Cleaning up after Painting

Even the most seasoned professionals have painting mishaps. Imagine stepping into a paint bucket and tracking green oil paint across a remodeled Victorian just as the owners arrived home and you get an idea of what kind of jams they can encounter. When painting, whether it's your house or not, it is always a good idea to have a cleanup strategy.

Oil-Based Versus Water-Based

Chances are you’ll be using a water-based paint or varnish. There are few instances where oil-based paint is better. It’s a shame because cleaning oil-based paint is a snap. Simply add a generous dollop of paint thinner and wipe and clear the surface with hot, soapy water.

Paint thinner will not clean up dried water-based paint. Very hot water will, especially if the spill is fairly fresh and on a slick surface. Dried paint in clothing can be impossible to remove; try working it out of the fibers with lots of hot water and a little scrub brush. On carpet, use hot water and blot. Never scrub.

The Challenge of Hardened Paint

If you have hardened paint on carpet, you may not be able to clean it up. If the spot is small, try cutting the paint blob off. Only use white rags when you are cleaning paint from carpet. Dye from colored rags may leave a stain.

Products that contain Acetone or other solvents will remove dried paint by dissolving it. Use this at your own risk. Acetone also removes finishes and dyes. Never use it to get paint off a varnished or lacquered surface. Test a small, unobtrusive area of the affected surface before using. Keep the area well-ventilated and blot the surface with plenty of water to prevent flammable fumes from accumulating.

Hot water with TSP (trisodium phosphate) is a very efficient dried-paint remover for really tough situations. Like acetone, it can discolor surfaces and will dull some metals. Follow directions and use wisely.

Outdoor Paint Removal

Paint remover will get dried paint off concrete and masonry, but you’ll have to use some elbow grease. Once the paint is removed, there will be an unusually clean spot in its place. Get creative when dirtying it to match.

If you’re painting outside and get a big glob of paint on the driveway, scoop up some dirt and rub it in, then brush away. The dirt absorbs the paint like magic.

Got old paint on brickwork? Use flat paint and mix up a matching color. Dab it over the slopped paint: it’s much easier and more effective than trying to remove the paint.

Paint Hygiene

Inside, I work barefoot if it's safe. Not only is it more comfortable, but if I accidentally step on paint dripped on the drop cloth, I feel it on my foot and can wipe up right away. Wearing shoes, I'm more likely to track paint onto the floors. It’s always best, of course to remove, mask or cover anything you don’t want paint on.

The final stage of any paint job is cleaning yourself. Rub a generous amount of baby oil into your skin before stepping in the shower, especially on painted parts. It washes the paint off and leaves your skin soft.

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