Whether you have your own art studio or you just like to help your preschooler paint, you have probably run into quite a few paint stains over the years. Some kinds of paint easily rinse off most surfaces, but others can prove difficult to budge. For example, does acrylic paint wash off clothes?
Acrylic paint washes out of clothes most easily while the paint is still wet. It is possible to remove both wet and dry acrylic paint from clothing using several different treatments. The most successful of these methods include using dishwashing soap, isopropyl alcohol, or a nail polish remover that contains acetone.
In this article, you’ll discover eight methods to remove acrylic paint from clothes. You’ll also learn what makes acrylic paint so permanent. Lastly, you’ll find helpful tips for preventing acrylic paint accidents.
Is Acrylic Paint Permanent On Clothes?
Acrylic paint is not permanent on clothes if you catch it while still wet or before exposure to heat. After washing and drying, the acrylic paint will heat up and prove extremely difficult to remove. For this reason, many fabric artists use heat to make acrylic artwork permanent on fabric.
Though acrylic paint is water-resistant when dry and will not wash out of fabric easily, it is not waterproof unless a special sealant is applied on top of it. For this reason, you wouldn’t want to wear an untreated fabric-art jacket out in the rain!
Acrylic paint consists of pigment suspended in an acrylic polymer emulsion. Though the paint is basically plastic, it is water-soluble while wet and doesn’t become plasticky and water-resistant until it dries. It also dries very quickly.
Though the first version of acrylic paint was invented in the 1940s, this medium didn’t become available commercially for artists until the mid-1960s. Acrylic paints have a level of versatility you can’t find in any other medium. Depending on what you mix in, you can make acrylics look like watercolors or oil paints. Plus, you can apply this paint to many different surfaces, from fabric to canvas to wood.
On top of this, acrylic paints often cost far less than watercolors or oils. All these reasons make acrylic paint a popular choice for everything from kid crafts to museum artworks!
Finally, you can often substitute acrylic paints for fabric paint in textile projects like painting a t-shirt. Acrylics work on pretty much all types of fabrics, including synthetics. A lot of traditional fabric paint only works on natural materials like cotton.
Does Acrylic Paint Wash Off Clothes?
Acrylic paint can wash out of clothes with proper treatment, such as applying hairspray or isopropyl alcohol. Because this paint is water-soluble, you can often rinse it away entirely if you catch the paint stain before it dries!
That said, once acrylics dry and harden onto fabric, it becomes much more difficult to wash the paint out of clothing. Besides creating potentially unsightly colorful blobs on your clothing, acrylic paint dries hard and plasticky, making fabric stiff to the touch. This may make your clothes uncomfortable.
Unless the paint stain is super fresh, this paint likely will not come out of clothes in a regular wash. It may fade slightly, but you need to apply a special treatment to entirely remove acrylic paint from clothing. You do not want to place a paint-stained garment in your dryer, as the heat will make the paint pretty much permanent.
For example, if you smeared acrylic paint on your jeans while working on an art project, first check to see if the paint is still damp. If it is, blot the paint right away with a wet cloth, and then proceed to one of the eight methods you will find in this article.
If the paint is already dried, try scraping away as much as you can off the surface of the jeans. After that, try a treatment such as applying isopropyl alcohol to dissolve some of the dried-on paint.
On the flip side, if you want acrylic paint to remain on your clothing (for example, if you painted a t-shirt or jacket with a cool design), you will want to mix a special textile medium into the paint to prevent it from cracking or remaining stiff and plasticky on top of the fabric. With this medium mixed in, you can wash clothing painted with acrylics without worrying about damaging the design, which will remain permanent.
How To Get Acrylic Paint Off Clothes
Though acrylic paint sets permanently as soon as it dries on fabric, you can use several special treatments to remove a stubborn paint stain from clothing. All of these methods work best if the paint is fresh and still damp, but you can usually successfully remove dried-on paint so long as you haven’t put it through your dryer or ironed it.
Once you have washed the paint-stained garment, the chance of removing the paint goes down dramatically. Make sure you check any clothing you wore while working with this paint before putting it in the washer. That way, you can catch stains during the golden time when you can still easily remove them!
If you love a particular garment and you didn’t notice the paint stain till it was too late, you can still try one of the tougher methods described here, such as applying ammonia and vinegar. However, even this may not fully remove the set-in paint stain.
Pretreating an acrylic paint stain before applying any of these methods will give you the best chance of success.
Most importantly, if you spot the stain before it dries and hardens, act quickly to blot away as much as you can with a clean cloth or paper towel. You can use a stiff paintbrush or toothbrush to get stubborn bits out of the weave of the fabric, too.
Wet paint is much easier to remove, but don’t despair if you find an old stain! To get dried acrylic paint ready for treatment, use a spoon, blunt knife, or stiff brush to scrape away some plasticky paint.
The more paint you can scrape or dab away before you get started, the better these methods will work!
Finally, you should not attempt most of these methods while wearing your stained clothing. A few of the eight methods use friendly products like dish detergent, but most of them require chemicals that shouldn’t come in contact with your skin.
