I was reading an article the other day and it mentioned that watercolor paint stains can be removed with soap and water, and I thought… hmm… but that is not always true! And therefrom comes this exploration of pigments, color fastness and other things you can do when you stain something you really didn’t mean to in your painting frenzy.
A lot of pigments are solids. They are finely ground, yet the particles sometimes remain particles even after being treated with water. Therefore, if your paint stain is dry, it’s always best to treat it with some kind of a gentle brush. That way you can break away the solid paint particles before wetting the stain again.
If the stain is wet, the first step would be to flush the fibres with water to remove as much of the pigment as possible before assessing the actual stain.
Not only does the type of paint (thickeners and other additives), the color (each color has a different staying power) but also the type of fabric and its composition plays a role too. Some fabrics drink paint while off others it flows off like water off a duck’s back.
If your fabric is the kind that can get wet, you can try to remove the stain at home. If the fabric cannot stand a water treatment, it’s best to take it to the dry cleaners as removing the stain will be challenging… or at least beyond my current knowledge.
Most fabrics can be washed with water, and this is what we will talk about today.
- Soap and water
Your most basic first step can be the most effective. See if you can gently separate the fibres of the fabric to flush between strands. If the stain persists you can try other methods.
Lemon juice, salt and dish liquid
Those are your kitchen’s powerhouses. They attack and dissolve all fat or oil based stains. Don’t think that your little watercolors can’t have any oils in them, remember those binders?
Use the fine salt as the gentle scrubbing agent that gets deep between the fibres to dislodge the paint particles. Use the lemon and dish liquid to help the salt dig deeper and lubricate the stain’s departure.
The lemon juice has gentle whitening action that is unlikely to cause any discoloration. Always test a small area if you are working with colored fabric.
Baking soda & vinegar
If the previous treatment does not dislodge the stain, you can try a paste from baking soda (bicarb) and vinegar and use an old toothbrush to rub the mixture into your stain. This should be easy on most colored fabrics and can get some stubborn stains out.
Now… this only works if the fabric is white, and it works best if the fabric is natural. Bleach can be dangerous to both you and your fabrics so use it with caution.
A few important things to remember about bleach:
It can remove color from your fabric
It can stain some artificial fabrics yellow
It can NEVER be mixed with vinegar as that mixture releases a poisonous gas.
Sometimes, some pigments react well to hairspray. This is a useful hack for stubborn stains, but it doesn’t always work. Make sure to give the hairspray a minute to soak in and attack it with a toothbrush or a washcloth.
Do not rub so hard as to damage the fabric!
Yes. Alcohol is a solvent. No, I do not mean you should soak your stain in red wine!
Use something colorless like isopropyl alcohol or vodka. Some watercolors wink out like magic from a slight touch of alcohol. You can also rub it in with a toothbrush or a washcloth as above.
Yes, it’s a little extra! but shaving cream has been known to remove stains quite effectively due to its effervescent lifting action. You can always give it a try.
I hope these tips help to keep the paint on your paintings and off your clothes. If you have any better stain removing tips, we would love to hear about them, just email us and we just might make a whole post about your email!