How To Get Dried Paint Out Of Carpet

How to get dried paint out of carpet from

What I’m about to show you is terrifying (well, it was to me) but will show you what I learned about how to get dried paint out of carpet. Short version: prepare to do some work, but it will be worth it! See?

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How to get dried paint out of carpet from HousewifeHowTos

Some background: this carpet was spotless when we moved in, but it didn’t stay that way for long. My daughter, who was in her early teens at the time, was often careless with her makeup and nail polish. I’d spent many an hour getting rid of those stains, and was glad when she learned to be more careful with her things.

Then we went on vacation and invited some artist-type apartment dwellers we used to know (note the past tense) to house sit for us. In return for having the run of the house, a full fridge, a well-stocked liquor cabinet and a hot tub at their disposal, we asked them to design and paint a kitschy, girly mural on the wall of the hallway leading into my daughter’s room. “No problem,” they said. “We’d love to!” And, after looking at several sketches of their planned design, we left for vacation.

You know where I’m going with this, right?

The mural was anything but girly. In fact, it looked more like some drunken chimpanzees had mixed their feces with paint before flinging it against my walls. Only, it didn’t all make it to the walls. Oh, no. There was plenty on the carpet… along with beer stains, coffee stains and several other stains I never want to know the source of.

My daughter didn’t particularly care, and when she moved away to college I simply closed the door to that room and tried to forget all about the stains. Eventually, I thought, we’d be replacing the carpet anyway.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Katie, how on earth could you knowingly allow such stains to stay in your carpet? Aren’t you Mrs. Clean Freak? And the answer is that, yes, ordinarily I am… except when I think there’s no point in cleaning something. And that’s exactly what I thought about these stains: that they’d never come out. Fortunately, I was wrong.

But it wasn’t just paint stains I had to deal with. Oh, no. Let’s get a closer look at a couple of those spots, shall we?

Removing dried paint and coffee stains from carpet from
Navy, purple and green paint and… coffee?
Removing dried paint and coffe stains from carpet from
I’m pretty sure this is coffee. At least I *hope* it’s coffee!
Removing dried paint and other stains from carpet from
I’m telling myself this is cat vomit, even though the cats aren’t allowed in this room.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried getting old coffee stains out of carpet — much less dried paint that’s been there for six years — but I figured it would be futile. And yet… we can’t afford to replace these carpets right now. Since I’ve turned my daughter’s old bedroom into my home office, which means I’d have to see these stains every single morning, I decided I had to do something.

And here, for your education, is the result of what I learned.

How To Get Dried Paint Out Of Carpet (and other old stains)

First, I went down to Home Depot and bought a bottle of some awesome stuff called Goo Gone. I’d used it in the past to clean paint brushes that my husband hadn’t washed well enough after using, so I thought I’d give it a try on the carpet. After spraying it on, I got out a putty knife to lift up as much of the dried on paint as I could.

Lifting up dried paint stains from the carpet from
See how the dried stuff started lifting off?
Removing dried paint from carpet from
Remember to wipe off the putty knife between passes.

After the dried stuff on the carpet surface came off, it was time to start working on the stained carpet fibers themselves. I sprayed a mixture of hot water and Dawn Original on the carpet — but not too much, because I didn’t want the pad getting soaked — and dabbed at it with many, many, many white cloths, transferring the stains from the carpet to the cloth. Like so:

Removing dried paint from carpet from
Plan on using just about every cleaning rag in the house. I did.

An hour later… the paint was pretty much gone, although the coffee stains were another matter.

Removing dried paint from carpet from
Lots of progress, but still lots of work to be done

Then it was time to tackle the tougher, less readily-identifiable stains. Hot water and Dawn didn’t cut it with these, so I had to resort to using one of my least-favorite (and yet one of the most effective) household cleaning chemicals: ammonia.

