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How to Remove Wet Paint From Carpet

Spilling paint on carpet isn't the end of the world. Latex paints clean easily with soap and water, and oil-based paints dissolve with solvents.

Paint spruces up walls, cabinets and trim, but it doesn’t look so great slopped all over the carpet. First, don’t panic: Wet latex paint cleans up fairly easily with water and dishwashing soap. But if you spilled oil-based paint, forget the soap and water; instead, head for the solvent you use to clean your paintbrushes.

No matter what type of paint you spilled, work quickly to remove it, starting by soaking up the excess.

Dealing With Splatters

When vigorous painting or a dropped brush sent a few splatters flying on to your carpet, disregard the "work quickly" advice; instead, wait about 30 minutes for the paint to dry. Peel off the dried bits of paint with a pair of tweezers or, if that fails, snip off the tops of the affected carpet fibers with a pair of cuticle scissors.

Keep the Spill Confined

Latex- and oil-based paint spills are easier to clean up when they're in a contained area. Surround the perimeter of the spill with old towels or something absorbent; sawdust or cat litter work well. If it's just a small spill, you can skip this, but if the spill is larger than your palm, this extra step will save you trouble later.

Grab a roll of paper towels and start sopping up the paint, using blotting motions. Do not scrub or move the paper towel across the carpet in any way. For larger spills, let the towels do the work for you at first. Detach two sheets from the roll and fold them over each other: Drop these on the paint; let the towels soak up the spill for several seconds; remove the towels and repeat. Repeat the procedure until you can see the carpet fibers; then, use gentle blotting motions to remove as much of the excess as you can.

Latex Paint Spills

Fill a spray bottle with shower-temperature water and spray the remaining mark until the area is wet again, and the paint looks a bit gummy. The warm water reconstitutes the paint, making it easier for the soap to break it down.

Blot the area with towels until the towels come up clean. Fill a bowl with warm water and a few drops of dish soap. Using a sponge, dab the area -- again, using blotting motions -- until the carpet is spill free. Wet a clean sponge with clean water, and dab at the spot one more time to remove the soap residue.

Treating Oil-Based Paint Spills

Although latex paint cleans up easily with soap and water, oil-based paint will just scoff at your efforts. Check your paint can to see what the manufacturer recommends for cleanup: Paint thinner or mineral spirits are common, but formulas vary. Grab a handful of white rags and wet them lightly with the recommended solvent and dab at the stain, moving to a new area of the rag with each dab until the paint lifts completely. If the blotting doesn’t work, try gently scrubbing in one direction, not back and forth.

When you’re satisfied, mix a few drops of dish soap with warm water, clean the area gently with a sponge, and then use a clean, damp sponge to remove the residue.

Here’s the bad news: The paint may not completely disappear, and any solvent runs the risk of damaging your carpet. However, solvents are the only thing that will completely remove oil-based paint. If this method fails, you may have to patch the carpet.

When You’re Done

Once the oil or latex paint is completely cleaned up, tend to your perimeter if you used cat litter or sawdust. Hold a dust pan on the inside of the perimeter and use a soft brush or towel to brush the product into the pan. Wait until the area is completely dry, and then vacuum up the residue.

Tip

If you can't tackle the spill immediately, cover it loosely with plastic wrap to keep the paint wet. Just don't press the plastic wrap into the carpet -- it could push the paint further down into the fibers, making it more difficult to remove.

Tip

Don’t skip: Open windows and point a fan directly at the wet area – you need it to dry as quickly as possible to prevent mold or mildew development.

Warning

Keep the room well-ventilated when cleaning with solvents. Turn on fans, open windows and doors, and wear a face mask and gloves.

Tip

You'll probably go through a few rags until you achieve the desired results. After you use up one rag, dab the carpet with a dry rag to remove excess solvent before wetting another rag and treating the stain again. This prevents the solvent from getting down to the base of the carpet, where it's most apt to cause damage.

Warning

Always dispose of anything saturated with solvents properly; exposure to warm air or direct sunlight can cause them to catch fire. Fill a sealable metal container with cold water, add the rags you used for cleaning, and put on the lid. Contact your local waste disposal company to find out how to dispose of the items.

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