What I’m about to share with you is terrifying (well, it was to me) but will show you how to get dried paint out of carpet. Short version: prepare to do some work, but it will be worth it!
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 decided to go on 3-week vacation. We knew some artist-type friends (note the past tense) who were between apartments, so we invited them to house sit for us. In return for having a place to stay more private than their parents’ sofa, plus a full fridge and liquor cabinet at their disposal, we asked them to design and paint a girly mural on my daughter’s bedroom wall. “No problem,” they said. “We’d love to!” And, after looking at several sketches of their planned design, we left our home in their care.
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 so when she moved away to college I closed the door to that room and tried to forget all about the stains. We were planning on replacing our carpets with hardwood flooring eventually, 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 a clean freak? The answer is that, yes, ordinarily I am… except when I think there’s no point in cleaning something. That’s exactly what I thought about these stains because it wasn’t just paint I was dealing with.
Let’s get a closer look at a couple of those spots, shall we?
Then I found out how much it would cost (over $15,000?!) , and how long it would take (5 weeks? Seriously???) to replace all the carpets in our home with hardwood floors. We don’t have that kind of money or patience! But 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 (a/k/a “Goof Off” for U.K. readers). I’d used it in the past to clean paint brushes that my husband hadn’t washed well 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.
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 (Sunlight or Fairy for U.K. readers) on the carpet. It’s important to avoid over spraying so you don’t soak the pad, something that can cause mildew.
Once sprayed, I dabbed at it with many, many, many white cloths, transferring the stains from the carpet to the cloth. Like so:
Using a white cloth is important since colored cleaning rags can transfer their own dyes back to your carpet, which just makes matters worse.An hour later… the paint was pretty much gone, although the coffee stains were another matter.
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 because that stuff smells awful! Even though I’d bought the lemon-scented stuff (because that’s all our store had), it still smells like cat pee. That smell won’t stick around after you’re finished, but it’s sure unpleasant while you’re working with it.
So, windows opened, I mixed 2 tablespoons of ammonia in one cup of very hot water and sprayed it on the unidentified spots. Again, it’s important not to drench the area so you don’t soak the pad, but you do want to make sure the ammonia is worked into the carpet fibers. For that you need a stiff-bristled scrub brush. Rub the ammonia in and let it sit for an hour or so.
So, to get rid of the remaining stains, I used my very favorite trick: ironing them. That’s right, I said iron those stains!
Step One: 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.)
Step Two: 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.
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?
When I was satisfied the stains were 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.
Stains often return after drying so I decided to wait and see if I needed to make a second pass. Sure enough, when I came back a couple of hours later, a few stains had reappeared.
Out came my trusty steam cleaner again. This time, I filled the tank one-fourth of the way with white vinegar and topped it off with hot water plus a couple drops of Dawn.
Do you see that? DO YOU? Not bad for a 19-year-old carpet!
Sure, it was a lot of work — most of a day, though much of that was waiting for products to do their thing — but it cost me all of $7.50 and I don’t have to cringe whenever I see that carpet anymore. I call that a win!
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