- Different paint types have different cleaning needs.
- When getting dried paint out of carpet, rehydrate the problem spot with a steamer.
- Be sure to not scrub the stain, as this will push the paint into the carpet.
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Rugs are probably one of the things in a house that experience the most wear, tear, and mess, with people tramping across them on a daily basis and sometimes even "decorating" them with accidental spills. Some messes are easy to clean up and others, like paint, might take just a bit more care and elbow grease.
If the idea of dripping paint on your carpet fills you with panic, read on to learn exactly how to get that paint out, with pro tips from home improvement & renovation contractor Andrew Wilson of Contractor Advisorly, interior designer and home improvement expert Gian Moore of Mellowpine, and cleaning expert Dean Davies of Fantastic Services.
Before you get started
First of all, it's important to take note of exactly which type of paint is on your carpet, as different paint varieties have different cleaning requirements.
- Acrylic paint: A chemical-based paint that's widely available, acrylic paint is a popular choice for walls because of its color intensity and its durability. This paint dries quickly and is water-resistant.
- Water-based or latex paint: Of all of the paint styles used for interior work, water-based paint (also known as "latex" paint) proves the easiest to clean. It also features a rapid dry time and gives off relatively low odor fumes.
- Oil-based paint: Oil-based paint is durable and can handle a lot of contact without fading or chipping. Oil paint glides onto walls more smoothly than acrylic or latex paint.
How to get rid of wet acrylic paint in carpet
Because acrylic paint is chemical-based, some DIYers assume that it won't respond to cleaning procedures. Luckily, acrylic paint can be removed from carpet, but you may need to make a special trip to the store to grab a bottle of acetone. Acetone, which is a chemical solvent, is easy to find at paint and hardware stores, and you can even pick it up at many pharmacies in the form of nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol (just be sure to read the label to make sure that acetone is the primary ingredient).
- Try to soak it up with a damp cloth or sponge. Acrylic paint responds well to water, so if the paint is still wet, the first step should be to soak a cloth or a sponge with warm water and to blot the stain until the wet paint comes out of the fibers.
- If the damp cloth isn't picking up all of the wet paint, bring in the acetone. Moore recommends soaking a cloth in acetone or "using an eyedropper to apply acetone directly onto the stain."
- Blot the stain with the cloth. When the cloth becomes saturated with the paint, "move to a clean area of the cloth," according to Moore. Keep an extra cloth on-hand in case you run out of clean areas of the first cloth.
- Continue blotting until the stain is gone. Remember that "this process may make the stain appear worse before it gets better," says Moore. The stain might darken and appear to sink into the carpet fibers, but this is a temporary setback.
How to get rid of wet water-based/latex paint in carpet
Because latex paint is water-based, it can often prove easier to clean than its oil-based or acrylic equivalents. Water is the main solvent for these paints, so it naturally responds to cleaning solutions that are also made with water. To clean a latex paint spill, you'll need dishcloths or rags, mild dish soap, plenty of water, and a vacuum.
- Use one of the cloths (or a paper towel) to blot the stain. This helps to "remove as much wet paint as you can." Davies warns that you shouldn't "scrub, or the paint will be pushed further down into the carpet."
- Add a teaspoon of dish soap to a cup of lukewarm water and stir to combine. Davies say to "make sure that the dish soap is mild" in order to avoid unintended carpet damage (like compromising the carpet dye). The dish soap will lift the paint from the carpet fibers, and the water will rinse out the water-based paint.
- Dip one of the cloths into the soap solution. "Start working from the outside of the paint stain to the inside, gently blotting the affected area," Davies says.
- Vacuum thoroughly once the area is dry. Davies states this will help pick up any leftover paint residue.
How to get rid of wet oil-based paint in carpet
"Oil-based paint is the hardest type of paint to remove from the carpet," says Wilson. "Oil and water repel each other and oil-based paint has a thicker texture, so it will on average take longer than any of the other types and will require a more thorough cleaning." The best cleaning process for oil-based soap includes paper towels, hot water, dish soap, a small sharp knife (or a razor or sharp tweezers), and a handheld steamer.
- Use a wet paper towel to blot the area. This will "soak up any paint that hasn't already been absorbed into the carpet," says Wilson. Try to soak up as much paint with the wet paper towels as possible.
- Scrape the paint. After you've soaked up as much of the paint as possible with the paper towels, "use something sharp like a knife to scrape the paint from the carpet fibers." This process will also help to peel up any of the oil paint that may have dried onto the carpet fibers.
- Mix hot water with dish soap until you have a cleaning solution. Then, use the paper towels to apply the mixture to the stain.
- Acetone can help remove stubborn spots. Wilson notes that acetone or paint thinner can be helpful for getting rid of oil-based paint that just won't budge, but he urges DIYers to "be very careful when using it. Acetone can potentially remove the color from a carpet if too much is used or if left on for too long." If you decide to try acetone, use it sparingly and only try it out "after you have used a towel to soak up the area and after you've tried to scrape the paint with a needlepoint or knife."
- Remove leftover paint. Use the paper towels and cleaning solution to remove any leftover stains after it's been steamed.
How to clean dry paint from the carpet
Once a paint spill dries and hardens, removal becomes trickier. Fortunately, dry paint isn't a lost cause. In order to lift these stains from the carpet, you'll want to start by using a steamer to rehydrate the paint enough to lift it from the fibers, but not so much that it sinks in and saturates the carpet.
Then, use a sharp knife or razor to scrape as much paint as possible from the carpet fibers. Once you've done that, use the steamer to moisten the stain, then start blotting with paper towels or rags.
Since acrylic paint is chemical-based and dries very quickly, Moore recommends soaking a cloth in acetone, or using an eyedropper to apply it directly and help remove the stain. The steam-scrape-blot process can then be repeated until the dried paint vanishes.
Paint removal tips and tricks
Don't scrub the stain. It may feel tempting to take a scrubbing brush to the stain, but Wilson tells us that this will do more harm than good. "When you scrub the paint with the intention of trying to remove it from the floor, it actually causes the paint to be absorbed further by the carpet fibers," he says.
Some types of carpet should be professionally cleaned at all times. Our experts encourage carpet owners to invest in semi-regular professional cleanings as a general rule, but when it comes to specific carpet types, Moore says that synthetic carpets (any carpet made with chemical-based materials, like polyester or nylon) always needs to be professionally cleaned.
"They are generally treated with stain repellents on the surface, says Moore. "And when the carpet is cleaned using detergents or any carpet cleaner, the layer of the stain repellent gets diluted. Its capability to prevent soiling of the carpet is reduced, so the carpets get dirtier faster."
Wilson also states that wool carpets should be professionally treated, given they require adequate cleaning to maintain longevity. Wool can be very easily damaged by the chemicals in most stain removers.
Preventing paint stains is easier than you may think. Of course, a paint-splatter mistake can happen at any time to anyone. But if you take some time to lay down tarps and tape off trim, you'll set yourself up for a higher likelihood of a spotless carpet when a painting project is done.
It's never fun to realize that you dripped a bunch of bright wall paint onto the carpet, but if you know which type of paint you're dealing with and how to attack the stain, then you'll be able to DIY this cleaning process, saving you lots of time and money.