how to get paint off of clothing shoes

How to Get Paint Off Of Clothing & Shoes

In this quick action guide, we explain how to get paint off of clothing and shoes.

Even as careful as you may be, inevitably paint somehow seems to land just where that you don’t want it to. Of course, the best way to avoid getting paint on your expensive shirt, pants or jeans is to not wear them while painting, but we’re not here to make you feel guilty about what you should have done.

The fact is that if you’re reading this, it has already happened. It’s in the past. So, let’s fix it.

Here we explain how to remove paint from your clothes and footwear, whether wet or dried, spray paint or house paint. But don’t get your hopes up. Depending on the paint, color and severity, there is no guarantee we can save your piece of clothing… but we’re going to try.

how to get paint off of clothing shoes

How to Get Spray Paint Off of Clothing & Shoes

Because of the manner in which spray paint is used and cures, it can be much more difficult to remove from clothing and shoes. But, that does not make it impossible. Your best (and only) bet is going to be some hardcore solvents, and by that we mean Turps.

Use Turpentine to Remove Spray Paint

One of the best ways to get spray paint off any type of clothing or canvas shoes is to use paint thinner or turpentine. However special care must be taken as the turpentine can destroy clothing and canvas, discolor it, or even leave the clothing smelling forever.

One of the biggest disadvantages of using turpentine on clothing is that the chemical is known to break down certain types of fiber and leather. This may result in irreversible damage to the fabric, especially when dealing with delicate fibers.

Discoloration, on the other hand, can be easily remedied using fabric dye. However, matching the exact color may not always be possible. As a result, the clothing may always be slightly discolored, or you will have to dye the entire piece a new color. Depending on your shoes, you may even be able to paint over the discolored area with special shoe paint in a new or matching color.

Turpentine weakens leather, stripping away natural oils and leading to cracking, so avoid using it on leather shoes to remove paint unless absolutely necessary; try using a specialty leather cleaner in the first instance.

How to Get House Paint Off of Clothing & Shoes

Luckily, the most common type of paint that people get on their clothing and shoes is regular house paint. Most house paint is water-based latex paint, which is actually easy to get out of clothing. Readers Digest suggest the following methods for how to get paint out of shoes and clothing.

Footwear Note: These steps only apply to fabric (eg canvas) shoes, not leather or suede footwear.

#1 Dish Detergent

The easiest way to remove water-based latex paint from clothing and shoes is with dish detergent and hot water. The steps are:

  1. First, you will want to rinse the fabric with warm water
  2. Dab some dish detergent onto the painted clothing, and let it sit for about 15 minutes.
  3. Gently scrub the fabric, to release any paint particles and rinse it in warm water.
  4. Depending on the fabric, it may be necessary to do this multiple times before all of the paint has been removed.

#2 Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is also another excellent solution for getting paint off of clothing and shoes. In the event that dish detergent doesn’t do the job completely, you can try this.

  1. Simply wet the clothing with warm water
  2. Use a cotton ball to gently massage the area with alcohol. You want to rub and scrub the alcohol into the latex paint from the back side, and then rinse it out with warm water.
  3. As with dish detergent, you may need to repeat this process several times.

#3 Acetone

If dish detergent and rubbing alcohol does not work, the last major option is to use acetone. It is much more effective on latex but also is more likely to damage the fabric, especially with delicate fibers.

  1. Dab nail polish remover on the affected area with a cotton ball, let it soak in for a moment.
  2. Toss it into the washing machine.

It’s essential to make sure that the clothing itself does not contain some type of acetate or triacetate as these fibers can be easily damaged by acetone.

#4 Hand Sanitizer

As an alternative to rubbing alcohol, you can simply use hand sanitizer in order to remove paint from clothing. In virtually the same process, you will want to:

  1. Dab the hand sanitizer onto the affected area and rub it in.
  2. Allow it to sit for a little while and scrub it with a toothbrush if necessary.
  3. When it’s done simply rinse it off with warm water or toss it into the washing machine.

How to Get Dried Acrylic Paint Out of Clothing & Shoes

Dealing with acrylic paints can be a lot more difficult than working with latex-based paints. However, it is still possible to get acrylic paint out of clothing.

Rubbing Alcohol

The most common way of removing acrylic paint from clothing is to use rubbing alcohol. It is a tried and true method for successfully removing acrylic paint from all types of fabric. You will want to test it on a small area of the fabric to ensure that it will not be damaged by the alcohol.

  1. Thoroughly dab on the rubbing alcohol with a cotton ball, and let it sit for a few minutes.
  2. Gently scrub the clothing or footwear with a toothbrush.
  3. Once you are done, simply rinse it off under warm water or throw it into the washing machine.

Laundry Detergent

Depending on the type of acrylic paint, it may also be possible to simply remove the paint by washing it with regular laundry detergent.

  1. Start by soaking the affected area in liquid detergent
  2. After a few minutes, start rubbing it in. Be careful when working with more delicate fabrics, as the undiluted detergent can be very strong.
  3. After a few moments of scrubbing, they can simply be rinsed off in warm water or placed in the washing machine.

How to Get Oil-Based Paint Off of Clothing & Shoes

Oil-based paints can be the hardest to get out of clothing, but they are not entirely impossible, as discussed in this article from washing machine brand Whirlpool. You will need to use solvents, since oil-based paints require solvents as thinners. But special care must be taken as the turpentine can easily discolor fabric, damage it altogether, or even leave it smelling like oil.

How to use Turpentine to Remove Paint from Fabric

In order to properly remove oil-based paints off clothing and canvas shoes, follow these steps:

  1. Start by turning the garment inside out (where possible).
  2. Place the piece of clothing or shoes on a stack of clean rags, and blot on the turpentine from the backside. It’s important to use turpentine or thinner from the backside so that it can loosen up the paint where it attaches to the fibers of the cloth.
  3. After a few minutes, you should be able to scrape off most of the paint from the fabric.

Always test a small area first before removing a large swath of paint from the clothing.

How to Get Paint Off Of Clothing & Shoes – Final Thoughts

We hope you’ve found this article on how to get paint off of clothing and shoes useful for your needs. As mentioned earlier in this piece, unfortunately there is no guarantee that you will be able to recover your article of clothing, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

Luckily for us DIY’ers the easiest paint to get out of fabric is water-based latex, which is the most common type used for house painting. On the other end of the spectrum, oil-based paints of any type, whether house paints, fine art paints or even oil-based stains, are by far the most difficult to remove. I personally have a few shirts from my fine art painting days, that have been relegated to the ‘yard work’ drawer due to my carelessness (or, ahem, excitement) with oil paints.

Be mindful of how difficult it is to remove the smell of turps if you need to use it, as even a small splash on a cotton bud can linger in a room for hours. Be careful using turpentine to remove paint from clothing or shoes, as it is a dangerous solvent that is known to be carcinogenic; always make sure the room is well ventilated, and if you start to notice a headache get some fresh air immediately.

Lastly, if you were unfortunate enough to get a paint spill that went on your floor as well, head over to our quick action guide for how to remove paint from floors to get that mess cleaned up too.

Good luck!


  • Sara Kooring

    Hi, I’m Sara, co-owner of NestKoo. I’m trained as a fine artist and I love being close to nature. My main area of specialty in NestKoo is DIY house painting, where I bring my skills in fine art painting and contemporary design together into a practical home DIY context.

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