How to Remove Paint Stains


Molly asked: I found a wonderful cotton dress shirt at the thrift store with an out of the way white paint stain. I figured I would be able to get it out on my own, but I was wrong. I don’t know what type of paint it is, but it is stubborn. Any ideas?

Paint stains can be tricky because there are so many different types of paints that adhere differently to various types of fabrics. Here are some general paint removal techniques that should get the stain loosened and removed from the fabric fibers.

You Will Need:

  • Spoon
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Soft brush or old toothbrush
  • Laundry detergent
  • Nail polish remover
  • Hair spray
  • Goo Gone
  • Windex
  • Soft cloths or sponge
  • Cotton swabs or cotton balls
  • Water

Steps to Remove the Paint:

*These steps use a variety of cleaners as different types of paints will react differently to the various removers. Always test a small, hidden area first to ensure there is no damage to the fabric’s color or texture.

  1. Begin by gently scraping the paint with a spoon to remove as much as possible from the surface.
  2. Use a cotton ball or cotton swab (depending on the size of the stain) to gently moisten the area with rubbing alcohol.
  3. If necessary, scrub with a soft brush gently to work the paint out of the fibers.
  4. Rinse with clean water.
  5. If the stain remains, repeat the steps above using hairspray, nail polish remover, Goo Gone and/or Windex.
  6. It may be helpful to start with one and then follow up with some laundry detergent. Do not combine any detergents with bleach with Windex because the mixture of ammonia and bleach will produce toxic fumes.
  7. Scrub gently with the soft brush.
  8. Rinse completely to remove all cleaners.
  9. When the stain is removed, wash the garment as usual.
  10. Allow the piece to air-dry first to ensure no stain remains. Once you are sure the stain is gone, it is safe to dry it in the dryer.

Additional Tips and Ideas

  • Mr. Clean Magic Erasers have worked for some. Use it to gently scrub the area until the paint is removed. Test a small hidden area first to make sure there is no damage to the color.
  • Coca Cola works to break down thick stains and messes. Pour a can into the washing machine and wash as normal.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment and double up on cleaning items. Different combinations work for different situations, especially if you are unsure of the type of paint on the stain.


  1. How do I get a small spot of dried paint out of a new mattress? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Sandra

  2. I love the ideas; thank you.

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  4. How do I remove colored wall paint from a sunmaica sheet? Please answer this question.

  5. How to remove the paint from decolam texture sheet?

  6. Jessica says:

    Do you do the same thing to any kind of shoes or no, because I have Puma shoes that my friend got paint on and I only got them a week ago and I want them to be clean.

  7. Melanie says:

    Every material is different. The best way to know for sure is to test a cleaner on a small, hidden part of the shoes to see if there is any adverse reaction (color fading, material damage, etc.). For shoes, a good spot to test might be under the tongue flap or along the inner edge of a shoelace flap.

  8. I already removed black paint from white trousers, but after washing with detergent and drying them, there is brown mark on them…what should I do?????

  9. I had acrylic paint stains on my jeans for a couple of month now. I poured isopropyl alcohol on them and scrubbed with a toothbrush and the paint came right off. AWESOME! I just hope they don’t change the colour on those spots. I also was told to try vodka. Apparently, if you rub the stain with vodka before you wash it, it will take the stain right out.

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