Let me just warn you: open your windows before opening a bottle of ammonia, ladies and gentlemen. Now, I’d have preferred using clear ammonia, but our store didn’t have any in stock. And don’t let that label saying it’s lemon-scented fool you. It still smells like cat pee. In less than five seconds, that room smelled like the Crazy Cat Lady and her Fifty-Five Feline Friends had been living in it for years!

Anyway, I mixed 2 tablespoons of ammonia in one cup of very hot water and sprayed it on the unidentified spots. Then I waited. And waited. In fact, as you can tell by the shadows in these photos, I waited quite a while… because I got hungry. After a quick lunch of cold pasta puttanesca, I got back to work with the stiff-bristled scrub brush.

Removing cat vomit stains from carpet from
It’s definitely lighter after a good scrubbing
Removing dried coffee spills from carpet from
This one didn’t lighten up nearly as much after I’d scrubbed

Then it was time to use my very favorite trick for getting tough stains out of carpet: ironing them. That’s right, I said iron those stains! Make sure your iron is filled with water, and set it to steam. (I have wool carpets, so I used the highest setting. If yours are nylon, or a synthetic blend, use the LOW setting.) Then, place a clean white cloth over the stain and iron it, keeping the iron in constant motion, for 20 seconds or so. Lift, rotate the cloth to a clean spot, and repeat.

Removing dried stains from carpet from
Keep your iron moving, unless you’re pausing for just a second to take a picture!

Be sure to change your cloth frequently, because as the heat and steam combine with the ammonia, it will lift that stain out of your carpet and transfer it to your cloth. See what I mean?

Removing dried stains from carpet from
Not perfect — yet — but SO much better!

After lifting as much of the stain as possible using the iron, it was time to go back to the hot, soapy water. After all, I didn’t want the carpet to smell like ammonia every day when I was working in my new office. That meant more blotting, and more white cloths, but I could see light at the end of the tunnel. (Well, not really. I was losing sunlight, but you get the point.)

When I was satisfied all of the ammonia was gone, I broke out the big equipment: my trusty steam cleaner. This time, I used just plain hot water since I figured there was probably still some ammonia residue, and I’d already sprayed soapy water on the spots. My real goal was sucking out any remaining moisture.

Removing dried paint and other stains on carpet from
The first pass with the steam cleaner looked pretty good, but I was sure it could get better.

I know that stains often look darker after drying, so I decided to let the carpet dry before deciding whether to make a second pass. Sure enough, when I came back a couple of hours later, I realized it needed another. So out came my trusty steam cleaner again, this time with 1/4 cup of white vinegar added to the hot water.

Removing dried stains from carpet from
Hey, where did the paint — and the coffee spills, and the cat puke — and the other unidentified stains go? Who cares? They’re gone!

Do you see that? DO YOU? No, it’s not perfect — it’s still 19-year-old carpet, after all. But it’s infinitely better than it was when I started and, as I always say, if guests are rude enough to look closely for stains and smudges in my home then they deserve to see them. In fact, if I weren’t so sick of my allergy problems and desperate for hardwood floors, I’d probably think it’s good enough to last a couple more years.

Oh, who am I kidding? I want my wood floors. I do, I do, I do!

Equipment I Used:


    • says

      Thank you, Donna, but I’ve got to admit: I awed myself on that one. If I’d had even the tiniest notion the stains would come out that well, I’d have done this a long time ago!

  1. Michele says

    We have a stain in our living room carpet that the previous owners giant dog left. When you clean it the stain goes away but returns after a couple of weeks. Has me puzzled why it takes so long to reappear and how to get rid of it for good!!!

    • says

      Hi Michele! Stains come back on carpets for one of two reasons. Either there’s soap residue still in the carpet (attracting dirt) or the stain got all the way down to the pad and is wicking back to the carpet surface again.

