How to Get Paint Out of Your Clothes

It's hard not to get paint on your clothes, even if you're extra careful. Here's how to remove those paint stains.

Whether you're in the midst of a crafts activity, working on a DIY project, or fulfilling a full-scale room makeover, you'll probably end up with paint on your clothes, at least a small splatter. But there's no need to stress about the mess and throw away your ruined outfit. With just basic tools and a little time, you can erase the stain and return your clothing to good as new.

Use our expert-tested tricks and smart cleaning tips to get rid of even the most stubborn paint stains—from acrylic to emulsion varieties, oil- and water-based splatters, and wet and dry stains—as well as solutions for other common spots and smudges.

Remove excess paint.

Before starting on any kind of stain solution, get rid of as much excess paint (or other stain source) as you can. If the paint has dried, use a paper towel to wipe away the dried residue. If it's still wet, use a dull knife or a spoon to remove as much as you can.

  • If the paint has dried, use a towel to wipe away the dried residue.
  • If it's still wet, use a dull knife or spoon to remove as much as possible.

Treat the stain and rinse.

When deciding how to treat the remaining paint stain, consider which type of paint you're dealing with:

  • For water-based paint, the solution is simple: Rinse the clothing in warm water until the paint color subsides, and then launder that item the way you normally would (washing machine or hand-washing, for example).
  • For oil-based paint, the fix entails a few steps: First, treat the stain with turpentine, rinse it out, and then pretreat the stained area with detergent. Next, rinse it out again and launder the item as normal.

Fix other common clothing stains.

What if your clothing is stained from a different household material? We have fixes for those spots and smudges, too.

Ink is a common culprit.

To get a ballpoint mark out of your clothing:

  1. Use petroleum jelly to create a "dam" around the stain to keep the ink from spreading.
  2. Use a clean toothbrush to dab the spot with rubbing alcohol. Be sure to open a window to the room ventilated.
  3. Dip a cotton ball in mineral spirits and dab the area again.
  4. Let it dry, and then rinse with a solution of 1 tablespoon clear dish soap and 10 ounces water.

For a permanent marker ink stain, there's an easy fix: Use a clean toothbrush to rub a stain remover (like Amodex Ink and Stain Remover, $14, into the spot.

Makeup is another big source of clothing stains.

The secret to getting rid of lipstick smudges? Hairspray! Simply spritz the spot with hairspray and let it sit for 10 minutes, and then remove any residue and what's left of the stain by wiping the area with a damp cloth.

Got some foundation on your shirt? Use a cotton swab to apply rubbing alcohol to the stained area, and then blot it with a cotton ball, repeating as needed.

Nail polish stains can be trickier, especially if the clothing fabric is acetate or triacetate—in that case, your best bet is to take the piece to a dry cleaner. To tackle a nail polish smudge yourself, place the stained area facedown on a few clean paper towels, and then apply nail polish remover to the back of the stain. (Depending on the stain's size, you may need to replace the paper towels to soak up the liquid.) Repeat as needed, and then finish the task by rinsing the piece in cold water.

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