Our Experts Have Tips for Getting Paint Out of Clothes


Whether you’re painting a landscape on an easel or changing the color of your bedroom, painting can be a relaxing pastime or a satisfying DIY project. Regardless of the kind of painting you’re doing, the cleanup can be a real chore, especially if you’ve gotten paint on a surface you didn’t intend to. It may be tempting to just ditch your now paint-stained jeans, but in the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab, we spend a lot of time getting things dirty to find the best way to clean them, including paint-stained clothes.

The trick to removing paint from clothing is treating it as quickly as possible because once the paint dries it may be impossible to remove. Knowing the kind of paint you’re trying to remove is also important — this will determine what you use to remove it. Another thing to keep in mind: While some materials may be able to stand up to these stain treatments, more fragile ones, like silk, may be permanently damaged. To make sure your cleaning products and method won’t do more harm to the material, always do a spot-test first.

Expert Tip: When in doubt call in a professional. A dry cleaner will be able to treat stains without causing any damage to your precious garments.

Latex or Water-Based Paint

Water-based or emulsion paints are the most common type for interior home painting. They’re also relatively easy to remove from clothing if you spot stains quickly enough.

What You’ll Need:

  • Warm water
  • Dish soap
  • Sponge
  • Acetone
  1. Flush the stain under warm water. Fresh paint may rinse out before it dries, but if it’s dry, start by scraping off and tamping the excess paint with a hard object, like the back of a spoon, before you wet the garment. Lighter stains might just need some scraping with your fingernails to remove what’s left. For more stubborn stains or wet latex paint, flush the stain from the back with warm running water.
  2. Mix together an equal parts solution of dish soap and warm water.
  3. Sponge the stain with the solution. Use a sponge you don’t mind ruining or paper towels. Dip the sponge in the solution and sponge the stain vigorously to remove the paint.
  4. Rinse thoroughly. Repeat the steps above until no more paint is removed. If the stain remains and your fabric does not contain acetate or triacetate (acetone will melt these), you can try blotting it with a little bit of acetone.
  5. Rinse and wash as usual. Only move on to this final step once you’ve removed all of the paint from the garment.

Oil-Based Paint

girl painting on canvas

mixetto//Getty Images

What You’ll Need:

  • Paint thinner
  • Clean white cloths or paper towels
  • Sponge
  • Dish soap
  • Pre-wash stain remover
  1. Scrape off the excess paint. Scrape off the excess paint from the garment then use a clean white cloth to blot up as much paint as possible from the fabric. If the stain is dry, you can use a hard tool to help break up the hardened paint.
  2. Rinse the garment. Rinse the stain under running water and move on to the next step before it dries.
  3. Sponge the stain with paint thinner. Place the garment with the stain face down on a stack of white paper towels or cloths. Wet a sponge or clean cloth with the paint thinner the manufacturer recommends and sponge the stain from the back vigorously to remove the paint. Replace the paper towels or cloths when they become too covered in paint and continue sponging until no more paint is removed.
  4. Apply dish soap to the stain and soak in water. Rub dish soap into the stain then place the garment in a tub of water to soak overnight.
  5. Rinse and wash as usual. If the stain still remains after washing, treat with a prewash stain remover and wash again.

Expert Tip: Don’t dry garments until as much of the stain as possible is gone. The heat from the dryer will cause stains to set into the fabric and may make them impossible to remove.

Acrylic Paint

What You’ll Need:

  • Warm water
  • Dish soap
  • Sponge
  1. Flush the paint stain with warm water. If the paint is dry, scrape off the excess before running water over the garment.
  2. Mix together an equal parts solution of dish soap and warm water.
  3. Sponge the stain with the dish soap solution. Dip a sponge into the dish soap and water mixture and squeeze out some of the excess water until the sponge is no longer dripping wet. Break up as much of the stain as possible by sponging vigorously.
  4. Repeat until no more of the paint is removed. Dip the sponge in the mixture periodically to remove any bits of paint that are removed from the fabric and to re-wet the sponge with the solution.
  5. Rinse and wash as usual.

Are there other DIY methods for removing paint from clothing?

There are a lot of DIY methods online for removing paint from clothing. Vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol and even baking soda are touted as being effective. Hydrogen peroxide is great for removing fresh blood stains from clothes and vinegar is the first ingredient in many good DIY cleaners, but they likely aren’t strong enough to completely rid garments of paint stains. You’ll have a better chance at removing them using one of the methods above that use dedicated paint thinners, stain removers and soaps that have been formulated to tackle these kinds of messes.

Can you get paint out of clothes after it’s been washed and dried?

If you tried treating a dried paint stain and had no luck, you may have to accept that your garment is lost. Once paint dries, it is notoriously difficult to get off of fabric and it may even be impossible to remove. In fact, you may just cause more damage trying to remove the stain.

More Expert Tips:

  • Don’t rub. Instead, pat the stain to avoid spreading it to other parts of the fabric.
  • Don’t throw stained garments in the washer with other items to avoid transferring paint to clean clothes.
  • The best way to avoid having to treat paint stains is wearing protective coverings over your clothes or old clothing you won’t care if you damage.
Headshot of Lauren Smith McDonough

Senior Editor

Lauren is a senior editor at Hearst. She was previously the senior editor at WomansDay.com and the home editor at GoodHousekeeping.com and HouseBeautiful.com. Her book club, ramen, and jean jackets are a few of her favorite things.

Headshot of Jodhaira Rodriguez

Home Care & Cleaning Lab Reviews Analyst

Jodhaira (she/her) is a product reviews analyst at the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Home Care & Cleaning Lab, where she tests and writes about home appliances, cleaning products and cleaning tips. Prior to joining GH in 2021, she graduated from Hofstra University with a bachelor’s degree in forensic science and spent two years as an analyst in an environmental lab in Queens.


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