Removing Paint Stains from Your Favorite Couch

Removing Paint Stains from Your Favorite Couch

Imagine this. It’s Saturday morning and life is good. You’re kicked back on the couch listening to the kids play when the youngest comes running into the room with a giant smile plastered across her face. She is bringing you her latest masterpiece to share and as you sit up to intercept her, you realize a second – too late that she has a paintbrush in her other hand.

A very wet paintbrush.

A very wet paintbrush covered in red paint.

A very wet paintbrush covered in red paint that is now dripping right down the center of your bright, white couch.


For many of us, this is a worst-nightmare scenario where we aren’t sure what we should do, or even what steps to take. But no worries! At Guardsman, we know how to handle this kind of emergency. Just keep reading for a few key tips to help keep your couch looking shiny and new.

First Step: Diagnosis

The first step is to figure out what type of paint you are dealing with. There are two main culprits, oil-based paint and water-based paint. How do you tell which one you are facing? The best way is to check the paint’s container. If the packaging is available, then it should give you a clear idea of the type. Side note…your paint may be labeled as either latex or acrylic, these are both just names for specific types of water-based paint.

If the packaging is not available, then things get trickier but we can still make an educated guess. Touch the paint to see how it feels. Water-based paint tends to feel somewhat thin while oil-based paint has a slick, oil-like feel.

After you diagnose, it’s time to get down to business!

Water based colors

Water-Based Paint Stain Removal

Start by using a smooth tool to scrape off as much paint as you can. If the paint has dried, then you will want to use a stiff brush, like a toothbrush, to carefully pull the chunks of paint away from the fabric. Do this slowly as you don’t want to damage your upholstery.

Pro Tip: Use short, circular strokes, much like you would use on your teeth. This will help loosen the dried paint and lift it from the fabric.

Once you have removed as much paint as you can with the brush, blot the area with a damp rag or towel to lift the color. It is very important not to rub the stain as that may work to spread the paint rather than remove it. You may also want to spray a small amount of stain remover on the spot, or even vinegar, on the stain to help facilitate the cleaning process.

The last step of the process is to rinse the area. Using a clean towel and fresh water, lightly blot the area repeatedly until the last traces of color are gone. This may take several rounds of rinsing, but should serve to completely remove the stain once and for all.

Oil-Based Paint Stain Removal

Oil-based paint is a bit different since it is, as you might guess by the name, oil based. The thing about oil and water? They don’t mix! So, the last thing you want to do is rub this stain with a damp or wet rag.

To start, take the same stiff-bristled brush and use short, circular strokes, gently pulling the paint away from the fabric. Remove as much color as possible before moving to the next step.

This is where oil-based paint is different. To properly clean your couch, you will need to procure some of the solvent recommended by the manufacturer – try to contact them via their website. This will help dissolve the oil and should lift the majority of the stain. Start by doing a small test of the solvent somewhere that cannot be seen. This will help ensure that the solvent will not do further damage.

Using a clean rag, carefully blot the area. You want to keep the solvent as close to the stain as possible to prevent the color from spreading.

Next, blot up the paint with a clean, dry towel. Keep repeating these steps until the color has lifted.

Once the color is gone, use waterless hand cleaner on a clean towel or sponge to remove the solvent residue. At this point, the oil from the paint should be completely removed. Meaning you can now rinse the area with clean water to finish things up and bring your couch back to life.

If you have any questions on stubborn stains or how you can bring new life to your favorite furniture, then give the Guardsman team all call. We can help you keep your child’s art work off your furniture and on the walls where it belongs!

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