How to Clean Paint Off of Clothing

Even when you do your best to prepare and protect items before opening that first can of paint, chances are you will end with at least a few splatters on your clothing. Paint is difficult to remove, but attacking it as soon as possible helps greatly. Dried stains prove significantly more difficult to remove. However, once the paint has dried, there are still a few ways to increase your chances of removal without damaging the fabric.

Removing Wet Paint Stains

Paint often splatters on clothing during renovation projects.
  1. Scrape off any excess paint from the fabric. Do not rub it to remove the paint, as this just spreads the stain and works the paint in to the clothing even more. Instead, use a clean paint stir stick, an old butter knife, or any other disposable implements with a thin, smooth edge to it.

  2. Turn the piece of clothing inside-out and run cold water through it. Work from the back of the clothing in this manner to encourage the paint to move out of the fabric, rather than to soak in to it more. Never use hot water in this process, to avoid making the stain set.

  3. Mix liquid dish detergent and water in a 1:1 ratio and apply it to the stain with a sponge. Use a blotting action instead of agitation. Rinse thoroughly and repeat. If the stain persists after several rounds of this, soak the clothing in cold water for at least one hour, then put it in the washing machine on cold, with detergent. Check the stain before drying the clothing. If you run the clothing through the dryer before the stain is completely removed, it will set permanently. Instead, blot stubborn stains with some acetone on a sponge as a last resort method of removal, suggests Good Housekeeping.

  4. Apply a paint thinner such as rubbing alcohol or turpentine instead of a liquid detergent to oil-based paint stains, suggests Ohio State University Extension. Continue until the paint softens, and then put the piece of clothing in the washer and wash in cold water with detergent.

Removing Dry Paint Stains

  1. Spray the stain thoroughly with a dry cleaning solution. Apply a liquid clothing detergent to the stain and rub vigorously with a sponge. Rinse and repeat several times, until you have removed as much paint as possible.

  2. Use all-fabric bleach remove the dye color from the clothing, applying per the instructions on the bottle. Consider regular liquid bleach, if it will not damage the fabric. This type of bleach is a stronger stain remover than the all-fabric variety.

  3. Wash in cold water, using a heavy duty detergent. Check the clothing for stains before continuing on to drying. Repeat bleach applications as needed, to remove any remaining paint color from the fabric.


  • Never use acetone on clothing with acetate or triacetate in it. It dissolves these fabrics.

About the Author

Kristin Urbauer has been freelance writing since 2009 when she began publishing work for various websites. She enjoys writing on a variety of topics including children, education, gardening, pets, mental health and alternative medicine. She attended the University of Nebraska where she majored in English.