Let's start with a few basic principles about removing paint from textiles. The first is to treat stains as quickly as possible, and hopefully before they dry in place. Stains that have dried are harder and sometimes impossible to remove.
The second principle is simple but very important: Always choose the least aggressive method of cleaning. If you're trying to get paint out of your favorite T, it may seem easier to head straight for the caustic cleaning agents to save time. Besides being more expensive and more environmentally unfriendly, the most aggressive approaches could get the paint off, but it could also remove the dye from the fabric or leave a paint spatter-sized hole in the fabric. With that caution in place, let's move on to some techniques for removing latex paint from fabric. We're starting with the gentlest options first, so approach the project in stages.
- Blot up or scrape off the excess paint.
- Rinse the spot in running water to flush out as much paint as possible.
- Treat the spot with equal parts dishwashing liquid and warm water. Apply the mixture with a cotton cloth or sponge, and blot or scrub the spot away.
- Pre-treat the spot with commercial stain remover, and then wash the garment as you would normally.
If the gentle stuff doesn't work, it may be time to do a little damage control assessment: Is the paint spot so visible that the only option is to get it out or toss the garment? If not, aggressive cleaning may make the paint stain worse than it already is by stripping some of the dye from the fabric or damaging the fabric fibers themselves. If you're prepared to risk it, the following techniques may work. To hedge your bets, though, treat an inconspicuous area of the garment first. Choose a hem or seam allowance. If the technique works without leaving a mark, it's probably safe to use:
- If the mild dish detergent solution above doesn't do the trick, apply a few drops of rubbing alcohol to a damp cloth and try removing the paint residue that way.
- If the alcohol works somewhat but still leaves a paint outline or specks behind, substitute a toothbrush for the damp cloth and scrub a little harder. (Note: This can damage or distort delicate fabrics like knits, so be careful.)
- If all else fails, heavy duty commercial paint and stain removers like Oops! and Goof Off may remove the stain. When using one of these products, read the manufacturer's directions carefully and be sure to perform a spot test. Strong solvents may undermine some synthetic fabrics or change the tint or density of brightly colored fabrics.