It happens every artist. You decide to work on a painting without changing into old clothes. Of course, this is when you accidentally get paint on yourself.
Does acrylic paint come out in the wash? Once acrylic paint dries on clothing it’s very difficult to remove. Your best option is to wash it while the paint is still wet. First, you want to remove the excess paint and rinse it under water. Apply undiluted laundry detergent to the stain and scrub it with a brush. Immediately place it in the washing machine by itself and wash it on warm. Repeat the process if the stain is still visible. The results depends upon the type of fabric and the color of the paint. Light colored clothing is less forgiving than dark.
In this post, I experiment with staining T-shirts with acrylic paint and then I try removing them with water and laundry detergent. I was able to remove the stain from the black T-shirt while the white shirt still has some visible staining. There are before and after picture below. I also remove a small spot of dry acrylic paint from a pair of jeans with mixed results.
How to Remove Wet Acrylic Paint From Clothing
It’s important to notice the paint stain before it has a chance to dry. You’ll want to change into new clothes and immediately begin working on removing it. The steps are as follows.
- Remove any excess paint. Be careful not to spread the paint around and make the stain larger. You just want to remove any large gobs of paint that are still on the fabric.
- Make sure that you keep the paint wet while you’re working on it. If you paint with acrylics you probably have a spray bottle filled with water nearby. You can spritz it with the water or rinse it under a faucet. If you run it under the faucet, the color may run to surrounding areas but those light stains should come out in the wash. Use cool or warm water.
- Apply full-strength laundry detergent to the stain. Scrub it with a brush. I keep an old discarded toothbrush in my studio for this purpose.
- Immediately wash the clothing in a washing machine by itself. Use warm or cool water. You don’t want to use hot water because the heat may actually set the paint into the fabric.
- Inspect the stain when the washer is done. If the stain is still visible, then apply more detergent and scrub it with the old toothbrush. Run it through the washing machine for the second time.
- Don’t dry the clothing until the stain is gone. Once acrylic paint has a chance to dry, it’s very difficult to remove. The heat from the dryer will cause acrylic paint to set into the fabric permanently. If you washed it two or three times and the stain is still there, then it’s probably permanent.
Removing Acrylic Paint Stains From a T-Shirt
I conducted an experiment where I stained two T-shirts with acrylic paint and then tried to clean them with regular laundry detergent. One shirt is black, and I repeated the experiment with a white shirt.
This is a before and after photo of a T-shirt that has wet acrylic paint stains on it. There are two rows of stains. For the top row, I only only rinsed the shirt with water before putting it in the wash. I scrubbed the bottom row with laundry detergent and an old toothbrush.
I also rubbed a stain stick on it but I don’t believe this is necessary. Applying full strength laundry detergent will work just as well. The laundry detergent is a generic brand. I followed the instructions from the section above.
As you can see, scrubbing the stains with an brush and laundry detergent is much more effective than just throwing it in the washer. The stains in the bottom row are almost gone. The magenta stain is the most visible while the other colors are almost gone.
I scrubbed and washed the white shirt twice to get the results above.
The black shirt produced better results. I scrubbed it with laundry detergent and I applied the stain stick. The stains were gone after the first wash. I scrubbed it again and ran it through the laundry machine one more time for good measure.
Black or dark colored garments are easier to remove stains from. I think this is because any residual stains will be hidden by the dark color. That faint magenta stain on the white shirt wouldn’t be visible on a dark fabric.
Dry paint is much more troublesome on dark fabrics because there’s always a chance that the cleaning action will lighten the color of the fabric itself.
How to Remove Dry Acrylic Paint From Clothing
Once acrylic paint dries on clothing it’s very difficult to remove. I usually regard dried paint and clothing as permanent and laundry detergent isn’t going to have an effect upon it. This can be a problem because I often don’t notice a paint stain until after it’s too late–it’s already dry.
However, some artists use solvents to remove dry paint from clothing. Isopropyl alcohol is usually recommended because it dissolves the dry acrylic paint and many people already have a bottle of in a first aid kit. I don’t recommend using isopropyl alcohol to remove paint. One of the reasons why artists use acrylics is to avoid solvents. Isopropyl alcohol is a solvent–it’s toxic and flammable. Use it at your own risk.
Obviously, the best solution is to not get paint on your good clothes in the first place. More about this later.
Another issue with using solvents to remove dry paint from clothing is that it will may damage the color of the clothing. Many solvents are strong enough to lighten the color of the fabric itself.