Don’t panic—getting paint stains out of carpet isn’t easy, but cleaning experts say it’s doable. Here are their top tricks and tips for how to get acrylic, latex, and oil-based paint out of carpet successfully.
Uh-oh…you just looked down and realized that, in addition to having paint all over your clothes, your formerly pristine carpet looks like an art project gone wrong, and now you’re trying to figure out how to get paint out of carpet—and fast!
“Most times, people believe there’s no turning back once a speck of paint touches the carpet, but that’s not true,” says cleaning expert Melissa Rodriguez, founder of Bright Home Cleaning SVCS. There are smart ways to get paint out of carpet that actually work, so you don’t need to panic. You just need to jump into action if you want to remove carpet stains.
However, choosing the right approach for how to get paint out of carpet really depends on what type of paint has spilled. “Different types of paints contain different ingredients that are designed to adhere to surfaces differently,” says Jennifer Ahoni, senior scientist at Tide. “They also have varying degrees of water solubility (water-based, acrylic paints are more water-soluble wet than oil-based), so the products you may need to remove them can vary.”
Before you clean up the paint spill
In addition to wondering exactly how to get paint out of carpet, you might be asking yourself questions like:
- Are paint stains permanent?
- How do you get dried paint out of carpet?
- How do you get oil-based paint out of carpet?
- What homemade carpet cleaners will get paint out of carpet?
- Will nail polish remover get paint out of carpet?
The good news: We asked cleaning pros Rodriguez and Ahoni to walk us through the process for getting stubborn stains out of carpets. Here’s what they say you need to do before you start cleaning.
The two key things you should consider before you start cleaning up the paint spill are:
- what type of paint got onto your carpet, and
- if the paint on your carpet is still wet.
First, check the paint’s label to see if it’s oil-based paint or water-based paint. “The level of stain and how to treat it really depends on the main ingredients of the paint,” Rodriguez says.
Then, take note of if the paint is still wet or if it’s dried onto the carpet. “As with most stains, you have a better chance of removing them when they’re still wet,” Ahoni says. “Paint is especially one you want to try to remove wet, as it is designed in most cases to be a semi-permanent/permanent color treatment once dried.”
Regardless of the type, if you want to learn how to get paint out of carpet, there’s one thing you can do right away: “Grab a spoon or dull knife, and try to scrape off the excess paint as much as possible without spreading the stain to the surrounding area,” Ahoni says.
Water-based paint spills are typically easier to clean than oil-based paints as long as you act swiftly, so if you’ve spilled a water-based paint on your carpet, you’re in luck. “Many paints are water-soluble when wet, so you can rely on water-based cleaning solutions, but [they] become water-resistant when dry and, therefore, need a specific type of cleaner/thinner to remove them when dried,” Ahoni explains.
Alaina DiGiacomo/rd.comHow to get acrylic paint out of carpet
- For fresh or wet acrylic paint stains on carpet: The secret for how to get acrylic paint out of carpet is to act fast! Blot away as much of the wet acrylic paint as possible using a damp microfiber cloth or sponge. “Be careful not to rub heavily or back and forth, which can cause the stain to spread and further damage the carpet,” Rodriguez says.
For dried acrylic paint stains on carpet: “If the acrylic paint is already dry, carefully scrape it off the surface with a sharp object, like a razor,” Rodriguez says. Then loosen up the rest of the dried paint with rubbing alcohol and a microfiber cloth, Ahoni suggests. “Make sure to test a less visible portion of carpet for color-fastness first,” she says. Still no luck? “As a very last resort, you can try blotting with acetone,” Rodriguez says, but beware—it can seriously harm certain types of fibers, including ones that contain acetate, triacetate, or modacrylic. If you see any of those materials listed or simply aren’t sure, sticking to the rubbing alcohol is a safer bet.
- Then, for both wet paint spills and any leftover dried paint the rubbing alcohol didn’t remove, clean the area with a homemade cleaning solution. Mix equal parts dish soap or detergent with hot water, and dab the mixture onto the stain with a microfiber cloth or sponge as you try to blot away any remaining paint. A tip the pros swear by for how to get acrylic paint out of carpet: Work from the outside edges, moving toward the center, to avoid accidentally spreading the spilled paint around. For especially stubborn paint stains, “you can pour detergent directly onto the stain before using a wet sponge or towel to blot it up,” Ahoni says.