      To deal with the first cause, vacuum the carpet thoroughly then use a steam cleaning machine. Skip the soap, and add 1/4 c. white vinegar gallon of hot water instead. Go over the spot repeatedly, making sure to suction the liquid up well. (Even better, follow the steamer with a wet vac to really get the cleaning solution out.) Repeat as needed until the stain stops returning.

      Dealing with wicking requires getting all of the stain out of the carpet, all the way down to the pad below. Use the vinegar cleaning method described above, then dab at it with a white cloth like I show in the picture in this entry. Keep the spot moist while you’re working, and change cloths repeatedly. (Alternatively, fold up a fluffy white towel and put it on the spot, cover the towel with plastic, and put something heavy on top of it. Let sit for an hour before changing the towel for a clean one.)

      You may have to clean the area repeatedly, and you’ll probably go through a lot of cloths, but eventually you’ll get the pet stain completely out.

      Good luck!

    • Hilary says


      Thank you for the useful information, but I have to be honest with you; even
      if I didn’t have any paint stains your writing skills and ability to keep my interest, as will as be entertaining is quite an accomplishment. So kudos to
      you and good luck with the book. I can’t wait to read it but unfortunately don’t have a credit card to order one.

      • Katie Berry says

        Thank you, Hilary. That’s the nicest thing anyone has said to me for a while. I almost feel bad about pointing out that Amazon is only too happy to take your electronic check if you’d like to buy my book. :)

  2. Old Married Lady says

    I have some pet stains in our carpet, this is very timely for me. How in the world do you know how to do what you do? Genius!

  3. Danyelle Franciosa says

    This is such a great idea. I never thought about this having a dried paint and removing stains out of carpet.

  4. Virginia Ellen says

    Right now my carpet is so bad that it is not worth such effort, but these are good things to know! Perhaps someday when I have a house with carpet that is worth caring about I can use these tricks :-)

    • says

      I know what you mean, Virginia. If we hadn’t had the appraiser coming, I wouldn’t have bothered. At some point, a carpet is simply so old that it makes more sense to replace it than try to fix it.

  5. Christina says

    Fantastic tips! I am now going to attempt the spill of purple paint I found on our carpet on Easter. My niece was over the day before and went downstairs to look for something of hers and either ‘forgot’ to tell me she accidentally knocked over a cup full of house paint or didn’t know she did it, then didn’t pick it up, or wipe it up. Now, I have an inch thick pile of paint dried on my 1 year old carpet (in a room we just had redone and haven’t gotten the opportunity to even use yet)! I was so upset that I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and decided to not even talk about it until today because it was already dry and I didn’t want to ruin our family time. But now, it must be dealt with, so I am praying that some of your solutions work, because the other ones I’ve come across I know wouldn’t cut it! Any other suggestions would be appreciated!

  6. Sarah says

    Amazing!! Great tip!! I was desperate since we are going to put the house up for sale and we recently painted the house and of course paint got on the carpet (a lot of paint) and was going to resort to getting new carpet put in because I had no idea what else to do! Thanks again you have saved me from spending pointlessly!!

  7. Ginger Estep says

    I`m going to try this and i so hope it works.The only thing is i dont know is what kind of red paint it is. I got the rugs from a friend that,got them from a older house she was remodeling. I want to clean them and use them because they match and that would work great for what i have in mind. Thank you for the ideal ! Ginger

  8. jus says

    You are amazing. We are military and the housing charges for every little thing. I just got paint and gummy fruit snacks out of the carpet right before I move!

  9. esperanza G says

    I admire your tenacity but for me……I’m gonna replace the carpet….Not that I have money…I just don’t have that kind of energy…Thanks for the suggestions though

  10. sarah y. says

    primer spilled on our colored carpet. I am excited to try your method but curious if the googone will discolor the carpet?

