A white paint stain on a yellow sweatshirt

How to get paint out of clothes

Paint removal from clothes can be attempted in just a few simple steps: remove excess paint, flush the stain with warm water, saturate the stain with detergent and water, rinse and repeat. 

Although it may take a little bit of work, it’s possible to help get paint out of clothes, so don’t toss your favorite outfit just yet. Learn how to remove fresh and dried paint from clothing with this guide.

Hand blotting white paint on a yellow sweatshirt with a paper towel Hand blotting white paint on a yellow sweatshirt with a paper towel

What to do before removing paint from clothes

First, you need to know the type of paint you’re up against. Most paints are either water-based or oil-based, depending on their composition. Water-based paints include acrylic paints and latex paints. Acrylics are commonly used for artwork and crafts, while latex paints are used for painting walls and ceilings. Oil-based paints are typically glossier than water-based paints and are frequently used for painting trim, cabinetry, metal and wood doors, in addition to walls and ceilings.

If you’re unsure which type of paint you’re dealing with, check the paint can label or packaging. If it’s a water-based paint, you’re in luck, because this type of paint is generally a little easier to remove than oil-based versions. But not to worry, removing oil-based paints from clothing is also achievable. Check out our step-by-step instructions below for how to help remove water-based and oil-based paints from your clothes.

How to get water-based (latex or acrylic) paint out of clothes

Between weekend crafts and school projects, water-based paints like acrylics and latex are probably more common in your household than you’d think. Although children often end up with more paint on their clothes than on their papers, the silver lining is that water-based paint is relatively easy to wash off. You can let out a sigh of relief, knowing there's a good chance you can salvage those clothes instead of throwing them in the trash.

  • Warm water

  • Clean rag or paper towel

  • Detergent

  • Stain remover (optional)

  • Non-acetone nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol (optional)

  • Spoon, dull knife or brush

  • Washing machine

A child painting with acrylics

Step 1: Scrape off excess paint

Before you begin, check your garment’s care label to see which treatments are best for your item. Then, scrape off as much excess dried paint as you can with a spoon, dull knife or brush.

A person flushing a stained fabric under running water

Step 2: Flush stain with warm running water

Flush the back side of the stain with warm running water. With the built-in water faucet on the Pretreat Station on select Whirlpool® Washers, you can soak, scrub and wash, all in one spot.

Clothes being washed in a washing machine

Step 3: Saturate stain with detergent and water mixture

Saturate the stain with a mix of half detergent, half warm water and blot it vigorously with a rag or paper towel. Rinse and repeat until the paint is gone or no longer coming up. (Care tip: Spot test a small, hidden part of the garment first to ensure that none of these agents ruin/discolor the fabric.)

A person treating stained jeans with stain remover

Step 4: Apply stain remover

Apply an additional stain remover of your choice, if necessary, and wash the clothing item on the cycle recommended by its care label.

Laundry going through a washer cycle

Step 5: If stain remains, blot and rewash

If any of the paint remains after washing, try blotting gently with a non-acetone nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol, rinse thoroughly and then rewash. If you choose to treat the stain with these products, test it on a small area first and thoroughly rinse the garment in warm water when you’re done, before running it through a washer or dryer cycle, as garments treated with flammable liquids can not go in the dryer.

Two blue shirts hanging from hangers

Step 6: Take item to a dry cleaner

If the stain is still there, consider bringing the item to a professional dry cleaner. Do not place it in the dryer, as that will set the stain.

How to get oil-based paint out of clothes

Although many wall paints are now latex, oil-based paint is still a popular choice for woodwork, doors, furniture and other surfaces that demand a glossy finish or durability, like floors. This type of paint might be a little bit difficult to remove and requires more aggressive cleaning agents — and a little more elbow grease. But even when your spouse accidentally sits on a still-wet mudroom bench, getting dried paint out of their jeans doesn’t have to be a lost cause.

