How to Remove Fabric Paint From Clothing

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How to Remove Fabric Paint From Clothing
Image Credit: Fiordaliso/Moment/GettyImages

Removing fabric paint from clothing is difficult, but it's not impossible. Fabric paint is typically an acrylic pigment mixed with a medium that allows the pigment to bind to fibers. Some fabric paints must be heat-set to be permanent, while others cure and become permanent without the application of heat. However, since acrylics are water-based, fabric paint can be removed from clothing with the proper procedures and materials. Different kinds of fabric require different care, however, so it's important to read the label to determine the fabric content of your fabric before applying any kind of stain-removal solvent.

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Tip

Do not confuse fabric paint with fabric dyes, which chemically react with the fiber to form a chemical bond and require different procedures for removing from fabric.

Washable Fabrics

If the fabric paint is still wet, act quickly because you may be able to remove most of it with water and detergent. However, if the paint has dried, you not only need to break down the acrylic pigment with water, but you also need denatured alcohol to dissolve the medium that binds the pigment to the fabric.

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Tip

Always read the label if possible to determine if a fabric is machine-washable. Just because a garment is made of cotton or another typically machine-washable fabric, some upholstery-weight or apparel fabrics must still be dry-cleaned.

Things You'll Need

  • Dry rags

  • Scraper with a blunt surface, such as a craft stick

  • Eyedropper or cotton swabs

  • Mild detergent

  • Denatured alcohol

  • Commercial acrylic paint remover

  • Clean water

Step 1: Spread the Stained Garment on Clean, Dry Fabric

Lay a clean, dry rag on a flat surface, and lay the stained garment flat on top of the clean rag. This rag will absorb any paint and water that soaks through the garment.

Step 2: Scrape Off Excess Paint

Gently scrape off as much of the paint from the garment as you can with the scraper. Do not damage the fibers by scraping too aggressively.

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Step 3: Remove Small Spots

To remove small spots of fabric paint, apply a few drops of denatured alcohol with a cotton swab or an eyedropper. To remove larger areas, soak a clean cloth in the alcohol and dab it onto the paint to be removed until it is saturated. Allow the alcohol to soak into the fabric and sit for a few minutes to loosen the paint from the fibers.

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Step 4: Sop Up the Alcohol

Soak up the alcohol with a clean, dry cloth. If the stain is not completely gone, repeat the process.

Step 5: Try Commercial Products

If the alcohol treatment doesn't work, try a commercial product specifically formulated for removing acrylic paint from fabrics. Test on a small area first to be sure it doesn't damage the fabric, and then use on the fabric paint according to the manufacturer's instructions.

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Step 6: Wash the Garment

Run the garment through the washing machine with mild detergent according to the instructions on the garment's fabric care tag. After washing, double-check the area to ensure the fabric paint has been completely removed before putting the garment in the dryer. If you can still see the paint, repeat the cleaning process until it has been removed to your satisfaction.

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Tip

If you want to remove fabric paint from the entire garment, soak the garment in a tub of alcohol and then wash in the washing machine according to the fabric care instructions.

Remove Fabric Paint from Wool or Silk

Natural fabrics, such as delicate silk fibers and wool are fragile and break easily when exposed to the agitation of hand or machine washing. Also, exposure to detergents reduces their sheen. Use solvents and mild detergents that will not damage the fibers. Remove as much of the paint as possible with hand washing, and then take the garment to the dry cleaner to have the rest professionally removed.

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Warning

Silk fibers are made of protein which dissolves in chlorine bleach. Never attempt to remove a stain from silk with even a dilute solution of chlorine bleach, as this will cause permanent weakening and yellowing of the fabric.

Things You'll Need

  • Blunt scraper, such as a craft stick

  • Delicate care detergent

  • Distilled white vinegar

  • Denatured alcohol

  • Dry cleaning solution

  • Glycerin

  • Clean water

  • Clean rags

  • Cotton swabs or eyedropper

Step 1: Scrape Off Excess Paint

Gently scrape off as much of the paint as possible with the scraper.

Step 2: Spread the Cloth on Fabric

Lay a dry cloth under the fabric to absorb any paint and water that soaks through.

Step 3: Use Denatured Alcohol

Apply denatured alcohol to the area you want to clean with a cotton swab, eye dropper or clean rag. Allow the alcohol to soak into the fibers to release the paint.

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Step 4: Dab the Stained Area

Gently dab the area with a clean, dry rag to soak up the alcohol. If the paint is still present, repeat the process or try other solvents, such as dry-cleaning solution or glycerin.

Tip

Test all solvents on a small, inconspicuous area of the garment to be sure they don't damage the fabric.

Step 5: Use Detergent for Delicates

Mix a few drops of delicate care detergent into a large tub of cool, clean water. For silk, add 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar to help the fabric retain its shine during the washing process. Gently hand-wash the garment without wringing or squeezing, which would break the delicate fibers.

Warning

Never wash wool fabric in hot water because it will permanently shrink the fibers.

Step 6: Have the Dry Cleaner Remove Any Residual Paint

Take the garment to a dry cleaner to professionally remove any of the fabric paint that remains on the garment.

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