How to Get Spray Paint Out of Clothes

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Fight tough spray paint on clothes by treating the stains immediately.
Image Credit: Jose Gonzalez Buenaposada/iStock/GettyImages

Getting spray paint out of clothes can be challenging, but by carefully applying the right solution, you can minimize long-lasting damage to your clothing. If spray paint has gotten on your clothes, there are two factors that affect how difficult it will be to get the spray paint out of your clothes. The first factor is the speed with which you act to remove the paint. If you can treat the fabric before the paint dries, you'll have a much better chance of reducing damage to your clothes. The second factor is the type of paint as well as the chemicals you have on hand to treat it.

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What Is Spray Paint?

Paint is a pigment suspended in a solvent that allows a painter to apply it to a surface. Traditional painting uses a kind of pigment-paste mixed with different ratios of mineral spirits as a solvent to produce different consistencies, while modern paint cans are an all-in-one paste and solvent solution that only needs to be sufficiently mixed before use.

Spray paint contains a pressurized gas, which aerosolizes the paint and solvent mixture. This produces a fine mist of equal amounts of pigment, solvent and propellant. The propellant dissipates into the atmosphere (which can be harmful when inhaled), while the solvent helps the pigment absorb into the surface before evaporating into the atmosphere.

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Knowing Your Spray Paint's Base

The solvent used impacts spray paint's usage, including the speed at which the paint dries. Each paint's solvent base also affects the best way to remove the paint. Water-based paints take longer to dry and can be removed with warm water and dish soap, while oil-based or acrylic paints require the application of isopropyl alcohol or mineral spirits. Alternative options include using hair spray, which uses alcohol as a solvent. The forceful aerosolization improves penetration.

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You may also use WD-40, which penetrates deep and dissolves some chemical bonds. However, stronger chemicals will likely impact the fabric's color and quality. If you have a touch-up fabric marker or dye, you may be able to restore some of the fabric's original color.

Getting Spray Paint Out of Clothes

Once spray paint dries on clothing, getting it out becomes much more difficult to do without damaging the fabric. There are many reasons artists traditionally use canvas as a painting surface. The ability to roll it up for transport is nice, but canvas was primarily used because the weave and absorbency of the material allows paint to seep in, and once dried, it becomes almost permanently bonded. As a result, artists and paint manufacturers have experimented with various methods to get paint to dry quicker. On the flip side, if you don't want the paint to set permanently on your clothing, you need to act quickly before the spray paint is completely dry.

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If spray paint has already dried, try to physically remove the dried paint by scraping the fabric with a dull knife. A sharp knife will remove dried paint better but will also abrade the fabric. Combine scraping with duct tape to loosen and peel away dried paint before attempting chemical treatments. If the paint is still wet, you can run warm water over the back of the painted surface before using dish soap or spot remover to remove stubborn sections. If these mild approaches aren't working, you'll need to move on to harsher chemicals instead, such as rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover.

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