How to Get Paint Out of Clothes

messy painter
You probably won't get this messy unless you really try, but painting is a dirty job!

If you own a home, you spend time on maintenance, and some of that maintenance probably includes painting. Think of painting as a rite of passage. Sooner or later, just about everyone has to paint something. Although you can find hundreds, if not thousands, of tutorials about how to paint, one of the deep, dark secrets of DIY painting is how messy it can be. Sure, tidy people put down tarps, tape woodwork (after all, that's why they call the blue stuff painter's tape), wear old clothes and read the directions on the products they use. The rest of us grab our paint cans and stirring sticks, hoist our paint rollers and trust the painting gods to protect us. This is why most homeowners have a whole drawer dedicated to paint festooned, goo encrusted home repair clothes. Ironical folks call them play clothes, but they're actually real life examples of physics in action.

The painter Jackson Pollock recognized the power of paint spatter and embraced it. If you have a less than aesthetic appreciation for paint drips, drops, blobs and streaks, there are a couple of options open to you. Dress for disaster, or plan your painting projects carefully -- and dress for disaster anyway. From accidentally stepping in the paint tray (yes, this happens) to flipping the paint can off that wonky aluminum ladder shelf onto the floor (or carpet or tiled entry), paint blunders happen. Even worse, anything you're wearing seems to attract paint like metal shavings to a magnet.


This makes a kind of twisted sense. That extra thick layer of paint on the paint roller isn't going to stick to the wall or ceiling. It's going to spin off and become the plaything of energy and gravity. As one of the biggest objects between the runaway paint spray and the cosmos, prepare to be accessorized, pixilated and otherwise decorated with paint.

If you happen to be wearing an old T-shirt, then there's no harm done. It doesn't always work out that way, though. Yeah, you start out with the best of intentions by wearing apparel that's one washing away from the rag bag, but what about a week after the big paint job? You see a spot you missed and figure you'll just grab a little paint on a craft brush and fix it. It'll just take a second and -- oh, no! A big blob ends up on the sleeve of your new tweed jacket (or cashmere sweater, or silk blouse, or leather coat, or hideously expensive shoes). Here's another common scenario: You just finish painting the railing around the porch and saunter to the garage to get the wet paint sign, which you save from paint job to paint job, of course. While you're gone -- for just a minute or two -- your spouse comes home from work and becomes a wet paint casualty, or what the pros like to call DIY collateral damage. This may sound funny, but when you've just stained an expensive garment, it's anything but.

In some cases, it's possible to remove paint from fabric. We don't want you to get too excited yet, though. Fabric can be persnickety, and a technique that works for one fabric blend, or weave or color, won't work with another. On the next couple of pages, let's take a look at some best practices when it comes to getting paint stains out of clothing. You'll like what you don't see.