Project Guide

How to Get Paint Out of Clothes

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For Acrylic Paint
A person flushing an acrylic paint stain with warm water.

The method for removing acrylic paint stains is pretty straightforward, so long as you catch it while the paint is still wet. It goes like this: Start by flushing the stained area with warm water, then gently sponge it with a mixture of one part dishwashing liquid and one part warm water. Repeat this process until the stain is gone, then rinse and launder as you normally would. 

If the stain has already dried it will be far more difficult to remove, but you can try taking a few extra steps. First, you can carefully try to scrape the excess paint off of the fabric using a fork or spoon—just be as gentle as possible to avoid damaging the fabric.

Then, apply an alcohol-based cleaner (like nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol) using a clean, dry cloth to break down the plastic surface; this might be a good instance to try spot testing first. Afterward, follow the same method above until the stain disappears (and if it doesn’t, you may want to consult a dry-cleaning pro). 

For Latex or Water-Based Paint
A person blotting a latex paint stain with a warm water and soap.

Just like acrylic, latex and water-based paints are super easy to remove so long as you catch them before they dry. These stains have a removal method that’s pretty much similar to acrylic: Flush the stain under warm running water, making sure to work from the back of the fabric. Then, using a sponge, tamp the stain with a solution of dishwashing soap and warm water; repeat the process until the stain is removed. If it persists, however, try blotting it with acetone. Just don’t forget to double-check the fabric label!

For Oil-Based Paint
A person pouring acetone on a white cloth to remove an oil paint stain from clothes.

Removing oil-based paint stains can get a bit more complicated, however, it’s not impossible. For starters, if the stain is already dried, you can soften it up by treating the spot with the same product the paint’s manufacturer recommends for thinning the paint. Just make sure to check the paint can label and do a spot test, as certain synthetic or delicate fabrics could be susceptible to damage.


If the stain is still wet, you’ll want to start by scraping off any excess paint, blotting up as much paint as possible with a clean white cloth and then rinsing the area (don’t let the fabric dry). Then, lay the stained fabric face down on a stack of white paper towels or clean cloths and blot with turpentine, tamping the stain to help separate the paint. Keep repeating this process until no more paint can be removed. If any stain remains, treat it with liquid hand dishwashing soap and soak it overnight. If the stain is still there, you can try treating it with a pre-wash stain remover before laundering.

When All Else Fails
A paint-spattered shirt.

OK, so those paint splatters simply refuse to come out of that pair of jeans or T-shirt. Fear not, there’s a solution you may not have thought of: Add more paint! Distressed, paint-stained T-shirts, jeans and sneakers can cost hundreds of dollars from the big-name fashion houses...and at least your new paint-distressed T-shirt will have a good story behind it.