Anyone who has tried knows how tricky paint stains can be to remove. It depends on what kind of paint is the culprit, how long ago the stain settled, what kind of garment needs cleaning, and more. But no worries, we have researched tried and true methods to treat those pesky paint stains, and we break them down step by step below.
The Three Most Common Types of Paint
There are three main types of paint: water-based, oil-based, and acrylic.
Water-based latex paints are used for painting walls and ceilings. Removing water-based latex paint from clothes is the easiest since the formula is designed to dissolve in water. Luckily, most kid-friendly paint is water-based.
Oil-based paints are glossier and most commonly used for painting trim, cabinetry, metal, and wood doors.
Acrylics are commonly used for artwork and crafts. These paints are often considered water-based but many also contain chemicals, which is the biggest difference between water-based latex and acrylic paints.
If your child is coming home with stains from school or elsewhere, try to find out from the teacher or supervisor what type of paint was used to figure out your best plan of attack.
Supplies Needed to Remove Paint from Kids’ Clothing
The supplies you will need depend on what kind of paint you are trying to remove from garments. It is a good idea to have these items handy so you are prepared for whatever paint emergency you face:
- Rubbing alcohol and/or non-acetone based nail polish remover
- Dry, clean, white cloths or rags
- Clean paper towels
- Old toothbrush, soft-bristled laundry brush, etc.
- Spoon and/or dull knife
If any paint falls onto the carpet, check out our article, How To Get Kids Paint Out of Carpet.
How to Remove Paint from Kids’ Clothing
Wet Latex/Water-Based Paint
As with all paint stains, working quickly and treating the area immediately will give you the best results. If it is possible, work to remove the stain while the paint is still wet by following the steps below:
- Blot off or scrape as much paint as possible.
- Turn the article of clothing inside out and flush with warm water over the stain to push as much of the color out to the other side.
- Mix together one cup of cool water and a tablespoon of detergent. Or you can use one part water and one part dish soap.
- Work the mixture onto the stain. You can use a laundry brush with bristles, an old toothbrush, or simply use a cloth to blot the stain. Be sure to get the solution into the fibers.
- Rinse and repeat the step of working the water and soap mixture into the stain until the paint is removed.
- Wash the clothes using your child’s regular laundry detergent in cold water.
Dried Latex/Water-Based Paint
If you followed the steps above and still see a stain, chances are the paint already started to dry before you started treating it.
If that is the case, try blotting the problem area with some non-acetone based nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol. These solutions help to liquefy the paint. However, you should check the clothing label before using rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover to make sure the solution won’t ruin the garment. It is also a good idea to do a spot test first.
After using the nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol, wash the item of clothing again with detergent and cold water.
If all else fails, take the garment to a professional dry cleaner to see if they can help!
Wet Oil-Based Paint
Oil-based paint can be much tougher to remove from clothing. But the good news is this type of paint is less common in kids’ classrooms.
If you do find yourself trying to tackle an oil-based paint stain, be sure to have some turpentine and a lot of patience at the ready! A fair warning: turpentine has a strong odor, so keep the kids away and work in a well-ventilated area. Here are steps to help remove wet oil-based paint:
- Scrape off as much excess paint as you can with a spoon or dull knife.
- Flip the clothing stain side down against an absorbent cloth like an old towel or paper towels. This ensures the stain does not bleed to the other side of the garment.
- Use a separate clean cloth to dip in turpentine and blot the paint stain immediately.
- Keep blotting with turpentine until all the paint is removed. Also, be sure to replace the cloth or paper towels that are underneath the stain as needed. You do not want those cloths to get wet enough to soak the other side of the garment.
- At this point, do not rinse the turpentine-soaked garment. Instead, soak the entire article of clothing in warm water and detergent overnight.
- The next day, machine wash the garment as normal.
One very important note: do not use turpentine on delicate garments and clothes containing rayon, acetate, or triacetate. It can ruin clothes. Check the fabric label before using turpentine. This chemical works best on cotton.
