How to Remove Paint From Clothes

Don't let paint stains ruin your clothes.
Tayler Tayler (75)
5 minutes

When it comes to painting, most of us have dedicated painting clothes. That old, raggedy T-shirt we've been keeping in the back of the closet since 2009. The jeans or shorts hanging together by threads. But what happens when we break out the paints and the canvases in clothes that aren't our painting clothes?

Accidents, unfortunately, happen, and paint goes where it's not supposed to go. Oftentimes, it goes where it is least wanted: our clothes.

The good news is that there are several methods for removing paint from clothes.

Whether it's acrylic, oil, watercolor, or latex, here how to remove paint from your clothes.

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Acrylic paint.

Acrylic paint is one of the most common types of paint to use in craft, house decoration, and general paint jobs. While it is designed to dissolve in water, dissolving acrylic paint with water could stain the fibers if it ends up on your clothes.

Thankfully, though, there are several things you can do to remove acrylic paint from clothes. Let's take a look at some of your options!

1. The scraping method
  • If the paint is still wet, you can try dabbing the spot with a paper towel or a cloth, removing as much as possible.
  • Be very careful to dab, not rub, as rubbing can cause paint to sink further into the fibers.
  • Next, use a bristled brush to scrape the paint from the fabric.
  • Use a gentle scraping motion.
  • Repeat until the paint has been removed. If this doesn't work, keep on reading!
2. The denatured alcohol method
  • Denatured alcohol can help break down paint.
  • Pour a little on the paint and press a cotton ball to it.
  • Hold for one minute.
  • Using a coin, gently scrape the paint spot, going against the grain of the fabric, lifting as much as you can.
  • Wash and dry as normal.

Keep reading for a fun fact about denatured alcohol!

3. The dish detergent method
  • Run the spot beneath warm water.
  • Cover the spot with dish soap.
  • Dab a wet sponge against the paint, being care not to rub.
  • Rinse with water and repeat until the majority of the paint has been removed.
  • Wash and dry as normal.
4. The hairspray method
  • Dab the paint with a paper towel, removing as much excess paint as possible.
  • Spray hairspray on the painted spot, getting it completely wet.
  • As the hairspray dries, the paint should soften.
  • Gently scrape your spot with your fingernail, a spare coin, or even a spoon.
  • Once the paint has been removed, wash and dry your clothes as normal.
5. The nail polish remover method
  • Working similarly to hairspray, nail polish remover can loosen the paint from the fibers.
  • Saturate the painted area and with the remover.
  • Press a cotton ball or a spare rag against the saturated paint spot and hold it there for a minute.
  • After a minute, scrape the paint spot with your nail, a spare coin, or a spoon.
  • Gently wipe the paint away.
  • Rinse the remover from your clothes in the sink before washing and drying normally.

Boom! Hopefully, the acrylic paint has been removed from your clothes, leaving them good as new. If you are having problems with paint-filled brushes, I've also outlined how to get acrylic paint out of your brushes!.

Oil paint.

Another common type of paint, oil paints are a lot trickier to remove from clothes than acrylic. This is because oil paints dry so slowly. When you go to dab or wipe at the spot of oil paint, the wet paint will often be smeared deeper into the fibers of your shirt.

You might be wondering: Wait, does that mean I can let it dry before trying to scrape it off of my shirt?

No. Since oil paint is derivative of, you know, oils, it won't dry in that same tacky way that acrylic paints do. This means you can't scrape it off of your clothes.

Don't worry. There's one tried and true method of paint removal. Here's how to remove oil paint from clothes.

1. The solvent method
  • Remove as much paint as possible using a paper towel or spare rag. If it's a large blob of paint, gently scrape excess paint off using a knife or a dry brush.
  • Don't try to wash it off with water. This will make the stain harder to remove.
  • Check the paint container to see if it recommends a specific type of solvent to use. If it doesn't specify which solvent you can use, you can use turpentine.
  • Before you open the turpentine, spread down a generous layer of paper towels or spare rags, just in case you spill. Make sure you handle turpentine in a well-ventilated area.
  • Moisten a cotton ball with your turpentine and blot the affected area until the stain disappears.
  • Repeat the above step with a freshly moistened cotton ball if the spot is large.
  • Using a try paper towel, blot the area where your solvent is. This will help lift the remaining spots of paint while lifting excess solvent.
  • Fill a sink with warm water.
  • Next, rub laundry detergent into the spot, pouring enough detergent to saturate the spot.
  • Submerge your clothes.
  • Wait for at least an hour.
  • After your shirt has soaked, throw it immediately into your washing machine. Wash and dry as normal.

