Skip to content
Drop in on Dr. Laundry

Dr Laundry Blog

How Do I Get Spray Paint Out Of A White Shirt?

By Dr. Laundry July 18, 2016

Q: How do I get spray paint out of a white shirt?   A: I get lots of questions about paint stains.  It’s definitely one of the more challenging stains because of the nature of paint:  it’s designed to adhere to a surface, dry quickly and stay there, which is a big problem when you get paint on fabric.  When you drip paint on a flat surface, you can often quickly wipe it away with a damp cloth.  But fabric has texture and depth—there are places the paint is trapped so that you can’t just wipe it away.  The type of paint also is a factor in how difficult it is to remove a paint stain. Washable paints like children’s craft paint can often come out with pretreating and then laundering.  Other paints like the acrylics that artists use, or household paint generally don’t come out if they dry out on the fabric, but if you can deal with them immediately then your chances of success go way up.  You were using spray paint, and I don’t know how “washable” it is considered, so you could still try the following even though at this point your chances of success are pretty slim.  Paint stain questions in particular frustrate me because by the time I get the question, it’s usually too late.  However, if this is a stain you encounter on a regular basis, you could also try this in the future:  
  1. First, scrape away as much of the paint as you can.
  2. Next, pretreat by applying liquid laundry detergent directly to the stain and rubbing it in, saturating the stain.  If you can do this immediately your chances of success go way up. Wait a few minutes, and then rinse with warm water.
  3. Repeat the pretreating and rinsing step 3-4 times, which is usually sufficient to get most of a fresh paint stain out, and then pretreat one more time before machine washing.
  4. Air dry (it’s always good to confirm a stain is all the way out before putting the shirt in a hot dryer).
  Paints labeled washable have the best chance of coming out, and, if you get to paint stains immediately, you have a pretty good chance of also getting out acrylic and latex household paint.  I wish I could have been more helpful with the spray paint stain you’ve got now.  I do hope this information will be helpful in the future!   –Dr. Laundry