It happens to the best of us. We’re renovating or redecorating, only to turn around and find spilled paint on the carpet. You’ll need to act fast before your carpet is ruined and needs replacing.
Before you start removing paint, it’s important that you know what type of paint you’ve used. There are different methods for removing oil or water-based paints as well as different techniques for removing paint that’s still wet or that has already dried.
Whether it’s dry, still wet, oil, or water-based, here’s how to get paint out of carpet.
Different Paint Types
Knowing what type of paint has been spilled is going to make a big difference in what method you use to remove it. Check the paint can if you’re not sure. There are two main types of paint: oil-based and water-based.
- Oil-based paint – Oil paints are made using natural or synthetic oils as the base. These paints are extremely durable and resistant to moisture, making them more difficult to remove from your carpet.
- Water-based paint – Water paints are also known as latex paint. With water as the base, these paints have little odor, dry faster than oil paints, and are easier to remove from carpets and rugs both when wet and after drying.
Check out this great article if you want a more detailed explanation of the differences (and when to use either one)!
Removing Wet Paint
When paint spills, it’s best to clean it as soon as possible to prevent it from drying and soaking further into the carpet or being tracked into other areas.
- For spilled, water-based, wet paint, start by blotting the paint with a wet paper towel to soak up the excess paint. Be careful not to scrub the area, or you’ll just be pushing the paint further into the fibers of the carpet. If you don’t have paper towel, you can use a cloth towel. Just keep in mind that you’ll have to throw out the towel after using as it will most likely stain.
- Once you’ve blotted the paint, pour a bit of hot water over the area to moisten. While the water is soaking in, mix together a solution of 1 cup warm water with 1 tablespoon of dish soap. Using a stiff scrub brush (or a cloth), rub the area so the soap forms a light lather. Start from the outside of the stain and work your way inwards to avoid spreading any of the paint into a wider stain.
- Continue scrubbing until the paint starts to dissolve. You may have to add more of the soap solution. After washing, vacuum the area to prevent mold and mildew from growing in the carpet.
- For oil-based, wet paint, use a knife or paint scraper to lift as much of the paint as possible off the carpet by carefully putting the knife underneath the paint to remove. Be careful not to scrub any of the paint into the carpet which will make it even harder to remove.
- Using a disposable cloth or heavy-duty paper towel, blot the paint without rubbing. Keep blotting until no more paint is being removed.
- Wet the cloth with a paint thinner or turpentine, and continue to blot. This should start to break up the stain and remove even more of the paint. Remember to open windows or turn on a fan to dissipate the fumes.
- When the paint stain is gone, you’ll still want to clean the area to get rid of the paint thinner. Mix together a solution of 1 cup cold water and 1 tablespoon dish soap. Sponge the area, and then blot with a paper towel. Finish up by vacuuming the area. If the odor of paint thinner remains, consider steam cleaning the area.
Removing Dry Paint
It’s more difficult to remove paint from your carpet once it’s dried – but it’s not impossible!
- Using a utility knife in combination with needle-nosed pliers, scrape and remove as much of the dried paint as possible. This will help to get rid of those larger chunks of paint. Vacuum away any leftover paint chips that you can’t pick up by hand.
- In a spray bottle, mix together 1 cup of water and ½ teaspoon dish soap or white vinegar. Lightly spray the solution onto the dried paint stain, and let sit for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Using a stiff brush, scrub the area to remove the paint, adding more solution as needed. You may need to repeat this process a few times if the paint has stained deep into the carpet.
- Vacuum well after cleaning – you may want to consider using a carpet cleaner to freshen the area.
For stubborn water-based paint stains that just won’t come out using this method, you’ll need to follow the steps below to remove a dried oil-based paint stain.
- For dried oil-based paint stains, start by using a knife to remove the top layer of paint, carefully placing the paint chunks into a container, so they don’t drop back onto the carpet. Then use a pin or needle to try and break up the paint even more without damaging the carpet fibers. Use a hand vacuum to remove these chips of paint from the carpet.
- Follow this up by using a steam cleaner to remove even more of the paint.
- Lightly soak a cloth with paint thinner, hydrogen peroxide, or acetone. Use this to lightly blot the paint stain. Use a white cloth if possible, otherwise the dye of the material may further stain the carpet. Keep blotting to remove paint.
- After cleaning with paint thinner, steam clean again using a light cleaning solution of water and dish soap.
If the tips of the carpet are still stained, consider trimming the top fibers with scissors to remove the final residue of the stain. Be cautious not to cut too much off the top, or your carpet will start to look bare!
Tips for Preventing Paint Spills
Of course, the best way to get paint out of carpet is to prevent paint spills in the first place! Use these tips to avoid both small and big spills:
Cover with Plastic
Covering the carpet before you paint can prevent stains from happening. You can purchase heavy-duty plastic at any paint or hardware store, along with tape to secure it. If possible, remove furniture from the room, or push to one side and cover with plastic as well.
Use Drop Cloths
An alternative to plastic are drop cloths. You can invest in buying your own if you’re doing a lot of renovation work, or you can rent from many paint stores.
Easy to spread out, canvas drop cloths will stay in position without having to use tape. They also work better than plastic by preventing slipping if you’re going to be climbing up and down a ladder.
The one thing to remember with drop cloths is that they’ll keep splatters and drips from getting on your carpet, but larger spills can soak through.
Tape After Removing Baseboards
It may seem like a lot of extra work, but after removing baseboards to paint a wall from top to bottom, tape along the carpet. This is your safeguard from any paint drips or slip ups with the brush getting paint onto the carpet.
Homemade Drip Stopper
Drips off the end of a paintbrush can end up anywhere! To prevent drips, make your own drip stopper with a simple coat hanger.
Using a wire coat hanger, cut off the bottom portion from the top, and bend it so that the ends rest just over the rim of the inside of the paint can. Tape the ends to the can to keep it in place. Use the hanger to rub extra paint off the brush before using.
Paint Can Catcher
It seems that no matter what you do, paint drips down the side of the paint can onto the plastic or drop cloth. An easy way to avoid this is by using an aluminum pie tin that’s larger than the paint can.
With a hot glue gun, put a circle of glue into the bottom of the pie tin – then place the paint can inside. Any drips that happen will be contained in the tin where they can’t get onto your carpets or rugs.
Pouring paint from a can into a paint tray can lead to big spills. Before starting your project, buy a couple of snap-on paint can lids to make pouring easy.
Made from inexpensive plastic, these lids fit right onto the paint can, letting the paint pour carefully and evenly out of the spout. Look for one that closes to keep paint from drying out as you’re working.
Touching up a small area with paint? Avoid spills and drips by using a reusable coffee cup with a lid instead of carrying around the entire can of paint.
In your basement or garage, pour paint into the cup. Make sure the lid opening is large enough for your paint brush before placing over top.
Enjoy Your Painting Projects!
Renovating and painting your home is a fun and rewarding project. Don’t let the excitement of a new look for your living room be ruined by a paint spill. But when spills happen, use one of the methods above to get paint out of carpet quickly and easily.