How to

How to get paint out of clothes

We’ve probably all been there: you’re adding a fresh coat of paint to walls or furniture when you accidentally spill some on your clothes.

There’s no need to stress about the mess – and it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of your favourite t-shirt or jeans. Resene paint expert Murdo Shaw says there are steps you can take to get paint stains out of clothing.

“The key thing to remember is to act quickly,” says Murdo. “The longer you wait, the harder it will be. Unfortunately once the paint dries, there’s a good chance you might not be able to remove it.”

For water-based paint

What you use to get the stain out depends on what kind of paint you’re dealing with. Around 98% of paint used in our homes is water-based, says Murdo. That includes indoor and outdoor acrylic paint, finger paints, acrylic craft paint and poster paint, all of which is usually easier to clean up than oil-based paint.

“If you have a fresh spill of water-based paint on your clothes, immediately blot the stain with a wet cloth to remove the excess and stop it drying – it dries VERY fast on clothes. Then get the garment under running water ASAP. If you have one, a soft brush, even an old toothbrush, is perfect for getting residue out of fibres.”

Murdo also suggests trying an American-made product stocked by Resene, Motsenbocker’s Lift Off. This acrylic paint remover is used to remove old and fresh acrylic paints and wood stains from carpets, wood, furniture, clothing, concrete and tiles.

“Lift Off will remove acrylic paint that has well and truly dried. Simply spray the area and cover with plastic film to keep the remover wetter on the stain for longer. After 10 minutes or so, you can gently scrub the area with a scrubbing brush.”

It's easier to remove paint from clothes before it dries, so act fast.
Murdo recommends Motsenbocker’s Lift Off, an acrylic paint remover.
Good as new and ready to get back to the job.

For oil-based paint

But what if the stain happens to be from an oil-based paint? Murdo admits oil-based paint can be more difficult to remove, and may even be impossible once it dries. But there is some good news – oil-based paints tend to stay wet longer, buying you more time to take action.

“The one thing to remember with oil-based paint stains is never to use water to treat the stain. Instead, scrape away as much wet paint as you can with a dull knife. Then moisten a clean rag with a little paint thinner and blot the stain until it’s gone, moving to clean areas of the rag as you go.”

Once you’ve removed as much paint as you can, rinse the area and spot treat with dishwashing liquid or laundry detergent and then launder as usual.

If the stain remains, there’s one more trick you can try – flip the clothing inside out and saturate the stain in rubbing alcohol, then use an old toothbrush to work the alcohol into the clothing fibres until the paint is gone. Then launder.

And next time, remember to wear old clothing or overalls so that if you do get paint on them, it’s no big deal.

About MasterStroke by Resene
MasterStroke by Resene is here to help you master your paint and decorating DIY projects. Brush up on your skills with advice, tips and ideas from our trusted experts.

Check out the latest how-to videos on our YouTube channel.