How to Remove Paint from Carpet

Paint spill on the carpet? Daubs on your divan? It's almost inevitable when you're painting your home, even when you tape plastic over everything. Fortunately, paint on fabric surfaces can be removed, though you'll get the best results if you notice the spill when it happens and act quickly.  Find out how to remove paint from carpet to protect your investment.

Cleaning Lots of Wet Paint Out of Carpet

If you just dumped several gallons all over the Berber, a wet/dry vac is your best friend. The most important thing is to keep the spill wet until you can get it up. If you need to run next door and borrow a shop-vac, throw a wet towel or some plastic over the spill to keep it wet. It will be a long process. You'll need to keep rewetting and vacuuming until a clean towel laid over the spill is clean. Wet and vacuum or blot, don't scrub, or you'll wind up forcing the paint down into the carpet pad.

Cleaning Wet Paint Drips from Carpet

Just use water, and a clean absorbent rag to blot the paint up. Don't scrub, that will fuzz up the carpet fibers and drive the paint down to the pad. Keep turning the rag and blotting until it comes up clean.

Cleaning Dried Latex Paint from Carpet

If the paint is relatively fresh, say less than a couple of days old, saturate it with very hot water and put a cloth over it for a few minutes. Blot and repeat. The hot water will soften the paint, making it easier to clean up. You may have to get down on your hands and knees and scrape at individual fibers until it's all clean.

If the paint is dried solid, try one of the paint-remover products like Goof-Off. These cleaners typically contain a high level of distilled alcohol or acetone. They should be used very sparingly and only in a well-ventilated room, as the fumes are both toxic and highly flammable. It's best to test these solvents in an inconspicuous area first, such as the inside of a closet, to make sure that they won't dissolve the dyes used in your carpets or upholstery.

The safest way to use solvents is sparingly. Try a few drops on a paper towel. If it doesn't work, try something else. Never soak a paint spot with solvent. Once you're done, blot the area thoroughly with cold water and soak the paper towel in water before you throw it away. Don't use rags and don't toss paper towels onto a windowsill or any other area where heat can be generated.

If the paint drip is dried really hard, you may have to resort to surgery. The dried paint can be carefully cut out of pile carpet with a sharp knife and only you will know there was paint there. Paint thinner has no effect on latex paint or any dried paint. Unless you are cleaning up wet oil-based paint, don't even bother. It smells nasty, creates a fire hazard and won't work anyway.

Getting Paint Out of Fabric

If you got paint on silk drapes or a $300.00 cashmere sweater, bag it up in airtight plastic, keep it from drying out and get to a professional cleaner right away.

For any washable fabric, blot excess paint, spot clean, then wash the item immediately before it has a chance to dry. Upholstery can be blotted just as carpeting can, and clothing can be dropped into a sinkful of water or the washing machine. It's really important to keep it from drying out, if you can. Once paint has dried into fabric it is often impossible to clean flawlessly.

If the paint has dried, try a solvent cleaner or rubbing alcohol and a stiff toothbrush to work into the fibers. This can work on some stiff upholstery fabrics, denim or heavy cotton. Clothes go in the washing machine immediately after treatment with solvents or alcohol. Furniture should be thoroughly blotted with cool water to eliminate solvent residue.

If paint has dried into lightweight or fine fabric, it is usually impossible to get it out. You can try getting creative with laundry markers to cover it up, as a last resort.

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