1. Dish SoapBecause acrylic paint is water-soluble while wet, this technique can give you a quick response to get paint out immediately!
- Mix equal amounts of water and dish detergent. Any kind of dish soap should work fine.
- Soak a clean cloth in this solution. Wring it out, so it isn’t too wet.
- Dab at the paint stain with the damp rag. You want to make sure you don’t rub the stain, as this could spread it across the fabric’s surface.
- Rinse the stained area thoroughly in cool water.
- Check to see if any paint remains. Repeat the dabbing and rinsing as necessary until no paint remains.
This method is probably the quickest and cheapest of the eight methods listed here. It does work best on still-wet paint, though.
2. Isopropyl AlcoholIsopropyl alcohol is essentially a less diluted version of rubbing alcohol. You can buy it at most grocery stores or pharmacies in the aisle with other disinfectants.
You can use this method on wet and dry paint, but it does an especially great job removing dried-on paint!
- Arrange your stained clothing over a sink or basin.
- Pour isopropyl alcohol directly on the stain, so the liquid soaks through and drips into the basin below.
- After soaking the stained area, use a spoon or blunt knife to scrape the paint. Try to get as much off as you can at this stage. Scrape back and forth, both with and against the grain of the fabric.
- Rinse the stained area, removing the alcohol.
- Examine the stain for any lingering paint flecks.
- If the paint is gone, wash the clothing in your washing machine as usual.
As a final note on this method, you can try using rubbing alcohol instead of isopropyl alcohol, but you will find the results less satisfactory. You will probably have to repeat the process multiple times to remove all the dried paint.
3. HairsprayHairspray contains several polymers as well as alcohol and hydrocarbons. It can do a great job removing paint stains from many kinds of fabric.
As a word of caution, though, you should test a spritz of hairspray on an inconspicuous area of your garment before you undertake this method. The chemicals in hairspray could damage some types of material.
- Arrange your paint-stained garment over a sink or basin.
- Spray hairspray thoroughly over the stained area, soaking the fabric.
- Check the paint to see if the hairspray has softened it enough that you can peel an edge off the surface of the fabric.
- Work quickly to peel away as much of the softened paint as possible.
- Rinse the garment in cool water.
- Check to see if any paint flecks remain. You might be able to scrape these remaining bits away with your fingernail.
If not, repeat the hairspray and rinse cycle
- Wash your clothing right away in a regular washing machine cycle to get the hairspray out of it.
You can often get even old, dried-on paint peeled away with the hairspray method. That said, hairspray may damage some fabrics, so use this method with care.
4. Nail Polish Remover/ AcetoneMost nail polish removers contain acetone, which is also the main ingredient in many paint thinners. Unsurprisingly, this solution does a great job dissolving paint stains!
You may want to wear gloves if you are concerned about touching strong chemicals.
Also, test a tiny dab on a hidden area of your clothing to make sure it doesn’t react badly. Acetone will damage spandex and some other synthetic fabrics.
- Soak a clean rag or sponge in the nail polish remover.
- Press the wet rag to the paint stain, and hold it in place for about five minutes.
- Remove the sponge or rag and check to see if the acrylic paint seems loosened and flaky on the fabric’s surface.
- Use a blunt object like a spoon or a butter knife to scrape away as much of the paint as possible.
- Rinse in cool water immediately to remove the acetone before it damages the fabric.
- Check for any remaining paint, and repeat the process as necessary.
- Finally, wash in warm water with detergent as usual.
You probably have a bottle of nail polish remover stashed away in your bathroom, making this a quick and convenient stain removal method! Just check to make sure it contains acetone.
5. WindexGlass cleaners like Windex contain a lot of chemicals, including ammonium hydroxide. These chemical mixes often do a great job removing both wet and dry paint.
- Dab away as much excess paint as you can while the paint is still wet. If there’s too much paint, use a spoon to scoop away some of the excess first.
- If you’re dealing with dry paint, peel away as much as you can first.
- Spray Windex pretty heavily over the paint stain.
- Use a second clean rag to blot the soaked area. Make sure you don’t rub with the rag, as this could spread the paint further.
- Rinse the garment in cool water.
- Check to see if any paint remains on the fabric’s surface and repeat the spraying and blotting process if you need to.
- Finally, wash your clothing as usual to remove the Windex.
Windex also removes acrylic paint from the hard surface of many other materials like the plastic or foam elements used in many cosplay costumes. You might also find this method helpful if you do a lot of model building and strip acrylic paint off metal things like model cars.
You will need to allow the Windex to sit on a hard surface for a bit longer before trying to wipe away the acrylic paint.
6. Murphy’s Oil SoapIf your grandparents had wood floors in their house, you probably remember the smell of Murphy’s Oil Soap! If you use acrylic paint frequently, you may want to keep this old-fashioned cleaner on hand. It will quickly remove the wet paint from the fabric and hard surfaces like your table and floor.
