How to get acrylic paint out of clothes

Acrylic paint is a versatile and popular medium for arts and crafts, but it can be a real pain to remove from clothing. Whether you’re an artist, a crafter, or someone who just got a little too enthusiastic with their DIY project, dealing with acrylic paint stains on your favourite shirt or pair of pants can feel daunting.

But don’t worry, there are several effective methods you can use to get acrylic paint out of clothes. With the right techniques and cleaning products, you can typically remove even set-in acrylic stains and restore your clothes to their former glory. In this article, we’ll walk you through step-by-step instructions for getting acrylic paint out of different types of fabrics, as well as provide some tips for preventing acrylic stains in the first place.

get acrylic paint out of clothes

Identifying the Fabric

The first step in removing acrylic paint from clothes is to identify the fabric type. This will help you determine the best cleaning method to use, as certain techniques work better on some fabrics than others.

Some of the most common fabric types found in clothing include:

Fabric TypeCharacteristics
CottonA natural, breathable fiber that is relatively easy to clean.
PolyesterA synthetic fiber that is durable and wrinkle-resistant.
WoolA natural fiber that can be more delicate and prone to shrinking.
SilkA luxurious natural fiber that requires gentle handling.
LinenA lightweight, natural fiber that is highly absorbent.

Checking the clothing tag can give you information about the fabric content. If there is no tag, you can do a simple burn test to identify the fiber. Hold a small, inconspicuous area of the fabric over a flame – if it melts into a hard bead, it’s likely synthetic. If it scorches and produces an ashy residue, it’s probably a natural fiber like cotton or wool.

Removing Wet Acrylic Paint

The easiest time to remove acrylic paint from clothing is right after the spill happens, while the paint is still wet. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Blot the stain. Use a clean, absorbent cloth or paper towels to gently dab at the paint, lifting as much of it as possible from the fabric. Avoid rubbing, as this can spread the stain.
  2. Rinse with cold water. Run the stained area under cool, clean water to flush out any remaining wet paint. Avoid using hot water, as this can set the stain.
  3. Apply a stain remover. Look for a stain remover specifically formulated for acrylic paint, such as Goo Gone Acrylic Paint Remover, or use a general-purpose enzyme-based cleaner like Biz Enzymatic Laundry Detergent. Apply it directly to the stain and let it sit for 5-10 minutes to penetrate the paint.
  4. Launder as usual. Wash the garment in the washing machine using the hottest water safe for that fabric, along with your regular laundry detergent. Avoid putting it in the dryer until the stain is fully removed.

If the paint has started to dry, you may need to use a little more elbow grease to get it out. Pre-treating the stain with a solvent-based cleaner can help break down the dried paint before washing.

Removing Dried Acrylic Paint

When acrylic paint has had time to fully dry and set into the fabric, it can be a lot tougher to remove. But with the right approach, you can often still get those stubborn stains out. Here’s how:

  1. Scrape off excess paint. Use a dull knife, the edge of a spoon, or your fingernail to gently scrape away any dried paint flakes or clumps from the surface of the fabric. Be careful not to grind the paint deeper into the fibers.
  2. Pre-treat with a solvent. Look for a commercial stain remover containing solvents like acetone or mineral spirits, such as Goo Gone Spray Gel or Motsenbocker’s Lift Off Stain Remover. Apply it directly to the stain, let it sit for 5-10 minutes, and then blot with a clean cloth. Test first on an inconspicuous area of the garment to ensure the solvent doesn’t damage the fabric.
  3. Soak in warm water. Fill a sink or bucket with warm water and add a few drops of dish soap or laundry detergent, like Persil ProClean Original Scent Liquid Laundry Detergent. Submerge the stained area and let it soak for 30 minutes to an hour, agitating the fabric occasionally. This helps further break down the dried paint.
  4. Scrub with a soft brush. Once the fabric has soaked, use a soft-bristled brush or your fingers to gently scrub the stain. Focus on working the cleaning solution into the fibers to lift out the paint.
  5. Rinse and launder. Thoroughly rinse the garment under cool running water to remove all traces of the solvent and paint. Then wash as usual, using the hottest water safe for that fabric.

It may take several rounds of pre-treating, soaking, and scrubbing to fully remove a set-in acrylic paint stain. Be patient and persistent, and don’t put the item in the dryer until the stain is gone.

Removing Acrylic Paint from Delicate Fabrics

Certain fabrics, like silk, wool, and linen, require extra care when dealing with acrylic paint stains. The solvents and scrubbing used on sturdier materials like cotton could potentially damage these more delicate fibers.

For silk and other fine fabrics:

  • Blot the stain immediately with a clean, absorbent cloth.
  • Dilute a small amount of mild dish soap in cool water and gently sponge the area.
  • Avoid rubbing or soaking, which can distort the fabric.
  • If the stain persists, take the garment to a professional dry cleaner, such as Jeeves of Belgravia.

For wool:

  • Blot the stain and pre-treat with a wool-safe stain remover, like Woolite Delicates Wash.
  • Hand wash the garment in cool water with a mild detergent, avoiding agitation.
  • Lay flat to air dry, then have it professionally dry cleaned if needed.

For linen:

The key when dealing with delicate fabrics is to be as gentle as possible. Avoid heat, harsh chemicals, and excessive scrubbing, which can lead to additional damage. When in doubt, it’s best to take the item to a professional cleaner.

Preventing Acrylic Paint Stains

Of course, the best way to deal with acrylic paint stains is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Here are some tips to help keep your clothes paint-free:

  • Wear an apron or smock when working with acrylics, such as the Artistree Painting Apron. This creates a protective barrier between your clothes and the paint.
  • Cover your work surface with a disposable drop cloth or painting tarp, like the Fancii Extra Large Painting Drop Cloth. This will catch any drips or splatters.
  • Invest in some high-quality paint brushes that are easy to clean, such as the Biniwa Acrylic Paint Brushes Set. Cheaper brushes can shed bristles that can transfer paint to your clothes.
  • Work in a well-ventilated area to minimize the risk of paint mist or overspray landing on your garments.
  • Keep a clean, damp cloth nearby to immediately blot any accidental spills or splashes.
  • Change into old clothes or a paint-stained smock when doing messy creative work.

If you do happen to get acrylic paint on your clothes, don’t panic. With some elbow grease and the right cleaning methods, you can usually remove even stubborn stains. Just remember to act quickly, be gentle on delicate fabrics, and have patience – getting acrylic paint out of clothes takes a bit of work, but it’s very doable.

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As the founder of Clean It Spotless, I am Melissa Walker, a leading expert in removing tough stains from fabrics, carpets, and upholstery. With over 10 years of experience in the cleaning industry, I have developed my own natural, non-toxic stain-fighting formulas that lift stains while preserving the integrity of the underlying material. My stain removal tutorials are widely read online, and I have appeared on local TV segments demonstrating my techniques. I also present popular stain removal workshops at community centers and schools.