Enjoy your oil paint-free shirt! If you are struggling to get oil paint out of your clothes, I've also outlines how to get oil paint out of your brushes.


Another type of paint worth covering is watercolors. Watercolor paint is made from paint pigment and (you guessed it) water. Since you're working with water to distribute the paint, watercolors can be messy, especially if you're new to the practice.

Thankfully, watercolor, despite its reputation for being a challenging painting medium, is relatively easy to remove, and there are multiple methods.

Keep in mind that watercolor dries quickly and is less persistent than other paint types. Now, here's how to remove watercolors from your clothes.

1. The laundry detergent method
  • Scrape off excess paint with a palette knife, spoon, or spare coin.
  • Dampen a washcloth with warm water and dab the paint spot.
  • Next, drop a small amount of liquid laundry detergent on the spot, just enough to coat the paint.
  • Gently scrub the spot with a different part of the shirt. Do this by doubling the fabric over itself and using your fingers to scrub the detergent into the fabric.
  • Hold the affected spot under the sink, rinsing it until the water runs clear of detergent.
  • Wash and dry your clothes as usual.
2. The lemon juice and salt method
  • Sprinkle a small amount of salt on the paint spot.
  • Now, cover the paint spot with liquid dish soap.
  • With a toothbrush, brush your mixture into the paint spot.
  • Once you see the watercolor mixing into the dish soap and salt mixture, apply a few drops of lemon juice to the paint spot.
  • Scrub the spot vigorously with your toothbrush until the paint has lifted.
  • Rinse the spot with warm water.
  • Wash and dry your clothes as usual.
3. The baking soda and vinegar method
  • In a small container, mix a tablespoon of baking soda with a half cup of vinegar.
  • Using a sponge that has been dipped in your cleaning mixture, dab the paint until the spot is moist.
  • Scrub the paint spot until the paint lifts.
  • Rinse with warm water until the water runs clear.
  • Wash and dry your clothes as usual.
4. The shaving cream method
  • Apply a small amount of shaving cream to the affected area. Make sure it's foam shaving cream!
  • Let the foam sit for a few minutes.
  • Using your handy dandy toothbrush, gently work the foam into the spot for a few minutes.
  • Once the paint has lifted, rinse the spot under the sink until the water runs clear.
  • Wash and dry your clothes as usual.
5. The laundry stain pretreater method
  • Apply laundry strain pretreater to the spot and let it sit for 30 minutes.
  • Wash and dry your clothes as usual.
  • That's it!

Saved the easiest for last. Watercolor is really forgiving on fabrics. Unlike oil and acrylic paint, you have a higher chance of removing watercolors from your fabrics.

Latex paint.

Next up on our types of paints is latex paint. Like acrylic paints, latex paints are water-based and often used for larger areas like rooms and furniture. Because it's meant for larger projects, latex paint is often sold in large quantities.

Since latex is so similar to acrylic paints, you can use many of the same methods to remove it from fabric. One method that works on latex over acrylic paint is the rubbing alcohol method. Let's check it out.

1. The rubbing alcohol method
  • Remove as much excess paint as possible from the clothes, either by gently dabbing or scraping off a good amount using a spoon or a palette knife.
  • Moisten the affected area with warm water using a wet paper towel or spare rag.
  • Spread your clothes on a flat surface and pour a generous amount of rubbing alcohol over the stain.
  • Let the alcohol soak for a few minutes. This allows the alcohol to break up the paint.
  • Rub the fabric against itself by folding a different part of the shirt over onto the paint. Rub vigorously unless you're working with a delicate fabric.
  • Repeat the above steps until the paint is lifted from the fabric.
  • With the paint gone, rinse the fabric out with warm water.
  • Wash and dry as normal.

Fun Fact: Rubbing alcohol can be used as an antiseptic, whereas denatured alcohol can be used as a fuel additive!

Any of the methods used to remove acrylic paint can be used for latex paint, too. If you don't have rubbing alcohol, feel free to try any of those methods!

Clothes drying.

Removing paint from dry clean only, or delicate, clothes is a bit trickier.

There is no method I'm comfortable with detailing because delicate fabrics vary in how you can handle them. There's really only one thing you can do to improve the odds that the stain will lift. You'll want to remove any excess paint using a palette knife, a spoon, or a spare coin.

After that, hightail it to your local and trusted dry cleaner! Then, never wear dry clean only clothes while you're painting again.

Remember to wear your least favorite shirt the next time you paint. Happy painting!

Oil paint doesn't stand a chance!
Tayler Tayler (75)
10 minutes

Painting is a hobby loved by many, but you know what isn't loved by many? Post-paint brush cleaning.