- Once the stain has come out, put a dry towel over the wet area. “Weigh it down so it can absorb the remaining moisture,” Ahoni says.
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How to get latex paint out of carpet
- For fresh or wet latex paint stains on carpet: “Latex paint, when still wet, can be easy to remove,” Rodriguez says, so acting quickly is the secret for how to get latex paint out of carpet successfully. First, gently blot away as much of the wet latex paint as possible using a slightly damp microfiber cloth or sponge. Paper towels work in a pinch, too. Proceed with caution, though—you don’t want to accidentally push the paint even deeper into the carpet as you’re blotting.
For dried latex paint stains on carpet: If the latex paint is already dry by the time you spot it, the best tip for how to get latex paint out of carpet is to use a razor or dull knife to carefully scrape it off the carpet’s surface. Then, loosen up any leftover dried paint with rubbing alcohol or acetone—but proceed with caution: “Always determine your carpet’s content before attempting to remove any stains with acetone; if the item’s material contains acetate, triacetate, or modacrylic, DO NOT USE acetone, as it can break down and destroy those fibers,” Ahoni explains. If you’re unsure, play it safe and stick to rubbing alcohol.
- Then, for both wet paint spills and any leftover dried paint, give the area a deep clean with a homemade cleaning mixture. Combine a 1:1 ratio of dish soap or detergent with hot water, and dab the mixture onto the paint with a microfiber cloth or sponge. Start on the stain’s outer edges and work your way inward.
- Once the stain has come out, cover the area with a towel and weigh it down so it sops up any excess moisture.
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Unfortunately, oil-based paints are more difficult to remove than water-based ones, Ahoni says, since the ingredients don’t dissolve easily in water. The silver lining: “Oil-based paint has a thicker consistency and therefore will take longer to dry, so your window of time to clean the spill while it’s still wet is a bit longer as opposed to water-based paint, which dries—and therefore stains—more quickly,” Rodriguez explains. However, once dry, a simple homemade cleaning solution won’t be enough—you’ll need the help of paint thinner if you want to get oil-based paint out of carpet.
How to get oil-based paint out of carpet
- For fresh or wet oil-based paint stains on carpet: “For these types of stains, you want to blot up as much as possible using a cloth or paper towel, and rinse the area to keep it from drying,” Ahoni explains. Once oil-based paint has dried, you’ll have to use a paint thinner to get it up.
For dried oil-based paint stains on carpet: If the paint has already dried, “treat the stain by blotting with a cloth treated with paint thinner recommended by the paint manufacturer to help remove and loosen up as much stain as possible,” Ahoni says.
- If the stain remains, dab a 1:1 ratio of dish soap or detergent with hot water onto the leftover paint with a microfiber cloth or sponge. Work your way from the outer edges toward the center of the stain. You can also pour a small amount of liquid detergent directly onto a particularly stubborn stain and let it sit for a few minutes, before blotting it up with a damp cloth.
- Once the stain is gone, lay a clean towel over the area and weigh it down with a stack of books or something heavy so it will continue to draw any remaining moisture out of the carpet.
To save your carpet from future paint stains so you never have to frantically google “how to get paint out of carpet” again, Rodriguez suggests applying Scotchgard Water Shield. “It helps protect carpets, rugs, and fabrics from absorbing wet stains,” she explains. What a lifesaver!
Additionally, both experts say it’s important to make tarps or drop cloths your friend the moment you pull any painting tools out. “Always place a drop cloth over your carpet when painting,” Ahoni says, “and make sure it’s well secured to the carpet using tape or weights to prevent it from slipping.” Rodriguez adds: “Paint specks can travel far, so it’s best to tarp the entire room versus one small area. And, of course, leave potentially messy situations—like your kids’ art projects—to non-carpeted areas!” Speaking of little ones, parents will also want to know how to remove ink stains from clothes.