Can Carpet Cleaners Remove Paint?

Updated May 23, 2023

If you’ve spilled some paint on the floor, don’t worry – in most cases, your carpet cleaner can remove paint stains with no evidence left.

However, the success depends on the paint type and whether the stain is dry or wet.

Don’t rush to grab your carpet cleaner and shampoo the area. Rubbing the stain will only make it more persistent, particularly if there’s excess wet paint left. You want to identify the paint type first.

Once you know the paint type, pick the best paint removal method. Remember to check your carpet material cleaning instructions to avoid damaging the fibers.

If you have no luck getting rid of the stain, don’t hesitate to call the professionals. Professional carpet cleaning might be costly, but it’s cheaper than replacing the entire carpet because of paint spills.

How Do Carpet Cleaners Work?

To understand whether your carpet cleaner can handle paint stains, let’s review how carpet cleaners work. There are several types of carpet cleaners, the most common being carpet shampooer. Here’s how it works: first, one sprays the carpet with a cleaning solution.

After the solution soaks for some time, one turns on the carpet cleaner. The appliance pumps hot water into the carpet, extracting dirty fluid with a high-powered vacuum. Some carpet cleaners only use steam to kill bacteria and lift dirt.

Professionals use different carpet cleaning methods, including hot water extraction similar to that used with handheld carpet cleaners. Absorbent powder cleaning is another popular method. It’s unavailable for home use because absorbent compounds require special handling.

Because there is no water involved, absorbent powder cleaning doesn’t require drying and is best suited for mild soiling conditions. Encapsulation is another low-moisture method using crystalline polymers only available to professionals.

Professionals sometimes use a combination of different techniques to achieve the best results. For example, they might start with hot water extraction to remove deep debris, continue with absorbent powder cleaning, and end with dry vacuuming.

The problem is that none of these carpet cleaning methods target paint stains. A carpet cleaner can help you remove pigment residue, but don’t expect it to successfully remove a paint stain without preparations.

In fact, rubbing the stain with a carpet cleaner might make matters worse. Plus, regular carpet cleaning solution isn’t effective against oil-based paint stains.

In other words, you will need to take extra steps before you can use a carpet cleaner on the paint stain. Shampooing or steaming can serve as finishing touches.

Do You Need to Call the Professionals?

Whether you’ll need to call professional carpet cleaners depends on several factors, such as your carpet material, the paint type, whether the stain is wet or dry, and whether you have a suitable carpet cleaning solution.

Latex and acrylic paints are relatively easy to remove with a regular carpet cleaner. Unfortunately, oil-based paints are harder to remove, and you might need to call the pros.

If your carpet is from acetate or modacrylic, consider calling the professionals. Most methods of removing paint stains involve using strong paint thinners, acetone, or rubbing alcohol that might damage the surface.

Furthermore, synthetic carpets are treated with stain repellents that help them resist soiling. If you clean a synthetic material with regular detergents or an unsuitable cleaning solution, you reduce its capability to resist soiling.

Professionals have a suitable cleaning solution for each carpet type and can re-apply the stain-repelling layer to prolong your carpet’s lifespan.

I would also recommend calling professional carpet cleaners if you aren’t sure about the type of paint. Incorrect cleaning methods can do more harm than good. Professionals have more experience and can determine the type of stain.

The standard carpet cleaning cost in the US ranges from $123 to $250, and most homeowners pay around $175. If you have a larger carpet, you’ll pay more. Most firms charge extra for cleaning cotton or wool carpets.

The carpet cleaning price also depends on the cleaning method – dry cleaning, carbonation, and shampooing typically cost more than steam cleaning. Note that you might have to pay extra if the paint stain is extra stubborn.

Dried vs. Wet Stain

Dealing with wet stains is always easier than with dry paint. If you act quickly, you can get rid of a wet paint stain with minimum effort, even if the paint is oil-based. However, even regular emulsion paint can be tricky to remove when dry.

Either way, you’ll need to prepare the stain for cleaning. If the stain is wet, your preparations are limited to blotting excess product.