  11. Melissa says

    Thank you so much for this, I know its an old post but you came up as the second site on Google and I bless you for this! I just got done painting our hallway and lifted the sheets to find many spots of paint as they had seeped thru my sheets I layed down! Also we had Stanley steamers come in a few weeks ago, ladies save your money, no stains were removed just top level soil n dirt, stains that took me sixty seconds to scrub out myself with a tooth brush and some soapy water were not even removed by them. I have four boys so I have a feeling ill be banking this knowledge in my head for future use, thank you so much for sharing this, your a life saver!!

    • says

      You’re quite welcome, Melissa! Be sure to check the other carpet stain-removal entries I linked within this one for additional tips. With my pets and family, I have to rely on these all the time!

      P.S. I wholly agree about Stanley Steamer. Plus, once you have them visit they call you every month to try and convince you they need to come clean your carpets again — and your air ducts. Grrr.

  12. Danielle says

    Would this work on green food coloring? I made “slime” with my son and ended up finding a dried up glob of it in his floor. Thanks!

  13. SGB says

    I used to be the Interior Designer for a hotel chain that serves a Continental Breakfast. Our cleaning people were having a difficult time removing coffee stains from the carpeting. Our Operations Dept. asked me to contact the manufacturer to find out how to best clean these stains. When I called, the woman there asked me if it was regular or decaf. Lol. Apparently, when the coffee bean goes through the decaffination process it bleaches the bean. Dye is then added to make it look like coffee. Of course brown dye would be very difficult to get out of carpeting!

  14. Pattie says

    Katie you are my hero! I am selling my house with area rugs strategically placed to cover a multitude of stains that no matter what I did in the past never went away. I wish I had taken a before picture of the paint stain that is no longer in my upstairs hallway so you could show people that your tip really does work. If I can get Urban Putty (Sherwin Williams color that is a dark greyish brown) out of my off white 18 year old carpet it will work on anything. Yes it takes time but I was sick thinking that I was going to have to buy carpet for the new owners to enjoy.

    Next step… tackling the pet stains from my ex husband’s dog that had a dainty disposition….

    You are a lifesaver. Thank you so much!

    • Katie Berry says

      It should, but I don’t have first-hand experience with using it on spray paint. I can’t see why there would be any difference, though.

    • Katie Berry says

      No. Ammonia has no bleaching properties. Bleach or hydrogen peroxide would bleach the carpet, by ammonia does not, as you can see in the many photos above.

  15. Cindy Quinn says

    Hi Katie. I’m from Australia. Is Goo Gone known by any other name?? Or what would be a similar product? Just can’t find it. Thanks in advance. Cindy

    • Katie Berry says

      Hi Cindy! Goof Off is similar and available at Bunning’s. Dylon also makes a line of products that might work. Best of luck!

    • Katie Berry says

      You should always spot test cleaning solutions in an inconspicuous area, Amanda. That said, I’ve done this in my car on dark gray carpet and on my multi-colored entry rug and didn’t have fading problems in either area.

  16. jj says


    Thanks so much for this! I’m moving out of my apartment and have spray paint stains in one corner of the whole room. I was told that since I’ve been living here for 10+ years the landlord shouldn’t freak out, and just get new carpet.

    But he freaked out.

    Will the ammonia help with these paint stains? I tried the Goo Gone and the Dawn/Water mixture, but even after 15 minutes of scrubbing nothing was coming out.


    • Katie Berry says

      JJ, spray paint is made of different stuff than latex paint, which is why the Goo Gone didn’t work. Ammonia might — I haven’t tried it on spray paint myself — but I bet you’d have better luck using nail polish remover on a white cloth, changing the cloth out frequently. Be sure to rinse the area well when you’re done.

      And your landlord shouldn’t be freaking out about it after 10+ years. Most states have regulations requiring landlords to replace carpet after a certain period of time, and landlords typically have to absorb the cost of “normal wear and tear”. In some states they can charge the tenant the difference between the cost of replacement and the useful life left in the carpet, but at 10+ years there’s usually not much useful life left. Here are two links to check out to arm yourself with some info so you can talk with your landlord about it:
      Utah landlord-tenant law

      Good luck!

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