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How to Get Paint Out of Clothes: 10 Easy Solutions

It's no secret that painting is a messy task. Next time you notice a paint splotch on your clothing, try out one of these simple solutions to remove it.

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Color splash with white cloth backgroundDokmaihaeng/Shutterstock

Not all paint is created equal

The best solution for how to get paint out of clothes will depend on a couple of different things. Firstly, it depends on how quickly you notice the paint stain. If you notice the paint as soon as it hits your clothes, or while it’s still mostly wet, you’re best off using a spoon or a knife to try to scoop off as much as possible before it dries, and then break out your chosen stain remover to deal with whatever’s left. Dealing with a dry paint stain is a little tougher, but there are plenty of simple household hacks for tackling dry paint stains. Secondly, the best method for how to get paint out of clothes will depend on the type of paint it is. So before you start scrubbing at the stain, make sure you know which kind of paint you’re dealing with—it’ll help you choose the right solution to get it gone. You’ll also want to check out these simple ways to remove grease stains.

macro shot of dish soap being squeezed onto green sponge in aluminum sinkJim Barber/Shutterstock

Dish detergent

If the stain is from a water-based, latex paint—this is the kind of paint that’s best for large painting projects, like walls or ceilings—dish detergent should be your go-to stain remover. First, rinse the stained fabric with a little bit of warm water. Then dab the stain with a rag soaked with water and a little bit of dishwashing liquid. Let the solution sit for a few minutes, and then scrub and rinse with warm water. After repeating this treatment as needed, wash the garment in cold water. This method also works on acrylic paint, a glossy paint favored by crafters using surfaces like wood and canvas, especially if the paint is still slightly wet. One crucial thing to know before attempting this technique, though, is to make sure the clothes are color safe; otherwise, treating the clothing with dish soap may make it run. Here’s what gives Dawn dish soap it’s magical powers.

blue ethyl alcohol liquid in plastic transparent bottle on green surgery backgroundVacharapong W/Shutterstock

Rubbing alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is another great solution for removing latex paint stains. This is a great solution to try right off the bat and is also a good one to try if using dishwashing liquid doesn’t work. First, wet the stain with some warm water so that the stained spot is damp. Then soak a cotton ball or a toothbrush (that you’re finished using, of course!) in rubbing alcohol and scrub it on the stain. Rinse it with warm water and repeat the process as needed. Rubbing alcohol is also a tried-and-true method for removing acrylic paint stains. Once you’ve treated the stain, throw the garment in the wash to remove the final traces of the stain and the alcohol. Find out some super-simple ways to remove sweat stains from your clothes, too.

A woman's hand applies the remover on a cotton swabvladdon/Shutterstock

Acetone nail polish remover

Nail polish remover has a similar effect on paint stains as rubbing alcohol. It is most effective on latex paints, so soaking a rag in it and then blotting the stain should help loosen up most of the paint. Toss the garment in the wash once you’ve treated the stain. For this method, though, it’s important to make sure that the fabric of the clothing doesn’t contain acetate or triacetate. The acetone in nail polish remover can damage those fibers. Find out how to remove more types of stains.

Aerosol dispensertsyklon/Shutterstock

Hairspray

Hairspray is also an effective tool for how to get paint out of clothes, especially if the stain you’re dealing with is on the smaller side. Since many aerosol hairsprays contain alcohol, spraying a stain can help loosen lingering latex paint. Spray the stain until it’s fully covered, and then give it a good scrub with an old toothbrush. This should loosen up the paint. You can also try running warm water over the stain after you’ve scrubbed it, and/or spritzing it with regular laundry stain remover. Then throw it in the washing machine. By the way—here’s a quick guide on how to get makeup out of clothes.

handsanitizerElizaveta Galitckaia/Shutterstock

Hand sanitizer

Just like hairspray, hand sanitizer contains some alcohol, so it can help loosen up a latex paint stain in a pinch. The method for this one is pretty similar to using hairspray: Cover the stain in hand sanitizer, scrub away with a toothbrush, and then throw the garment in the wash. If you’re really worried about getting a stain out, you can also use both hand sanitizer and hairspray for double the stain-fighting power. If you get paint on your carpet, don’t worry—here’s a guide on how to get paint out of carpet.

