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How to remove paint stains from clothing and furniture

No matter how careful you are, it seems like splattering paint is inevitable. Whether it’s on your clothes, sofa or carpet, paint is destined to leave its mark. So, what do you do when your white tee turns dappled gray? Cleaning coach Leslie Reichert and carpet cleaning expert Dean Carter have some helpful hints and they all start with the same warning: treat the stain immediately!

How to remove water-based paints including indoor/outdoor paint, finger paint, acrylic or poster paint

How to treat clothing:

The most important thing to do is to wash the paint out of clothing while it’s still wet, says Reichert. (Make sure the garment is washable before starting and follow the care label instructions.) Don’t put the entire piece of clothing in water, however. Instead, flush the stain by running warm water through the underside of the garment. Then, spot treat the stain with soap and running water. (You can use a bar soap like Ivory, dish detergent or laundry detergent.) Rinse and repeat until the stain is removed.

If the stain still remains, blot it lightly with an acetone nail polish remover (except with acetate or triacetate fabrics) or pre-treat with a commercial stain remover like Shout, then launder as usual. Do not place the garment in the dryer unless the stain is completely gone, otherwise, the heat will set the stain.

Old water-based paint stains are nearly impossible to remove. You can try scraping the paint from the fabric but take care not to damage it. Once it’s scraped, apply alcohol or acetone as directed above, then launder as usual. If the stain remains, do not machine dry the garment. Instead, air dry it and take it to a professional cleaner.

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How to treat upholstery

Lightly scrape away excess paint immediately, then, blot the area with a damp, soapy cloth. (You can use bar soap like Ivory, dish detergent or laundry detergent.) “Keep blotting until the stain is removed and the cloth comes up clean of paint,” Reichert adds. “Never use too much water as it will dilute the paint and the stain will spread into a larger area.” Remove soapy residue by blotting the area with a sponge or cloth lightly dampened with plain water.

If the stain remains, blot it with acetone nail polish remover. (Test first on an inconspicuous area and make sure the fabric does not contain acetate or triacetate.) If the stain is still there, call a professional.

How to treat carpet:

Remove excess paint with a blunt knife then blot the stain with a damp cloth, using a quick, upward motion and twisting the pile as you lift, says Carter. Rinse cloth and repeat until all the paint has been removed.

If the stain remains, call a professional carpet cleaner as soon as possible. Once paint sets, it is virtually impossible to remove.

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How to remove oil-based paints

How to treat clothing:

Lightly scrape excess paint from the garment. “If the paint is still wet, work on the stain using a clean cloth lightly moistened with paint thinner,” says Reichert. “Dab until the cloth comes away clean and free from paint. NEVER use water on oil-based paint.” Launder as usual once the stain is completely removed.

Adds Reichert, “You can also take it to a professional, but once the paint dries on the fabric, it may be impossible to remove.”

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How to treat upholstery:

In the case of antique or fine silk upholstery, call a professional. For sturdier fabrics, remove excess wet paint by lightly scraping with a blunt knife. Dab the stain with a clean cloth moistened with paint thinner. Continue until there’s no trace of paint on the cloth. As always, test in an inconspicuous area first. If the stain remains, call a professional for help.

“If the paint has dried on the upholstery, you can try using a dry-cleaning solvent for removing paint from upholstery,” say Reichert. “Test in an inconspicuous spot first to make sure it doesn’t damage the fabric.”

How to treat carpet:

“For oil-based paint, lightly lift excess paint with a dull knife. Then, using a cloth dipped in paint thinner, dab the stain using a quick, upward motion, twisting the pile as you lift,” suggests Carter. Move to a fresh part of the cloth as needed. (Test paint thinner in an inconspicuous spot of the carpet first.) If the stain remains, it’s time to call a professional carpet cleaner.

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