Finding a blotch of paint on your floor can make your heart sink. Considering paint is formulated to stay where it’s applied, it’s easy to assume you’ll never get that stain out completely. In reality, it is possible to get your floor clean again, although it will take some effort and you might need to invest in specialized cleaning chemicals.
Removing Paint from Carpet
The best approach for cleaning paint stains on carpet depends on whether the paint is water, acrylic/latex- or oil-based.
For all types of paint, if the stain is still wet, start by blotting it with a damp paper towel or white cloth to pick up as much paint as you can. Don’t press or rub hard or you’ll push the paint deeper into the carpet fibers.
For water-based paints, mix up a solution of 1 cup water and 1 teaspoon mild dish detergent. Apply this to the stain with a sponge and let it sit for two or three minutes. If the paint is dry, let the mixture sit until the paint is soft. Use an object with a hard edge, such as a plastic spoon or an old credit card to scrape the paint out of the carpet. Avoid using a knife, which could cut the fibers.
Alternatively, apply white vinegar to a cloth or sponge and dab the stain until it’s gone. Then rinse the area by dabbing it with a solution of warm water and dish soap, followed by plain water.
For latex paint, mix up the soap and water solution recommended for water-based paints. Dip a sponge in the solution and blot the paint vigorously. It might take a few rounds of careful blotting.
For a large spill of more than a few inches across that’s still wet, pour water onto the stain until the carpet is soaked and the paint is diluted. Then vacuum with a wet-vac to remove to liquid.
If you can’t get all the paint up, use a water-soluble paint remover. First, patch test this on an inconspicuous area of the carpet to make sure it won’t bleach or damage your carpet fibers. Apply the paint remover to a cloth and blot the stain to dampen the paint without soaking the carpet. Then scrape out the paint with a plastic spoon or similar object.
If the paint is still stuck on, spread a layer of glycerine over it and let it sit for around 15 minutes. Then sponge the stain with soapy water to remove as much paint as you can. You may need to scrub the area gently with a nylon brush. Finally, mix 1 teaspoon vinegar into 1 cup water and pour enough onto the stain to saturate it. Blot the area with a clean cloth to remove the paint, then rinse the area by blotting it with plain water.
For dry oil-based paint, use a steamer to soften the paint. While applying steam to the stain, use a fine, sharp object such as a needle to break apart the stain. If you aren’t able to pull the paint off this way, you’ll need a solvent designed for oil-based paints.
Check the label on the paint for the recommended solvent or use turpentine or mineral spirits. Dip a cloth in the solvent and blot the stain. When the stain is out, blot the area with water to remove the solvent. Oil-based paint is particularly hard to remove from carpet, so you may need to consult a professional carpet cleaner for help.
Removing Paint from Wood
The simplest way to clean paint from wood is to sand it off. Sandpaper sheets are sufficient for a small area, but if the stain is large, an electric sander will get the job done faster. Start with coarse grit sandpaper, then once the original wood appears through the stain, switch to a finer grit.
Sand following the grain of the wood. Depending on how thick the paint is, it can quickly gum up the sandpaper, so you might need to replace your sandpaper several times. When you’ve sanded off as much paint as you can, dampen a rag with paint thinner and blot the area to remove any lingering paint.
Paint stripper can also help you get rid of the stain. Follow the manufacturer’s directions exactly regarding how to prepare the paint stripper for use. Some products may need to be diluted. Pour the solution into a container and dip a paint brush into it. Apply a single, thin layer of paint stripper to the paint stain, brushing in one direction only.
Let the solution work for 30 minutes or as directed by the manufacturer. During this time, the paint should soften. Once it’s soft, use a paint scraper, putty knife or similar tool to scrape the paint from the wood.
If you have a small paint stain on polished wood and you want to preserve the polish, lacquer thinner can help. Wearing rubber gloves, apply a small amount of lacquer thinner to a rag or cotton ball. Dab the stain to apply the lacquer thinner and wait five to 10 minutes for the paint to soften. Gently scrape the softened paint off with a plastic spoon, coin or other object with a hard edge.
Removing Paint from Tile
Removing paint from glazed or unglazed tiles is relatively easy. For a small, fresh paint stain, a natural cleaner might be enough to lift off the paint. Combine 1 cup water and 1 cup vinegar in a pan and heat the solution to a boil. Dip a cloth in the hot vinegar solution and spread the cloth over the paint stain. Wait for the paint to soften. Once the paint is soft, you should be able to scrub it off with a nylon brush or pad.
If the stain won’t come off this way, you’ll need a paint remover. Before using paint remover on your tile, patch test the product on an inconspicuous part of the floor to be sure it won’t remove the glaze from the tile. This is especially important if your tiles are marble, travertine or another stone that’s susceptible to etching.
To clean the paint stain, apply the paint remover to a scouring pad and scrub gently. Finally, either wipe the spot with a wet cloth or mop the floor with warm water to clean up any leftover paint and paint remover.
In most cases, paint-stained carpet, wood or tile floors aren’t ruined forever. To get rid of the stain, start with the simplest, gentlest cleaning method to minimize risk of damage to your floor covering as well as unnecessary work. If you’re not able to remove the paint that way, move on to a chemical paint removal product.
Any paint stains that still remain most likely won’t come out with commercially available cleaners. To get your floor clean without damaging it, consult a professional carpet cleaner.