How to Get Acrylic Paint Out of Clothes, Whether It’s Wet or Dry

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Yeah, you probably should have put a smock on your kid or at least put on an old sweatshirt before starting that at-home art project, but hindsight is 20/20. Next time you promise to be more careful. But for now, you really need to know how to get acrylic paint out of clothes. Luckily, acrylics wash out much easier than any other medium, including oil paint, charcoal or pastels. Here’s everything you need to know to save that T-shirt—rather than be forced to start using it as a rag.

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First of all, what is acrylic paint?

Acrylic paints are water-based, just like latex paint (aka wall paint), and dry much faster than oils or watercolors. This is why they’re often used in art class, so kids can take their art projects home to hang on the fridge ASAP. Because acrylic is water-based, it’s not impossible to remove from clothing or other fabrics. Of course, the sooner you act and the smaller the spot, the more likely you are to find success.

How to Remove Wet Paint

Removing acrylic paint before it has totally dried is ideal, so if you’re attempting an at-home art project, keep an eye on your clothes and address any spots as quickly as you can.

What you’ll need:

Step 1: Flush the paint spot with warm water.

Step 2: Mix one-part soap with one-part warm water (you don’t need a lot, so start with just a little bit of soap and see if you need more later). Use the sponge to dab the soap solution on the paint spot, continuing to flush with water as the paint begins to loosen.

Step 3: If any paint remains, apply a stain remover like OxiClean directly to the spot and run through the washing machine. Note: Don’t place the garment in the dryer until the stain is completely gone. 

How to Remove Dry Paint with Isopropyl Alcohol

Once acrylic paint has dried, the paint is a bit harder (but not totally impossible) to remove from fabrics. There are a few different methods you can try depending on what you have around the house and what type of fabric you’re working with. For instance, if you get paint on a shirt that’s made of a blend containing acetate or triacetate, do not apply acetone or alcohol. It will literally melt (yes, melt) the fabric.

What you’ll need:

  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • A clean spoon or dry brush

Step 1: Use a spoon or dry brush to scrape off as much of the dried paint as possible.

Step 2: Soak the stain with isopropyl alcohol. This is not the time to be stringent, so go ahead and really pour it on there.

Step 3: Use your fingernail (or a coin or a dry brush again) to continue scraping off the paint.

Step 4: At this point, if there is still a decent amount of paint, you can try using the wet paint method described above.

Step 5: Once you’ve successfully lifted all or most of the paint, you can go ahead and place the item in your washer. (Feel free to apply an additional stain lifter before washing, if you’d like.) Double check that the paint is entirely gone before you place your clothing in the dryer.

How to Remove Dry Paint with Ammonia and Vinegar

If you don’t have isopropyl alcohol at home or you’re working with fabric made with acetate or triacetate, you can use a mix of ammonia and white vinegar with a touch of salt, instead.

What you’ll need:

  • Ammonia
  • White vinegar
  • Salt
  • A clean spoon or dry brush
  • A clean sponge

Step 1: Use a spoon or dry brush to scrape off as much of the dried paint as possible.

Step 2: Place the clothing in a basin of cold water to soak.

Step 3: Mix one-part ammonia with one-part white vinegar and a pinch or two of salt.

Step 4: Drain the water and press your clothing against the side of the basin to remove excess water. It should be damp but not dripping.

Step 5: Use the sponge to gently rub the ammonia-vinegar solution onto the paint spot.

Step 6: Flush the fabric with water and repeat as necessary.

Step 7: Once you feel all or most of the paint has been lifted, you can go forth and wash the clothing item in the washer as you normally would, but don’t run it through the dryer until you feel confident that the stain is gone.

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Abby Hepworth is an RRCA-certified running coach who has worked in fashion for over 10 years. Want to know what shoes are in this season? She's got you. Need recommendations on...