Housekeeping Cleaning

Don’t Panic—Here’s How to Get Paint Out of Carpet

Even the splatter you just noticed days later.
bedroom with cream rug over beige carpet

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Painting is a relatively easy project in the world of DIY: Choose a color (the hardest part), grab a roller, and get to work. You might even feel confident enough to forgo a tarp on the floor. That is until the can topples over and the day goes off the rails. If you’re not sure how to get paint out of a carpet, go ahead and panic for a few minutes. But then you’ll need to take action—and fast. Ahead, we checked in with Phil Ash, founder of Pro Paint Corner, and Mike Lupo, product information manager for Benjamin Moore, for their advice so you can get back to the fun stuff.   

First Things First: Preparation Is Key

Anyone who has ever spilled paint on a carpet will probably tell you that a little prep work goes a long way. “Drop cloths are always a must,” says Lupo. They’re readily available at your local hardware store, tending to run anywhere from $5 to somewhere north of $70, depending on the size and weight or quality of the canvas. “Make sure it’s a heavy-duty drop cloth that won’t let paint penetrate it,” says Lupo. “We also recommend using a layer of plastic, because the paint won’t soak through. However, do not use garbage bags; you want something that won’t move around easily.” 

Now What Type of Paint Are You Dealing With? 

The stain-removal method you ultimately choose depends largely on the type of paint you’re working with and whether or not it’s wet or dry. As you might imagine, getting water-based paint out of carpet is a bit easier than oil-based paint. And if you catch a paint spill days or weeks after the fact, you’ll need to reconstitute the stain before digging in (but rest assured, it is possible to remove it). 

How to Get Water-Based Paint Out of Carpet 

You can get still-wet, water-based paint out of your carpet with things you have around the house—no emergency runs to the store required. If you’re working with a dried paint stain, however, saturate the splatter with a 1:1 solution of liquid soap and water to soften it before following the steps, below.

The Supplies 

  • Putty knife
  • Clean rags or paper towels
  • Mild liquid soap
  • Water 

Step 1: Lift Away Any Excess Paint 

Using a putty knife, scrape off as much excess paint as you can, taking care not to spread the stain further. 

Step 2: Blot to Remove More 

Continue to blot the paint stain with a clean, dry rag to soak up even more paint.

Step 3: Wet the Stain—Carefully 

Mix a 1:1 solution of mild liquid soap and warm (or hot) water. Spray or apply the solution directly on the paint and blot with another rag. Add a little bit of the mixture at a time; too much water can be counterproductive and spread the stain further.  

Step 4: Back to Blotting 

Continue to blot the stain with dry rags. Repeat steps 3 and 4 as needed until the stain has disappeared.

How to Get Oil-Based Paint Out of Carpet

The process for cleaning up oil-based paint is largely the same as water-based, but you’ll need paint thinner instead of a homemade cleaning solution. Dealing with a dried spill? Again, you’ll need to soften it first. A clothes steamer would work well here—the moisture will rehydrate the paint so it separates from the carpet fibers easily. Once the stain has loosened, continue on with the steps, below. 

The Supplies 

  • Putty knife
  • Clean rags or paper towels
  • Paint thinner
  • Mild liquid soap
  • Water 

Step 1: Lift Away Excess Paint 

Remove as much excess paint as you can with the putty knife.

Step 2: Check Your Rug for Colorfastness  

Dip a clean cloth into the paint thinner and test an inconspicuous area of your carpet. If no color comes off onto the rag, proceed to step 3. (If it does, call in a professional.) 

Step 3: Blot, Blot, Blot

Dampen a clean rag with the paint thinner and gently blot the stain until it’s gone. “Avoid rubbing it too hard or using a rough brush or material; it will damage the fibers of the carpet,” cautions Ash. 

Step 4: Finish With Soap and Water

If you find that there are still traces of paint on the carpet, apply a 1:1 solution of hot water and dish soap. Dab the area with another clean cloth to absorb the liquid and remaining paint. Repeat as needed.

The Shop-Vac Hack That Went Viral on TikTok

“I never thought I would need this until a week ago,” Kaytee Haas announced before sharing the carpet-cleaning hack that broke the Internet last year. (Her TikTok post now has almost a million likes.) If you happen to have a wet/dry vacuum at your disposal like she does, you’re good to go. Before you hit the start button, though, it’s important to know that this only works with water-based paint. After a couple of passes, the carpet should look good as new.