Removing paint stains after the fact

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ February 4, 2011

No matter how careful you are when painting the interior or exterior of your home, stains happen. The better contractor knows how to dab up spills immediately and remove all traces of the accident. But what about stains that escape your attention when you're painting as a do-it-yourselfer? Once the stain is set and dry, you don't have to lose heart. There are tips for getting oil or latex paint out of wood, driveways and even your clothing.

Each method depends on the kind of paint that created the stain, the surface materials where the stain currently resides and your willingness to try different cleaning materials on test surfaces before making a small accident worse. Naturally, oil-based paints are always going to present the more difficult problem. Water-based stains and paints can be nudged out with soap and water and, in drastic conditions, pressure washing.

No matter what, avoid using paint thinner as a solvent against oil-based paints that have splotched a wood or vinyl floor. You can end up with worse stains and discolorations than you started with. If the stain occurs while you're painting, you can usually dab up oil-based paints immediately with a damp cloth or paper towel. The same holds true with carpeting; use paper towels as a barrier and flush the rug with lots of water and the oil paint should come up. Then, after it's dried, there are other ways to handle it.

Removing dry paint

In the worst-case scenario, use water, a brush and even pliers to get up dried paint from a carpet. Needle-nose pliers often can crack blobs of paint so you can dab them up. A commercial cleanser like Goof Off can work, too, but test it on a section of carpet that hides in the closet to make sure you won't further stain the visible carpeting.

For wood flooring, speak with a contractor to determine the exact kind of floor you have and ask for recommendations on a safe solvent to use. Use a dull blade to scrape up larger blots. How to Clean Stuff recommends using rubbing alcohol to clean clothing that has picked up stains from your painting effort or if someone backs into a wet wall of paint. Some forms of hair spray or nail polish remover can also be effective. Again, test a spot before using it.

For cleaning concrete garage floors, The Family Handiman recommends safe, slow-acting paint strippers. Avoid methylene chloride unless you wear a respirator with a new organic vapor cartridge.

Use a pressure washer and detergent if you're tackling stained stucco. Work smart and work safe!

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