Tip Tuesday: Removing Paint From Clothes (Especially Oil Paint)

For most of us who work in paint, we know it can be messy and we try our best to wear aprons or clothes we don't care about. However, you may still get paint on clothes on which you didn't want paint.

Acrylic paint can be easier to get out with dish soap (like Dawn) and rubbing alcohol, and attacking it when it's wet. Watercolor also tends to be easy to get out with soap. But then... there's oil paint.

I have lost a favorite shirt and gained a few new painting shirts to oil paint despite being covered in an apron and other protective items. Here's some tips for getting out oil paint from your clothes:

  • Act fast, stains are easier to remove wet rather than dry.

  • Blot the stain with an old towel or cotton cloth to keep it from spreading.

  • Oil paints require use of solvents like turpenoid and mineral spirits, or even acetone (nail polish remover), but be careful and read the back of the can to make sure it can clean the clothing you're wearing. It should be safe on most blends, but it can make the dye bleed.

  • Put down lots and lots of paper towels underneath the shirt to keep it from touching the other side and preventing it from staining more areas.

  • You need LOTS of ventilation if you are using a solvent. I would also recommend using gloves.

  • DO NOT use plastic containers for your solvent. Use a glass jar or cup, or metal container similar to what the solvent comes in.

And here are the steps you should take:

  1. Gather the materials you need: glass container for solvent, a bucket filled with 50/50 warm water and dishwashing liquid soap like Dawn, cotton balls or a few cotton cloths, more paper towels, and a toothbrush you don't care about/use.

  2. Turn the garment inside out with the stained side against the paper towels.

  3. Pour a generous amount of solvent into your glass or metal container

  4. Saturate the cotton balls (or cotton cloths) in the solvent, and then apply it to the garment. Press the garment into the paper towels as you apply solvent. You're trying to transfer the paint off of the fabric and onto the paper towels. Be prepared to keep adding paper towels and move them away as necessary.

  5. You may need to turn the fabric over and work from the front as well. This is where the toothbrush comes in handy to scrub (GENTLY) out the stain.

  6. Once the stain is gone or faded, wash the solvent saturated area in the bucket of soapy water to remove as much solvent residue as possible.

  7. Repeat steps 4-6 as necessary.

  8. Presoak the garment with laundry detergent and warm water. You may want to put the laundry detergent directly on the stain, then soak in water.

  9. Launder as usual.

Now, this isn't a guaranteed process. Some oil based paints are not removable, and if the above methods do not lessen the amount of paint or make it lighter, the stain is permanent. If the stain lightens after the first attempt, it's worth doing a second or third application to see if you can remove it further.

Good luck and hopefully you never have to use these steps!

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