To remove oil-based paints from clothing, follow these steps:

  • Clean rags or paper towels

  • Turpentine or paint thinner

  • Hot water

  • Dishwasher detergent

  • Stain remover (optional)

  • Washing machine

Person using a spoon to scrape off dried white paint from a yellow sweatshirt

Step 1: Turn garment inside out and blot the stain

First, check your garment’s care tag. Then, turn the garment inside out on a thick stack of clean rags or paper towels. Blot the stain from the back with turpentine or the paint thinner recommended on the paint can label until no more paint comes up. (Care tip: Spot test a small, hidden part of the garment first to ensure that the paint thinner doesn’t ruin/discolor the fabric.)

Person rinsing a garment under a built-in water faucet in a Whirlpool® Washer

Step 2: Rinse out the stain

Rinse the stain out with warm water.

A person rinsing a detergent cap under the running water of a washer

Step 3: Apply detergent and soak the stain

Apply dishwasher detergent to the stain and soak the garment in hot, soapy water overnight. Check the washing symbols on the item’s care tag for recommended water temperature.

A washer filling with water

Step 4: Rinse garment the next day

The next day, rinse the garment thoroughly and then wash it as you normally would. Never put garments treated with flammable liquids in the washer or the dryer.

Laundry detergent poured into the washer's dispenser compartment

Step 5: Add stain remover and wash again

If the stain remains after washing, treat with a stain remover and wash the item again. Don’t attempt to dry the garment using heat until the stain is completely gone.

How to get fresh paint vs. dried paint out of clothes

To try to remove fresh paint from clothes, blot the stain with a cloth, then rinse with warm water. Apply a mix of detergent and warm water and blot again. Fresh paint stains may be easier to remove than dried stains. It's crucial to blot, not rub, the stain to prevent spreading it deeper into the fibers. Applying a mixture of detergent and warm water can help break down the paint molecules. 

For dried paint stains, the process is slightly more complex. You can use non-acetone nail polish remover to help soften the paint. Gently dab the stain with the remover, rinse the garment and then rewash it as needed. Be sure to test these methods on an inconspicuous area first to ensure they won't damage the fabric.

Be sure to rinse the garments thoroughly before placing them in the washing machine. Air dry garments treated with flammable substances.

What products remove dried paint from clothes?

There are several common household products available that you may be able to use to treat stubborn paint stains, including vinegar, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. Be sure to use these products separately and not combined, as vinegar mixed with hydrogen peroxide is a dangerous combination. Before using these products to treat the paint stain, be sure to test the product on a hidden area and check your care tags.

While these common cleaning products are often used as household laundry solutions that may help remove stains on clothing, use caution when treating delicate items and always refer to the care tag.

When it comes to stain removal, a bit of creativity goes a long way in getting dried paint out from clothes. Remember to thoroughly rinse the garment before placing it in a washer or dryer to prevent damage to the fabric or machine. Learn how to remove other tough stains, like nail polish, hair dye and makeup from clothes.

Learn how to handle other tough laundry dilemmas, like removing wax stains or washing shoes in your washer.

Tips for paint removal from clothes

From polyester to cotton, it’s possible to help remove paint stains from garments with a bit of time and effort. Whether you’ve stained your favorite pair of jeans or your best button-down shirt, keep the following tips in mind before tackling the paint spill:

  • Allowing the stain to air dry can make it harder to remove, so it’s important to act quickly. Likewise, refrain from putting the stained garment in the dryer, as the heat can set the stain.

  • When removing stains, blot the stain with gentle motions—rubbing may cause the stain to spread and worsen. 

  • Always check care labels before treating or washing stains for item-specific care instructions. 

  • Be persistent. Paint stains can be stubborn to remove and may require multiple treatments. 

An adult and child crafting with paints An adult and child crafting with paints

What to do if a paint stain can’t be removed

If the paint stain proves permanent, there are several creative ways you can put the fabric to use. Consider a fun, kid-friendly activity like tie-dying. Or, if you’re crafty, consider using the stained garment to create a one-of-a-kind tablecloth or use the fabric to make a homemade quilt.

Shop Whirlpool® Washers

With the help of innovative features like the built-in water faucet on the Pretreat Station, found on select Whirlpool® Washing Machines, you can soak, scrub and wash, all in one spot. Check out the complete line-up of washers to help make laundry day run more smoothly.

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