How to Get Paint Out of Carpet (and Avoid a Costly Replacement)

Hint: You'll want to clean this type of spill as quickly as possible.

If you spill a little paint during your next home improvement project, don't panic. Many paint stains—both oil and water-based—can be removed from carpet fibers with a bit of patience and a few cleaning supplies. Just make sure you treat these carpet stains immediately and then move on to other tasks like removing paint from your clothing or cleaning your paint brushes.

The specific stain removal steps and supplies depend on the type of paint and whether the paint is wet or dry. Let's start with water-based paints like acrylic latex, finger paints, and watercolors, then walk through the steps for removing tricky oil-based paints. Here's exactly how to get paint out of a carpet or area rug so it looks brand new.

How to Get Water-Based Paint Out of Carpet

Ideally, you'll catch the paint stain while it is fresh and easiest to remove. For latex and other water-based paints, try the following steps for either wet or dried paint removal.

What You'll Need

  • Dull knife or old credit card
  • Paper towels or white rags
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Clothes steamer
  • Vacuum

Steps for Fresh Paint Stains

  1. Lift away the wet paint. Use the dull edge of a knife or the edge of an old credit card to lift away the wet paint. Never rub the stain with a cloth or paper towel because that will just push the paint deeper into the carpet fibers.
  2. Blot, blot, blot. Use a wet paper towel or white rag to blot away the paint that remains on the surface of the carpet. Keep moving to a clean area of the towel as the paint is transferred. Don't stop blotting until all of the paint is gone.

Steps for Dried Paint Stains

  1. Reconstitute the dry paint. Mix a solution of hot water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid in a small bowl. Dip a soft-bristled brush—an old toothbrush works great—in the solution and saturate the dried paint stain. Let it sit for about five minutes to soften the paint.
  2. Scrape and blot. Once the paint has begun to soften, use a dull knife to gently scrape away the paint from the fibers. Blot the stain with a wet paper towel or cloth as the paint releases. Apply more of the hot soapy solution with the brush as needed. Keep working until the paint is gone. Remember, no rubbing, or the paint may smear.
  3. Add more heat. If the hot water solution doesn't soften the paint, hit the stain with a blast of steam from a handheld clothes steamer. Do not place the steamer nozzle or a hot iron directly on the carpet because that can melt the fibers. Continue slowly scraping and blotting until the paint is gone.
  4. Dry and vacuum. Once the paint is removed, allow the carpet to air-dry and then vacuum well to lift the carpet fibers and capture any loose paint particles that remain.

How to Get Oil-Based Paint Out of Carpet

Oil-based paint is much more difficult to remove from carpet fibers. Follow the same steps whether the stain is fresh or dried.

What You'll Need

  • Dull knife
  • Paper towels
  • White cotton rag
  • Clothes steamer
  • Paper clip
  • Paint solvent or turpentine
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Vacuum


  1. Lift and blot wet paint. If the paint drip is wet, use a dull knife to lift it up and away from the carpet. Use a blast of steam from a clothes steamer to keep the paint moist as you lift away paint and blot the area with a wet paper towel. Straighten a paperclip and use it to separate carpet fibers as you continue blotting with clean paper towels.
  2. Scrape and blot dry paint. If the oil paint is dry, use a dull knife to gently scrape away as much of the paint as you can from the fibers. Use a wet paper towel or vacuum to pick up the flakes of dry paint.
  3. Treat with solvent. After lifting or scraping, read the fine print on the paint label and use the recommended solvent (mineral spirits, paint thinner, turpentine). If there isn't one indicated, opt for turpentine. Be sure to test the solvent on an inconspicuous area of the carpet to make sure it doesn't cause a color change. Place a dab of the solvent on a white cotton rag and blot the stained area. Work slowly and move to a clean area of the rag as color is transferred. Blot, blot, blot—never rub.
  4. Clean and rinse. Once you have removed as much of the paint as possible, mix a solution of hot water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid. Dip a soft-bristled brush in the solution and gently scrub the area where the paint solvent was used. Use a clean rag dipped in water to "rinse" the area and then blot away the excess water with paper towels.
  5. Air-dry and vacuum. Allow the carpet to dry and then vacuum to restore the pile.

If the latex or oil paint spill is large, it may be impossible to remove all traces from the carpet. Try calling a professional carpet cleaner to help. If all else fails, consider cutting out the ruined area of the carpet and piecing it with remnants, or cover the stain with an area rug until the carpet can be replaced.

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