinse the area with warm sudsy water and rinse. The paint should come completely out. If the paint dries, follow these steps to remove it:

1. Generously saturate with hairspray or isopropyl alcohol.

2. Gently rub the hairspray/alcohol into the spot.

3. Rinse.

4. Check to see that paint is gone, if not repeat steps 1 through 3.

5. Launder as usual.

Just try not to rub the spot too harshly or you may damage your clothing, especially if it is a delicate article. You can continue to repeat the first three steps as many times as needed to remove the paint, but don’t launder and dry the clothing until all the paint is removed or you may not get it all out.

Removing Oil Based Paint

Removing oil based paint is a little more difficult, especially if you have let it fully dry before you notice the spot. Also, the more delicate the article of clothing, the more difficult it will be to get the paint out. One thing to be aware of is that if it is oil based paint, water will not work to remove it. Actually, trying to use water may make matters worse because it will ‘gum’ the paint up. In this case you would need a solvent to remove the paint. There are a couple of commercially available solvents which are available in most home improvement stores that you could try. The first one you may already have on hand! If the oil based paint spot is small, try some WD-40.

1. Spray spot with WD-40.

2. Gently rub it in.

3. Wipe with clean rag.

4. Repeat steps 1 through 3 as many times as needed.

5. Check for oil residue.

6. Soak in warm sudsy water.

7. Rinse in warm water.

8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 until the oil is gone.

9. Launder as usual.

Because WD-40 is a petroleum based solvent, it is by nature oily/greasy. It will most likely get the paint out if it hasn’t dried enough to be completely set, but may also leave a grease spot on your clothing. For this reason, it is important to then treat the grease stain before laundering. Another solvent that many people recommend is Krud Kutter, also available at home improvement stores. Whichever solvent you choose to try, follow the above steps for best results.

The crux of the matter is this. If you can catch the paint, whether latex or oil based, before it dries, your chances are quite good of removing it completely. Unfortunately, once the paint has dried you will need to work at it more aggressively to get it all out. If that item is delicate you just might damage it in the process, so be very careful when scrubbing at the paint. Learning how to remove paint from clothes isn’t difficult. The hard part is not getting it there in the first place!

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Jamey Wagner

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