How to get paint out of a carpet – expert tips for fast results

Had a bad spill? Discover how to get paint out of a carpet, fast

Paint spilt on carpet
(Image credit: Alamy)

Every now and then you have to learn how to salvage a decorating accident. The worst? Learning how to get paint out of a carpet. 

We'll warn you now: it's not an easy job, particularly if yours is anything but a water-based paint. Even then, it's tricky. But following the right approach can make or break the clean up. 

So if you have been painting a room or the kids have been painting at home and there's been a spillage on your living room carpet, this is how to get paint out.

How to get paint out of a carpet

Speed is of the essence when getting paint out of a carpet, and while it's always better to call in the professionals to deep clean a carpet, sometimes it's just not possible. These instructions will be useful if you need to clean an area rug, too.

1. Blot or scrape fast

Whatever the type of paint, and while you're on hold with the professional cleaning company, blot water-based paint or scrape up oil-based carefully and thoroughly with paper kitchen towel or a blunt knife, putty knife, or whatever you have to hand. Do not press or rub, as you do not want to push paint down into the carpet fibers. The aim is to lift as much of the paint out of the carpet before you start cleaning.

2. Check your paint type and carpet material

Water-based paints, such as matte paints, are much easier to clean than oil-based, such as gloss paint, for example. So work out which type of paint yours is and following clean up instructions from there. Know that oil-based paints will be just about impossible to get out of carpet yourself, so blot until the professional cleaners answer your call.

Similarly, some carpet materials, such as those with a high nylon makeup, are easier to clean than others, so be sure to check the best method for your carpet type, too.

3. Approach getting paint out of a carpet with care

From testing out cleaning agents on a small patch of carpet that's otherwise unseen (perhaps beneath the couch) to ensuring your hands and eyes are protected from splashes of cleaning products and paint, take time to prep. 

How to get water-based paint out of carpet

Getting water-based paint out of carpet should, in theory, be the easiest of all the paint types. 

You will need:

  • Kitchen towel (plenty)
  • Hot water and dish detergent
  • Blunt knife
  • Carpet steamer (optional)
  • Wet vacuum cleaner (optional)

1. Blot up the wet paint

Do not rub. 

2. Spray hot soapy water on to the stain

Use a mix of around 1 part dish detergent to 15 parts water. If the paint spill is fresh, move on to step 5. Otherwise, if the paint has dried, allow the water to sit on the paint spill to sit for five minutes.

3. Use the blunt knife to scrape and lift the paint

The warm soapy water should have loosened the dried paint enough that you can lift it. Spritz on more water as you go if needed.

4. Keep scraping while steaming

If the paint is stubbornly adhered, a carpet steamer will help to loosen it further. If you don't have one, continue with the spritzing, lifting and blotting.

5. Keep blotting

And repeating.

6. Vacuum

You will need to use a wet vacuum cleaner to do this safely. If you don't, keep blotting until the stain is dry enough to use your usual vacuum cleaner. Repeat the steps as necessary.

How to get oil based paint out of carpet

It's significantly more difficult to get paint out of carpet if it is oil-based. In the absence of professional help, this is what to try. 

You will need

  • Kitchen towels (plenty)
  • Warm soapy water
  • Blunt knife
  • Steam cleaner
  • Pliers or tweezers
  • Paint thinner
  • Vacuum cleaner

1. Scrape up wet paint

The key with getting oil-based paint out of carpet is to try to lift as much of it as possible without pushing it into the carpet fiber. The best way to do this is with a think implement: a blunt knife, putting knife, spatula, whatever you have to hand. 

2. Soften dried oil-based paints

The best way to do this is with heat; a steam cleaner will be useful for this. Once the paint has softened, you can use your knife or spatula to pick paint up. Pliers or tweezers will be useful, too.

3. Use paint thinner to lift paint

You probably have some paint thinner around for cleaning paint brushes. If it's the right type of thinner for your paint type (check the label), let some kitchen towel soak some up then carefully dab at the spill. Then blot with clean kitchen towel, then apply paint thinner again, then blot. Continue until you have lifted as much paint as possible.

4. Clean the paint stain

Once you have lifted as much paint as you can, make a very mild solution of warm water and dish detergent (around 30 parts water to 1 part dish detergent). Dip a sponge into the warm water mix, squeeze gently and sponge the carpet.

5. Blot, rinse and dry the carpet

Finally, once you have sponged the carpet as clean as it will go (you may need to swap out the warm water for a clean batch), blot it gently with kitchen towel until it's dry. Vacuum. 

Repeat the whole process as necessary. 

How to get acrylic paint out of carpet

Getting acrylic paint out of carpet follows many of the same steps for removing oil-based paint from carpet. 

You will need

  • Kitchen towels (plenty) and damp cloths
  • Pliers or tweezers
  • Blunt knife
  • Soft brush
  • Laundry detergent
  • Acrylic dissolving agent (such as acetone)
  • Carpet cleaning product
  • Wet vacuum cleaner (optional)

1. Blot and scrape up the paint

You will want to lift up as much of the paint as possible, whether blotting lightly with kitchen paper or scraping it up with a blunt knife. If the paint has dried, giving it a light brushing should help lift it. Use your tweezers or pliers, and a vacuum cleaner, to lift stray chunks.

2. Dab on laundry detergent

Assuming you have lifted as much dried paint as possible, or blotted up as much wet paint as you can without rubbing, dip a damp cloth into laundry detergent then dab this on to the stain. Continue to blot.

3. Apply acrylic dissolving agent

Do this by applying the acetone to a cloth, then sponging it carefully on to the stain. Open the windows first to ventilate the room.

4. Blot again with laundry detergent

Keep repeating the laundry detergent, blotting, acetone, blotting routine until the paint begins to lift.

5. Allow the paint to dry then vacuum

This should lift the rest of the acrylic from the carpet. 

6. If there's still a stain, use a carpet cleaner

This should act effectively, but do bear in mind that a cleaned patch may well show up lighter against the rest of your carpet.

How do you get dried paint out of carpet?

To get dried paint out of carpet you must first soften it. This can be done with anything from warm, soapy water applied with a cloth to hot steam applied with a steam cleaner, depending on the paint finishes you are using. Water-based paints can then be sponged, while oil-based or acrylic paints will need to be lifted with pliers or tweezers, then vacuumed up before a final sponging. 

Does vinegar remove paint from carpet?

We are very familiar with cleaning with vinegar, but we would not recommend using it to remove paint from carpet. Instead, use a combination of careful blotting and scraping, and a mix of warm water and liquid detergent. 

Lucy Searle
Lucy Searle

Lucy Searle has written about interiors, property and gardens since 1990, working her way around the interiors departments of women's magazines before switching to interiors-only titles in the mid-nineties. She was Associate Editor on Ideal Home, and Launch Editor of 4Homes magazine, before moving into digital in 2007, launching Channel 4's flagship website, Channel4.com/4homes. In 2018, Lucy took on the role of Global Editor in Chief for Realhomes.com, taking the site from a small magazine add-on to a global success. She was asked to repeat that success at Homes & Gardens, where she has also taken on the editorship of the magazine.