How to Clean Paint out of Carpet (3 Different Types)

You can be Picasso — just not on your carpet.

Giving your walls a fresh coat of paint will not only freshen up the room, but it can enhance your mood. Getting a slob of color on your carpet, however, is a real mood killer.

Before you think of replacing it, let us show you how to clean paint out of your carpet. It may sound like a challenge, but even dry color can be removed. So let’s get started.

Know Your Paint

Before we get into the how to’s, you must know what you’re fighting against. Different types of paints require various products. So for the best results, take a look at the paint container you were using.

Common types used in homes include acrylic, water, latex and oil-based paints. Once you’ve identified the culprit, follow the specific directions below.

Always Be Cautious

Before applying any new solution, detergent or chemical to your carpet, do a patch test. Find a small corner or spot and use your solution. Let it work for five minutes and observe for any discoloration — if not, you’re good to go.

Removing Water or Latex Based Paint

You’ll need the following:

  • An old towel.
  • Dishwashing detergent.
  • A vacuum (wet vac preferred).

1. Blot With a Towel

These paints are generally the easiest to remove from any surface, as they’re less oily or tenacious than others. Still, immediate action is the key to the best results.

As soon as the paint touches the carpet, grab an old towel and begin to blot the spot. Use a cloth you’re willing to throw in the trash afterward. Dab the paint firmly, and the towel should absorb most of it.

Avoid scrubbing the spot. Only move in a firm blotting motion. Otherwise, the paint will dig deeper into the carpet fibers and could become impossible to get out.

2. Use a Solution

Grab the dishwashing detergent. Then mix one tablespoon of the soap with one cup of lukewarm water. Soak a white rag with the solution and begin to blot the paint.

When blotting, begin from the outside and work your way toward the middle. Be gentle to avoid digging the spill deeper into the fibers.

If there’s a lot to clean up, use a knife or other scraper to gently draw away the paint. Add more solution as needed. If there are some dry bits, let them soak with the detergent mixture for about five minutes before you continue scraping.

3. Vacuum the Area

Once you’ve finished dabbing the solution, use a vacuum to remove dislodged pieces as well as the fluids. This is a crucial step to avoid mildew and mold from the liquids. We recommend using a wet-dry vacuum for this job.

Repeat the whole process if necessary. You may also use a carpet steamer as these are more effective at removing paint.

Getting Rid of Acrylic Paint Spills

Here are the things you’ll need for the job:

1. Dampen the Spot

Removing acrylic paint from carpet fibers requires a fair amount of elbow grease and determination. It’s very tenacious, so the best way to start is to dampen the spot. Use an old rag, moisten it with clean water and proceed to blot the spill.

2. Add Laundry Detergent

Once you’ve dampened the spot, add approximately one tablespoon of laundry detergent directly onto your rag. Avoid using more than a tablespoon — otherwise, you’d have to wash your whole carpet. Then blot the spot until you see the paint loosening up.

Don’t worry if the paint isn’t disappearing entirely. This is simply to loosen it up to aid in the following steps.

3. Use Acetone

Acetone might be your best weapon against this unsightly stain. Add a small amount to your rag, just enough to moisten it.

Then dab the paint until it begins to lift away. Continue until the stain is gone — add more acetone to your rag if necessary.

Watch Out

Before starting the acetone treatment, put on your mask and gloves, then open a window. Acetone fumes are known to be harmful to our health after lengthy exposures (1).

4. Scrub With a Commercial Carpet Cleaner

If acetone fails to remove all of the paint, you can use a commercial carpet cleaner as the next step. However, try your best to rinse out the acetone before applying the cleaner.

You can also opt for a professional solution instead of acetone. These will likely get the job done in no time. Find a carpet cleaner that works best for you, but do a patch test before.

Directions vary between brands, but most will tell you to apply an amount of the solution directly onto the spot. Then use an old toothbrush to scrub the area lightly. After cleaning, let the solution work for five to six minutes before rinsing with water.

