How to Get Dried Paint Out of Clothes

It started as a fun weekend project with the family. You planned to paint the living room together for a memorable bonding activity. Then, it happened. Your preschooler found a paintbrush and tip-toed to his closet before you knew what was happening. When you finally arrived at the crime scene, you noticed two shirts and a pair of his favorite underwear with little blots of paint on them.

Perhaps you're used to figuring out how to get unwanted stains and substances out of your clothing. Regardless of how you got into the situation of having paint on your clothes, you'll want to know how to remove it. Fear not! There are a variety of tricks you can try to get your clothes back to their original state. Let explore how to remove paint from clothes and other fabric.

Common Mistakes to Avoid 

Your initial instinct might be to throw the garments in question directly into the washer. Resist this urge! For anything other than washable watercolor or finger paint, you'll likely need to pre-treat the paint stain. Another common mistake you might make is to attempt to clean the stain with a towel you wouldn't want to be stained. As you try to remove excess paint from the soiled clothing, only use other towels, toothbrushes, and sponges you wouldn't mind getting dirty.

Removing Water-Based Paint 

If the paint in question is water-based, there are specific steps you can take to clean your child's shirts and underwear. Different kinds of paint require unique treatments, so it's crucial to know what type of paint got on the tee-shirt. Here are a few steps to follow for getting water-based paint out of a well-loved tee-shirt.

  1. Scrape off the Excess: Before you do anything else, use a paper towel or an old rag to wipe the excess paint off of your garment. Be careful not to spread it around as you do this.
  2. Blot: Next, flush the tee-shirt through the backside with warm water. Blot the remaining stain with a paper towel to absorb any remaining paint.
  3. Drench with a Detergent/Water Mixture: In a container, mix one-quarter cup of warm water and one-quarter cup of laundry detergent. Pour it over the garment until it's saturated. Then, blot again with a paper towel, rinse, and repeat.
  4. Apply a Stain-Remover: Once the excess paint has been rinsed from the tee-shirt, there may still be a stain leftover. You can apply any stain remover you might have on hand before machine-washing the garment.
  5. Wash Regularly: After stain-remover has been applied, you can wash the garment regularly. Hopefully, your clothing will return to its original state after taking these steps.

Removing Oil-Based Paint 

Removing oil-based paint will require a few different steps. It's a more complex paint to remove, so it will require more aggressive solutions. You may want to try these steps outdoor to avoid inhaling fumes. To get a pair of underwear or another item of clothing free from an oil-based paint stain, follow these steps:

  1. Blot with Paint-Thinner: Turn the garment inside-out and place it stain-down onto newspaper. Blot the garment from behind with a paint-thinner or turpentine until no more paint is coming out.
  2. Rinse: Rinse the clothing article from behind with warm water.
  3. Soak overnight: In a container you don't mind messing up, add hot water and dish detergent to create a soaking solution. Let the pair of underwear soak overnight in the mixture. 
  4. Rinse Again: In the morning, you'll want to rinse the garment again to remove any excess paint that may have come out overnight.
  5. Wash regularly: If the stain was removed, wash your article of clothing as usual.

Other Methods You Can Try 

When dealing with paint, cleaning a garment is not always easy. You might follow each step perfectly and find that the paint was too strong to be removed with rinsing and stain remover. If you'd like to try alternative methods to remove the stain, here are a few possible techniques.

Nail Polish Remover 

When people paint their nails, acetone is effective in removing the paint. If you're dealing with a latex paint stain, acetone nail polish remover might be able to remove the stain from your clothing as well. Keep in mind that nail polish remover can damage some fibers. If your tee garment contains acetate or triacetate, avoid this method.


Most aerosol hairsprays have alcohol in them. If your garment has been stained with latex paint, spraying hairspray on the affected area may help loosen the paint. Saturate the stain with hairspray and scrub with an old scrubbing brush. Then, rinse the garment with warm water.

Hand Sanitizer 

Hand sanitizer also contains alcohol, making it a candidate for removing latex paint if you have no other options. Drench the affected area in hand sanitizer, then scrub it with an old toothbrush or scrubbing brush. After you've loosened some paint, toss it into the wash as usual.

Lavender Essential Oil 

For a gentler method, you can try lavender essential oil. Drop five-to-seven drops of the oil onto a small latex paint stain. Let the lavender absorb into the stain for thirty minutes, then use a butter knife to scrape the paint from the clothing article. Repeat these steps as needed until the paint has been removed, then wash.


If you're dealing with a heavy-duty oil paint stain, you'll need a heavy-duty solution. Though it's difficult to remove oil paint from a garment, it is possible. Start with the same method you used with paint thinner. Place the shirt or other clothing article paint-side-down onto a stack of newspaper or paper towels. Blot the garment from behind with turpentine and change out the newspaper stack as needed. Once the stain lifts, rinse and wash regularly.

When All Else Fails 

Sometimes the stain won't lift. You may have tried several techniques but found that the paint was more powerful than your resources. In that case, you might try getting creative with the tee-shirt affected by the stain instead of throwing it away. Try these artistic options instead of trashing your painted clothing.


If the paint doesn't lift from the affected tee shirt, there's no need to be sad. To turn a bad situation into a fun one, try making a tie-dye project out of the ordeal. You can gather your family once again and make a mess on purpose this time. You can always keep the shirt as a painting shirt for future messy endeavors, too.

Add More Paint 

Another creative option you can try is painting the rest of the shirt. It's not often that kids are told they can ruin their clothes. Hand them a paintbrush and a few colors of acrylic paint. Let them know they can create whatever they want out of the happy accidental stain. It might even turn into an illustration for a life lesson.

In Summary 

People usually don't plan on staining their clothes with paint, but sometimes it happens. In an appropriate location, try these steps to remove small or large paint stains. You may find that the paint loosens quickly, and you have your tee-shirt back again. You may find that the stain is stubborn and decide to turn the garment into a canvas for more artwork. Either way, you have a solution. 



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