Given enough time, it can also remove acrylics after the paint has dried. For example, you can soak a stiffened paintbrush in a solution of equal parts soap and water overnight. In the morning, you can easily rinse the dried paint out of the brush using warm water!
- Follow the pretreatment steps to remove as much excess paint as possible before your begin.
- Rinse the stained area under running water.
- Soak a clean rag or paper towel in undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap.
- Dab this wet rag onto the stain. Take care not to rub the paint any further into the fabric!
- Rinse the garment again, and check to see if you have successfully removed all of the wet acrylic paint from the fabric.
- Finally, wash the garment as you normally do to get any remaining soap out of it and to remove paint flecks that might still be caught in the weave of the fabric.
7. Ammonia and VinegarThis method requires multiple products and a bit more work, but it can prove highly effective in removing dried acrylic paint.
As a note of caution, you should always do some research before mixing common household cleaning products. Ammonia and vinegar mixed do not create any dangerous gases or chemical reactions, though!
- If the paint is still wet, follow the pretreatment method described earlier to get as much paint as possible off the fabric before you begin.
- Soak the stained portion of the fabric in cold water till it is sopping wet.
- Mix a solution of one cup ammonia, one part vinegar, and 1/4 cup salt.
- Wring out the clothing and lay it on a protected surface. A large trash bag or plastic tablecloth will work well.
- Soak a clean sponge or rag in your ammonia solution and scrub vigorously at the stain. In this case, you can rub, especially on dried acrylic paint! Plus, the salt will act as an abrasive, helping to scrape away the paint.
- Rinse this portion of the fabric multiple times and check to see if any paint remains.
- Lastly, wash your clothing in the washing machine to get rid of the chemical smell!
8. Lacquer ThinnerLacquer thinner contains several solvents, including acetone and is usually more caustic than the average paint thinner. For this reason, you will need to test a tiny bit of the product on your fabric to make sure the thinner doesn’t cause any damage to the fibers.
While it is a strong product that comes with some risk, you can use lacquer thinner to get acrylic paint off many surfaces, sometimes even off concrete!
- Scrape away as much of the acrylic paint as you can without smearing it more deeply into the fabric.
- Soak a clean cloth in lacquer thinner and use it to dab at the stain.
- Rinse the rag and repeat the process until you can’t see any more acrylic paint on your clothing!
- Of course, make sure to wash the clothing right away to remove the lacquer thinner before it can damage the fabric.
How to Get Dried Acrylic Paint Out of Clothing
The acetone, ammonia and vinegar, and isopropyl alcohol methods described above will most easily remove dried acrylic paint from clothing. You can try any of the eight methods, but these three do an especially good soaking into dried paint and causing it to flake or peel away.
No matter what method you use, plan to spend some time scraping paint flakes out of the fabric! Unfortunately, once acrylic paint has dried, it does become much trickier to clean up.
One thing you don’t want to do is to throw clothing with an old paint stain on it into your laundry and run it through the washer and dryer. This will only exacerbate the issue and heat set the acrylic into the fabric.
Instead, decide if you want to put in a bit of time to rescue the stained fabric and proceed with one of the treatments you learned about in this article.
Does Acrylic Paint Come Out of Clothes in Wash?
If you act quickly, wet paint stains may partially come out in the wash if you pretreat the fabric correctly. Dried acrylic paint will not come out of fabric in the wash.
Generally, you’re better off using a chemical rinse and scrub like the methods described in this article and then placing your garment in the wash for a final go-round.
If you choose to throw clothing stained with fresh acrylic paint into the washer, make sure you put it in by itself! Otherwise, you may end up with a whole load of stained clothing.
That said, unless you empty a whole bottle of paint into the washer, a little stain on a garment shouldn’t result in any way damage or stain your washing machine.
Tips for Preventing Acrylic Paint Stains
The occasional paint splatter might be inevitable, but you can take a few extra precautions to prevent a lot of potential acrylic paint stains!
Here are a few tips to help you avoid all the work of removing an acrylic paint stain.
- Protect your work area. You can easily lay down newspaper on the floor before your child starts an art project at the kitchen table!
- Wear old clothes! If you wear already old, stained, or torn clothes, you won’t have to worry about removing fresh stains because you won’t care about damaging these garments!
- Consider any possible seepage. For example, if you’re painting on a shirt, you probably want to place a cardboard buffer between the front and back of the shirt, so no paint soaks through to the reverse side.
- Have paper towels and the cleaner of your choice at hand while you work. Remember that it’s much, much easier to quickly blot away a fresh blob of paint than it is to scrape away congealed or dried acrylic paint!
You can remove acrylic paint from clothes pretty easily using any of the eight methods described here, including blotting a fresh stain with dish soap and water, soaking the stain in isopropyl alcohol, and scrubbing the stain with a mix of ammonia, vinegar, and salt.
That said, acrylic paint will probably not come out of clothing in the wash unless you apply one of these special treatments. Also, dried acrylic paint presents more of a challenge. But with a little effort, you can scrape dry paint out of your clothing, too!
Have you ever tried to get acrylic paint out of your clothes? What method did you use? Leave a comment below to let us know!