5. Vacuum the Remains

If you’ve used a good carpet cleaner, the chances are that it absorbed most of the paint. Now, all there’s left for you to do is vacuum it up.

It’s best to use a wet vacuum for the job. Your carpet now contains a lot of liquids, which can ruin your machine if it doesn’t have a waterproof interior. If you don’t own a wet vacuum, shops such as Home Depot rent them out.


Acrylic paint is stubborn. You may have to repeat the steps a few times, then go over with a wet vacuum to prevent mold.

Cleaning up Oil Paint

Here are the things you’ll need:

  • Putty knife.
  • Small container or bowl.
  • Clean white cloth or rags.
  • Gloves.
  • Turpentine.
  • Dishwashing detergent.

1. Scrape the Spill

Oil paint is straightforward to remove with a tool when fresh, so you must act quickly. Grab your putty knife, which is a short, flat tool made of either metal or plastic. Try to insert the knife under the spill and lift away gently.

Once away from the carpet, place the paint in a container or bowl. Don’t scrub or stab with the putty knife — this could make the stain worse.

If you can’t insert the knife underneath, the paint is likely too dry. In such a case, use a carpet steamer on the area to soften the paint. You can place a rag over the spot to protect your machine.

2. Blot the Spot

Get a clean white rag or cloth, and use it to gently, but firmly blot the spot. Continue until you feel that it isn’t absorbing more. If the carpet is still wet, continue with a fresh one.

3. Add Turpentine

To help separate the oil paint from the carpet, add a small amount of turpentine to the cloth. Put some glasses and gloves on and follow the same dabbing motion across the spot without scrubbing. Most of the paint should begin to loosen — continue until all the spill is gone (2).

4. Rinse the Area

After the paint is gone, it’s essential to rinse the spot where you used turpentine, to prevent discoloration. Make a mixture of one tablespoon dishwashing detergent with two cups of cold water.

Take a new, clean cloth and submerge into the solution. Then proceed to moisten the area of the spill. Continue until it’s clean, and no paint color remains.

Grab some paper towels and blot the area to absorb leftover liquids. You can also use a wet vacuum if you prefer.

How to Remove Dry Paint from Carpet

Removing dry paint isn’t impossible unless it’s oil-based, then it can be a challenge. For oil paints, try a carpet steamer and then let it soak for five minutes in a solution of warm water and dishwashing detergent. If it doesn’t come out, you may have to trim the area by cutting the paint loose.

However, for water, latex or acrylic based paints, use the steps below:

1. Scrape off as Much as Possible

Use a knife or putty knife to scrape off as much debris as possible. Then use needle-nose pliers to loosen or remove big spots.

2. Soak and Vacuum

Pour a small amount of warm water over the dry paint and let it sit for five minutes to soften. Then use a wet vacuum to remove as much as possible — repeat this step until most of the paint is gone.

3. Make a Detergent Solution

In a spray bottle, mix half a teaspoon of dishwashing detergent or vinegar with four cups of water. Then spray the spot liberally.

Grab a stiff brush and scrub the spill. Continue until the paint is gone — add more spray if necessary. Once finished, go over with a wet vacuum to remove excess liquids.

Missed a Spot

As a devoted DIY people, we’ve spilled our fair share of paint onto carpets. Knowing how to clean paint out of your carpet helps you respond quicker, which, in turn, increases your chance for success.

First, you must recognize what type of paint it is. Most are either acrylic, latex, water or oil-based. Follow the specific steps for your paint, and remember never to scrub — doing so will spread the spill, causing a bigger problem.

If the paint had time to dry, use a putty knife to separate it from the carpet fibers. Then soak it with a solution before scrubbing. As a last resort, you may have to trim the area — if you do it right, it shouldn’t be noticeable.

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About the Author

Amy Anthony

Amy is a stay-at-home-mom, seasoned writer, and a home cleaning and organization aficionado. Amy enjoys having an absolutely spotless home and has worked hard to develop strategies to keep it that way, despite having 2 kids and 3 dogs!