Dried Oil-Based Paint
You really, really, really want to try to avoid waiting until oil-based paint has dried before trying to remove the stain. It is not impossible, but your chances of success are not high.
For a dried oil-based paint stain, use a hard bristled brush to scrape off as much of the remaining paint as you can. Then, you want to thin the paint. Your best bet will be to follow instructions from the specific paint manufacturer. Check the label on the paint cans or tins to find out what product the manufacturer recommends for thinning the paint.
It is always a good idea to do a spot test on clothes to make sure the chemicals and solutions you are using will not ruin the fabric.
Once the stain has loosened and is wet again, apply the turpentine. Then, soak the entire garment in warm water and detergent overnight. Rinse and machine wash the clothing the next day.
Wet Acrylic Paint
Similar to water-based latex paint and oil-based paint, it is best to treat all paint stains when they are still fresh. The process to remove acrylic stains is similar to latex paint. The main difference between the two paints is that acrylic is chemical-based and latex is water-based.
- Use a spoon or a dull knife to take off as much excess paint as possible.
- Flush the stain with warm water, reversing the garment to push the stain out to the other side.
- Mix together one part warm water and one part detergent. Or you can combine one part warm water and one part dish soap.
- Use a soft-bristled laundry brush, sponge, or old toothbrush to blot the stain. Make sure to work the mixture into the fibers of the garment.
- Repeat the previous step as necessary.
- Rinse and machine wash the article of clothing in cold water.
Dried Acrylic Paint
If an acrylic paint stain has already dried, it will be harder to remove. But try implementing these next few steps to see if it helps:
- Use a fork or spoon to scrape off the dried excess paint. Be as gentle as possible to avoid damaging the fabric.
- Apply an alcohol cleaner, such as nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol, or hairspray, using a clean cloth to break down the plastic surface.
- If the clean cloth does not work, try using a brush cleaner.
- Repeat with the alcohol-based cleaner as necessary.
- Machine wash in cold water.
If this method does not work, you should seek professional help by taking the garment to a dry cleaner.
FAQs about Removing Paint from Kids’ Clothing
What is the best product to use to remove paint stains?
For water-based latex paint, dish soap is the most effective stain remover. Mix dish soap and warm water to dab and rinse the stain.
If you are tackling dried stains, use a bit of rubbing alcohol to loosen the paint. Rubbing alcohol is also a tried and true method for removing acrylic paint stains.
But for oil-based paint stains, you may need something more potent, such as turpentine.
Now, other household products you could try include nail polish remover, hairspray, and hand sanitizer. They all have a similar effect on stains as rubbing alcohol since all three products contain alcohol. It is important to note that nail polish remover, hairspray, and hand sanitizer will typically only work on water-based latex paint.
Can you use baking soda to remove paint from kids’ clothing?
When you are in a paint emergency, one of your first thoughts may be, “well, what about baking soda?” A lot of moms wonder if baking soda is effective in tackling paint stains. After all, this common household item is considered a miracle product because it can eliminate odors, whiten teeth, and more.
And you may be a bit leery to use chemicals on your child’s clothing because the fabric touches your little one’s delicate skin.
Baking soda is great for removing a variety of stains because it is absorbent, but it won’t do the trick in removing paint stains. Unfortunately, paint sets into fibers too quickly.
Supplies To Have On Hand Before Painting
Now that we have discussed the best ways to remove paint from kids’ clothing, let’s discuss the best art supplies to have on hand to prevent paint stains in the first place. We will break down the best paints to use, smocks, and other helpful tools.
Crayola Washable Finger Paints
Crayola Washable Finger Paints are made from a water-based formula and are easy to wash off from skin and clothes.
This set comes in easy squeeze 8-ounce bottles with flip-top caps to prevent spills. The paints are safe and non-toxic and suitable for kids 3 ages and up.
The colors include red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. The paints are very pigmented and bold. They are the perfect consistency for painting with fingers or brushes.
Colorations Simply Washable Tempera Paints
The Colorations Simply Washable Tempera Paints are a favorite in classrooms for their versatility.
