How to Remove Paint from Clothes

With stain removal, the basic principle is that “like cleans like”.

There are water-based paints / stains and there are oil-based paints / stains.

Tools and Prep: Adequate ventilation, gloves to protect your hands, glass or disposable container, clean lint-free rags / paper towels, and a toothbrush.

3 x Types of Paint

1. Oil Paint / Enamel Paint = oil-based

Turn the garment inside-out. Pour a bit of Lacquer Thinners into a glass bowl. Do not use a plastic container as Lacquer Thinners will deform and dissolve the plastic. Let the paint-soiled area soak in the glass bowl of Thinners for about 30 minutes. Lift the garment out and lay the soiled patch over paper towel. The idea is to transfer the paint to the paper towel. Stubborn stains may need rubbing with an old toothbrush to dislodge debris from between the fibers of the fabric. Even rubbing on the wrong side of the fabric may cause dye to be removed. This garment should rather be tossed, patched or fabric painted. If the stain is gone, wash out the Thinners in the bucket of soapy water to remove as much solvent residue as possible. Pre-soak the garment in a bucket filled with warm water and dishwashing liquid solution. Wash and dry it as you would normally.

2. Acrylic / PVA Paint = water-based and permanent

Pour a bit of water into a glass or plastic bowl. Let the paint-soiled area soak in the bowl of water overnight. Rinse the area under running water. Acrylic or PVA paint dries like a thin coat of plastic and the soaking should soften it so that it peels off. Stubborn stains may need rubbing with an old toothbrush to dislodge debris from between the fibers of the fabric. Even rubbing on the wrong side of the fabric may cause dye to be removed. Such a garment should rather be tossed, patched or fabric painted. If the stain is gone, wash and dry it as you would normally.

3. Gouache / Poster / School / Tempera / Watercolour Paint = water-based and non-permanent

Flake off as much dried paint as you can. Soak the entire garment in soapy water overnight. Rinse under running water and check the degree of any remaining stain. While the garment is still wet, dab the area generously with a household bathroom and kitchen cleaner. The ammonia and bleach they contain will not remove clothing dye. It is rubbing that may remove some dyes. Stubborn stains may need rubbing with an old toothbrush to dislodge debris from between the fibers of the fabric. If the dye starts to come off, then this garment should rather be tossed, patched or fabric painted. If the stain is gone, wash and dry it as you would normally.

Additional Tips for Whites

Have you noticed how toothpaste tends to beach colours when spilled whilst brushing ones teeth? I have tried almost everything to clean the collars and cuffs of white shirts, but still the marks persist. Mix a gloopy foamy solution of toothpaste and water. Dab this generously on the stains of your white clothing or linen and leave them to dry. Then, usually the next day, wash and dry them as you would normally.

Another trick with whites is to use whatever stain-remover will lighten the stain. Do what you normally do and before you hang up the items to dry, if you not happy with their whiteness, dab pure bleach onto the areas in the bath or kitchen sink. Leave for about 30 minutes. Rinse the bleach away and hang up the items to dry.

Send us feedback on your stain-removing failures and successes!

Let us not let getting messy take away the joy of play or stifle our creativity!


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