Too frequently, "washable" simply means that a particular paint is water soluble when fresh. Finger paints, water color cakes and acrylic paints can be washed out of clothing or off of surfaces while wet. Unfortunately, after the paint has dried, getting it out of kids' clothes or other fabrics can be a real challenge. Red paint is the worst offender for creating stains, but strong blue color can also cause problems. Yellow is less difficult.
Begin the stain removal process as soon as possible. If no cleaners are available, sponge the stained area with a damp sponge, and blot up the excess moisture with a soft, absorbent cloth. Try not to spread the stain to surrounding fabric in the process. If possible, remove the garment from the child and keep the stained area damp until you can reach your normal laundry facility. If the garment must remain on the child, you can use vinegar to help lift the stain out of the fabric.
Remove dried paint by first scraping off any dried on clumps of paint and then soak the garment in cold water that has had one of the following items dissolved in it: vinegar, baking soda, pre-wash stain remover or even just plain laundry detergent. Use the weaker substances, vinegar and baking soda, first. Check the garment periodically to see if the stain is dissolving. Use a pre-wash or a stain remover if the paint isn't responding to a vinegar or baking soda solution.
Check the soaking garment frequently to see how the stain removal is coming along. If the stain is still visible, rinse the garment thoroughly in cold water before trying a different stain remover, especially if using strong commercial stain removers. You can rinse the garment by hand, or you can set your washing machine to "cold," omit the laundry detergent and run it through a full cycle. Sometimes the mechanical agitation in your washing machine will help dissolve the stain.
Wash the garment in cold water with the recommended amount of detergent for your machine when the paint stain is no longer visible or when you feel you have removed as much of it as you can possibly manage. If the piece of clothing is white, you might add the correct amount of bleach for your machine at the time recommended by your washing machine manual. If the fabric is colored, use a bleach substitute recommended for colors. Check the garment before drying. Repeat applications of stain stick or pre-wash, and then wash again, until the stain is gone.
- Always remove the chemical residue from an earlier attempt at stain removal before trying a new one.
- Hydrogen peroxide can be used on white fabrics instead of bleach.
- Do not mix commercial cleaners. These often contain chemicals that, while reasonably harmless when used alone, can combine to create poisonous fumes.
- Hot water tends to "set" the stain, acting as a mordant for the dye.
- University of Illinois Extension: Stain Solutions Tempera Paint
- Handy Household Hints from Heloise: Hundreds of Great Ideas at Your Fingertips; Heloise
- Johnson County K-State Extension: Stain Removal
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