To remove dried paint from the carpet, you’ll need to scrape off excess product with a putty knife or razor blade. Then, you might need to soak the stain in the cleaning solution for some time, possibly, even twice.

A handheld steamer is of great help in dealing with dry stains because it softens the paint and lifts it up to the surface.

Removing Water-Based Paint Stain

Water-based paint spills are the easiest to deal with because they are soluble in water when wet. However, water-based paints become resistant to water when dry, so you must act quickly.

You’ll need paper towels, a putty knife, rubbing alcohol or paint thinner, and a carpet cleaner. You can make the carpet cleaning solution from soap and water or use any other product best suited for your carpet material.

If you’ve spilled acrylic paint on the carpet, blot excess product with a paper towel first. Don’t rub the stain back and forth because it will worsen the situation. Then, apply your regular carpet cleaning solution and let it soak for 15 minutes.

Finish by shampooing your carpet like you usually do. Now, if the stain is dry, the process is more complicated. You first need to use rubbing alcohol or paint thinner to loosen up the product.

Scrape off excess paint with a razor blade or putty knife. Then, blot the stain with rubbing alcohol or paint thinner, but don’t rub. If you have no luck, try acetone, but note it might damage acetate and modacrylic carpet fibers.

Remove as much color as possible with rubbing alcohol, then apply carpet cleaning solution on the spot and vacuum as usual. Move from the outer edges to the center to avoid spreading the paint further.

Latex paint, too, is relatively easy to remove when wet. If the stain is wet, blot it, then use your carpet cleaner to remove the residue. If the stain is dry, scrape the paint off the surface with a knife or blade.

The next steps are the same as with acrylic paint – loosen up the pigment with rubbing alcohol, then apply carpet cleaning solution and shampoo the carpet.

Some guides recommend using white vinegar or dishwashing liquid with water, but carpet cleaning solutions are gentler to the fibers and more effective at cleaning.

Removing Oil-Based Paint Stain

Oil-based paint takes longer to dry than water-based, so you have more time to clean the stain. However, once it’s dry, regular rubbing alcohol and soapy water won’t be enough to get rid of the pigment.

If you’ve spilled oil paint on the carpet, you’ll need a putty knife or razor blade, paper towels, carpet cleaning solution, and, optionally, a handheld steamer.

Even with a wet stain, you need to use paint thinner like WD-40 after blotting excess product with a paper towel. Try removing as much color as possible with a paint thinner, then use a carpet cleaner to finish the job.

If you don’t have a paint thinner in hand, use hydrogen peroxide or acetone, but ensure these products won’t damage your carpet fibers. Some people report successfully using hand sanitizer. Taking the color off might take time, so be patient.

Remember to open the window or work in a mask to avoid breathing in chemical fumes. If your carpet cleaner has a steaming feature, use it to soften the paint. This way, you can scrape more off the carpet and reduce the amount of residue.

Don’t hold the steamer too close to the carpet because it might melt the fibers. Continue to apply heat and scrape the paint off until it’s gone.

Remember to always cover your carpet area with protection film or old rags to prevent the problem from happening the next time you do a paint job.

Removing Hair Dye Stains

Another extra-persistent paint type is hair dye. More often than not, the only way to remove hair dye from a carpet is professional deep cleaning. However, you can try to treat the stain with glycerin, vinegar, and carpet cleaning solution first.

Apply glycerin on the stain and leave for four hours to soften it. Alternatively, use a handheld steamer, but don’t rub the area. Then, try scraping excess dye off the carpet with a putty knife or small blade.

If the stain remains, mix white vinegar with water in equal parts and apply the solution to the area. Let it soak for 15 minutes, then apply a carpet cleaning solution or soapy water and shampoo the area as usual.

Remember to keep the windows open because hair dye and vinegar have a pungent odor and might cause headaches. Note that this cleaning method won’t work for hair bleach stains on the carpet because bleach removes color rather than leaves a pigmented film.

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