The set includes six vibrant colors that are perfect for crafting and other projects. The paints have a smooth consistency and dry to a matte finish.
They wash from skin and clothing fairly easily. The paints are completely non-toxic. They do not contain allergens, latex, dairy and casein, egg, gluten, peanut and tree nut, and soy.
Arteza Tempera Washable Paint for Kids
The possibilities are endless with the 32 set Arteza Tempera Washable Paint for Kids.
It includes 8 vibrant, 7 metallic, 6 neon, 5 glitter, 4 laster glitter, and 2 glow-in-the-dark shades. Your kids will love the variety of colors.
These paints are perfect for crafting, finger painting, sponge painting, school projects, and more. The best part is they are easy to wash off clothing and skin.
The 32 paint set is safe and non-toxic.
We’ve also put together a list of the best face paints for kids.
Bassion Pack of 2 Kids Art Smocks
If you are planning a paint project with your toddler, having something like the Bassion Pack of 2 Kids Art Smocks is a good idea.
These toddler aprons are made of waterproof polyester and BPA free. These smocks can be used over and over. They are easy to clean with soap and water or you can toss them in the washing machine.
The smocks have long sleeves and adjustable back closure to protect your kids’ clothing. Your toddler will feel like a real artist with 3 front pockets to hold all his or her supplies, like paint, brushes, and other items.
The paint aprons are one size fits all for kids ages 2 to 6 years old.
EaseTech Kids Art Smocks
The EaseTech Kids Art Smocks is a great coverup for painting. This smock has long sleeves and is long enough to cover the top of your child’s pants.
The paint aprons are made of waterproof polyester in 3 different sizes. They are stain and odor resistant, durable, and easy to clean. Additionally, the smocks are BPA free, safe and non-toxic.
Caydo 3 Pieces Water Resistant Children’s Art Smock
If your child is fighting the smock or you are crafting outdoors, try the Caydo 3 Pieces Water Resistant Children’s Art Smock.
These aprons are sleeveless for a more comfortable fit. The smocks are made of smooth, water-resistant polyester material. They are durable and reusable.
Your child will love the 3 extra-large storage pockets to carry brushes and other items.
Miss Mouth’s Messy Eater Non-Toxic Baby and Kids Stain Remover
Painting or not, the Miss Mouth’s Messy Eater Non-Toxic Baby and Kids Stain Remover is a great item to have on hand.
This stain remover spray is safe to use on clothes, furniture, carpet, and other upholstered surfaces. It is effective on fresh and dried stains from baby food, blood, and dirty diapers.
The spray is designed for kids. It is safe to use around children and pets. The formula contains no peroxide, chlorine, phosphates, sulfates, or parabens.
Dapple Stain Remover Spray
The Dapple Stain Remover Spray is a plant-based product that is fragrance free.
This spray is designed to work on spit-up, dirty diapers, and food stains. However, it is worth trying on paint stains as well.
Dapple products are designated the Clean Label Project Purity Award recipients. This particular spray is hypoallergenic and pediatrician and dermatologist tested.
It is non-toxic and formulated without parabens, sulfates, phthalates, synthetic dyes and fragrances, chlorine, formaldehyde, alcohol, and more.
Paint stains may need more stringent, alcohol-based solutions, but it is worth a try!
OxiClean Max Force Gel Stain Remover Stick
If you need something a little stronger to remove stubborn stains, try theOxiClean Max Force Gel Stain Remover Stick.
This formula lets you treat stains now and wash up to one week later. The ultra-concentrated gel stays where it is applied and penetrates deep into clothing fibers.
The OxiClean Max Force Gel Stain Remover Stick works on all types of stains, such as food, grease, oil, dirt, grass, blood, and more.
If you are like me, you think twice before doing a messy activity with your toddler. Whether it is painting or splashing in the rain, it always makes me a bit nervous, thinking about all the extra laundry I will have to do!
But try not to let it hold you back from doing fun activities with your child. Not only are you making lasting memories together, but you’re also creating great learning and developmental opportunities.
We hope this guide of removing paint stains from your child’s clothing helps you make the leap into the messy more easily!