Getting Oil-based Paint out of Clothes

Oil-based paint is very hard to get out of everything, clothes included. There's some good news here, though. Acrylic paints are now being used for everything from updating your kitchen cabinets to painting your home's exterior, so you may not have to deal with oil-based paint much, if at all. We'll admit this is cold comfort if you're already faced with an oil-based paint stain, but it's a gentle suggestion for next time: Lose the oil-based stuff in favor of more Earth- and fabric-friendly alternatives.

These tips will help you get oil-based paint stains out of fabric:

  • Stains are easier to remove before they've dried, so act fast.
  • Blot up the stain with an old towel or cotton cloth to keep it from spreading.
  • To remove oil-based paint from fabric, you'll need to be a bit of a detective. Read the back of the paint can for directions on how to clean spills. The solvent recommended for cleaning that particular brand of paint is your best bet for removing the spot. This can be tricky, though, especially if you're working with synthetic fabrics, treated fabrics or intense fabric dyes. It's best to test a small inconspicuous area on the garment before proceeding. If the dye runs or the fabric fibers are compromised (as in they begin to melt), you might just have to cover the spot with an embroidered decal and call it a day.
  • If you decide to try the recommended solvent, which could be a specific paint thinner variety or plain turpentine, start by putting down a generous layer of paper towels. You'll need enough to create a pad under the garment. Do this outdoors or in a well-ventilated indoor location. The paper is there to absorb the excess solvent, so don't skimp.
  • Read the solvent directions for proper handling instructions. Beyond providing adequate ventilation, you'll probably need to wear gloves to protect your hands.
  • Gather together the materials you'll need: a disposable can or jar (to hold the solvent), a bucket filled with a 50-50 warm water and dishwashing liquid solution (for soaking the garment after treatment), cotton balls, a clean cloth, more paper towels and a tooth brush.
  • Turn the garment inside out with the right side (the stain side) against the paper towels.
  • Pour a generous amount of solvent into a disposable jar or can.
  • Saturate a cotton ball (or cloth for larger stains) and apply it to the garment. Remember, you'll be working from the back side as much as possible. This helps direct the paint away from the garment's inner fibers. Press the fabric into the paper towels as you apply solvent. The idea is to transfer the paint from the fabric to the paper towel. You'll probably have to move the paper around or add additional layers as the paper absorbs the paint. Check the front of the garment from time to time to see how well the solvent is working. Keep at it until the stain is gone. You may have to turn the fabric over and work from the front to remove stubborn stains. Work the stain gently with the tooth brush if you have to and blot it with additional paper towels or a soft, lint-free cloth.
  • Once the stain is gone, wash the solvent saturated area in the bucket of soapy water to remove as much solvent residue as possible.
  • Presoak the garment in your washing machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Wash and dry it as you would normally.

If these steps don't work and the garment is still holding up well, although still paint stained, you can also try removing the paint with a commercially available paint remover like Goof Off or Oops!