Spoon of salt, sugar, soda with glass of waterAlexeysun/Shutterstock

Salt, vinegar, and ammonia

Here’s how to get paint out of clothes with this trio of household staples. Mix a tablespoon of salt with two tablespoons of vinegar and two tablespoons of ammonia. Using a rag or old toothbrush soaked in the mixture, scrub at the stain until it comes out. If the stain is large and/or being especially stubborn, fill the sink with water and mix in some more of the ingredients, keeping the ratio of two parts ammonia and vinegar to one part salt the same. Leave the stained garment in the sink several hours or overnight to soak, and then scrub the stain with a toothbrush again. Learn more household vinegar uses you never knew about.

Close-up Of A Woman's Hand Pouring Detergent In The Blue Bottle CapAndrey_Popov/Shutterstock

Laundry detergent

Sometimes the simplest solution is the best. If you’re dealing with acrylic paint, try soaking a rag in liquid detergent and rubbing the stain with it. If you’re worried about the strength of the undiluted detergent, or you’re working with a more delicate fabric, mix the detergent with some water and apply that to the stain. Blot and rub the stain as needed. This method also works well on spray paint, according to firstforwomen.com. Make sure you’ve thoroughly soaked the stain in the detergent before rinsing. Learn the old-school cleaning tricks everyone forgets.

A bottle of essential oil with fresh blooming lavender twigsMadeleine Steinbach/Shutterstock

Lavender essential oil

Here’s another ultra-easy solution for removing small latex paint stains. All you have to do is drop five to seven drops of lavender essential oil on the stain and let it sit for about half an hour. Once the oil has soaked in, use an upside-down spoon or a butter knife to scrape off as much of the loosened paint as possible. If all of the paint doesn’t come off, repeat as needed or try out one of the other methods. Learn about some common household items that can remove blood stains, too.

Pine turpentine essential oil in glass bottle with pine coniferous leaves and pine cone on wooden table. Kiefer turpentinHalil ibrahim mescioglu/Shutterstock

Turpentine

Oil paint is the trickiest type of paint to remove from clothing, thanks to its durable oil base. This base makes it better at standing up to wear and tear, making it a good choice for painting trim or outdoor paint jobs. Removing oil paint stains is a pain, but not impossible. Other methods of removing paint from clothes probably won’t work for oil paint, so you may have to break out some stronger substances. If you don’t have any paint thinner on hand, turpentine has similar effects on oil paint. Whichever substance you choose, start by placing the garment, stain down, on a stack of paper towels. Dab the stain to thin out the paint, replacing the paper towels as needed. Since paint thinner and turpentine both have pretty strong odors, you might want to do this outdoors. Once you’ve removed most of the stain, treat it with stain remover or a mix of water and dish detergent, for good measure, and wash it normally. Find out ways to clean tricky household objects.

Tape round arttadaki crew/Shutterstock

Duct tape

They say duct tape can fix everything, and it really does have an incredible range of uses. Sure enough, one of them is getting paint out of clothing. This works best on latex paint that’s completely dry. Making sure you don’t wet the fabric first, try loosening some of the paint by scraping it with a butter knife, an old toothbrush, or an emery board. Then take a small piece of duct tape and use the sticky side to pry up as much of the paint as you can. Just press the tape firmly to the stain and lift. Next, find out some simple solutions for removing ink stains, as well as how to get blood out of clothes.

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a Staff Writer for RD.com who has been writing since before she could write. She graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English and has been writing for Reader's Digest since 2017. In spring 2017, her creative nonfiction piece "Anticipation" was published in Angles literary magazine.