After A Little Day Out: Tips for Tackling Life’s Little Blotches – Art Stains!

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I love it when my kids do art!

Paint, crayons, markers, glitter, glue, ink and sometimes, even nail polish. It is so nice to see their creative side coming out, especially when it’s not at home in the middle of the carpet! It’s amazing how many giggles and fits of laughter a simple brush and a pot of paint can bring. And not to mention, the priceless pieces of art that are the zenith of this artistic chaos.

Just as long as the colours and paints stay on the table and don’t come back home with them on their clothes!

While you can’t always be prepared with a handy art smock, truth is – most times, the art comes home, even if the kids are wearing it. And it’s usually the tough non-water based inks and paints that you have to deal with. What happened to the days of good old water colours?

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Dealing with Art Stains


Water-based paint stains: These paints are designed to dissolve in water, which makes them a favourite of parents and teachers everywhere. Deal with a fresh water-based paint stain as follows:-

  • Use a spoon or dull knife to scoop up as much paint as possible, before blotting gently with a cloth.
  • Stop the paint stain from drying out – using a sponge, work a detergent and water mix directly into the water-based paint, rubbing gently in between your fingers, before rinsing thoroughly.
  • Keep repeating this process until most of the stain has disappeared from the clothing.
  • If some of the paint stain still remains, apply a touch of nail polish remover on an absorbent cloth and blot, before rinsing well again and laundering.

Oil-based & Acrylic paint stains: Are a lot more difficult to remove!

  • For a dried acrylic paint stain, brush off as much of the dried paint stain as possible with a hard bristled brush, before applying a soapy water mix or gently dabbing on a varnish remover with a clean cloth. Once the paint stain has softened in the clothing, scrape off as much as possible. Then, work a detergent mix into the stain, as above, and follow the same steps until the dried paint stain has been removed.
  • For an oil-based paint stain that is still wet, remove as much of the paint as possible with a knife or spoon before blotting and rinsing well.
  • Place the fabric stain-side down over an absorbent cloth, before sponging the back of the garment with a touch of turpentine (keeping an eye on the colours to make sure they don’t run).
  • Continue until the stain disappears, replacing the cloth underneath when it becomes wet.
  • Do not rinse.
  • Follow by rubbing in a good quality laundry detergent before soaking in hot water overnight (occasionally rubbing the stain gently), before rinsing and washing as per garment directions.
  • If the oil-based paint stain has dried into the clothing, brush off as much as possible with a hard bristled brush. Once the stain has loosened and becomes wet again, scrape off as much as possible before following the above steps to remove a wet oil-based paint stain. In general, oil-based stains should be treated immediately by applying white spirit or turpentine from the reverse side of the fabric. If the paint is allowed to dry, a layer forms and the stain is impossible to remove.


There are a few ways in which to beat crayon stains – see which ones work best for you and your situation!

  • Scrape off as much crayon / stain as possible with a butter knife.
  • Scrub with a non-gel toothpaste to remove the stain.
  • Apply liquid dish soap and work into the stained area. Let stand a few minutes and rub fabric under warm water to remove the stain.
  • If the toothpaste does not work, soak clothes in a pre-treatment solution before washing.
  • Allow to air dry. Repeat as needed.


  • If the crayon is soft, freeze the fabric to harden the crayon, and then scrape off the excess.
  • Place the stain between clean paper towels and press with a warm iron to transfer the stain to the paper towels.
  • Replace the paper towels frequently to absorb more crayon and prevent transferring the stain to other places on the fabric.
  • Wash normally as above.


  • Place the stain face down on a pad of paper towels. Spray with WD-40 and let it stand for a few minutes. Turn the fabric over and spray again with WD-40.
  • Apply liquid hand dishwashing detergent and work it into the stain. Replace the paper towels underneath as they absorb the stain.
  • Wash normally as above. 


Permanent marker is, by nature, a resilient stain to beat, precisely because it’s supposed to be permanent and sometimes unfortunately cannot be removed!

Again, different scenarios for different situations – see which one works best for you.

  • Try removing permanent marker stains by rinsing stains with cold water until the water runs clear.Place the fabric on a paper towel, and then saturate stains with rubbing alcohol, using a cotton ball as a blotter. Change paper towels as necessary as it absorbs the color.Wash the garment in the hottest water possible for the fabric, adding bleach (colour-safe for coloured fabrics), and rinse in warm water.
  • Use Bleach to remove permanent marker from white fabrics. Dilute a small amount of bleach in water and dip the stained part of the clothing into the liquid. The stain may come off immediately, or may require soaking. Once the stain has disappeared, you should wash the item immediately, as normal.
  • Citrus juice (such as that from a lemon or lime), can be used to gently remove marker stains from most items of clothing, without fear of bleaching or staining. Simply apply a little of the freshly squeezed juice directly to the stain and dab with a cotton ball or clean cloth until it disappears. For more fragile fabrics, dilute the citrus juice to half strength with water first. Wash the item of clothing immediately.
  • Hairspray – dampen the stain with water and then blot it with a paper towel that has been sprayed with non-oily hairspray.
  • Rubbing alcohol – place the stain face-down on top of a piece of paper towel. Dip a cloth in rubbing alcohol and dab the stain. Change the paper towel often as the ink transfers so that the paper can absorb the color. After the stain is removed, machine wash the clothing.
  • Milk – fill a bowl with milk and soak the stained area of the garment in the milk. When the milk has significantly changed colour (absorbing the colour of the marker), refresh the bowl with new milk and repeat the process until the stain is completely removed.


  • Don’t shake clothes to remove excess glitter – this will just spread the glitter and make it harder to remove.
  • Lay the clothes out onto a towel, glitter outwards.
  • Spray regular hairspray spray over the clothes, making sure you cover every bit of glitter.
  • Allow the hairspray to dry until it’s hard.
  • Now wash clothing as usual, by itself, in the machine.
  • Repeat as necessary


  • Scrape off excess glue with a flat-bladed knife.
  • Soak the stained garment in water to loosen the remaining glue. Scrape off as much as possible.
  • Wash in hot water.
  • Let the garment dry and if the stain is still there, soak again in cold water for 30 minutes.
  • Sponge the stain with a cleaning solvent (dry cleaning fluid or a white spirit), let it sit for 5 minutes and then rinse again.
  • Repeat as necessary.

Nail Polish

Use the following method for nail polish that is wet or dry:-

  • Place the stained fabric face-down on paper towels.
  • Using cotton balls, blot the stained area with acetone, to transfer the stain to the paper towel.
  • Rinse out the stained area, and repeat the blotting action to remove the stain completely.
  • Continue rinsing the fabric and applying more acetone until the paper towels no longer turn the color of the nail polish after blotting – this indicates the stain has been removed.

Removing nail polish stains without a nail polish remover (acetone):-

  • Spray a small amount of bug onto the nail polish. Spray enough that the stain is saturated.
  • After the spray has been absorbed by the stain, scrub the area gently with an old toothbrush.
  • If the stain remains, saturate the area with hair spray. Allow the hairspray to set for a few minutes, and then scrub with an old toothbrush again.
  • Wash as usual and repeat if necessary.


Ink stain removal can be nearly impossible and many fear their clothes are ruined. Often regular laundry sprays aren’t as effective as hairspray!

  • Hair spray – simply spray the hair spray onto the stained area, allowing it to saturate the fabric. Let it sit for a few minutes and wash regularly.
  • For leather, try applying a liberal dose of petroleum jelly to the ink stain. Leave the jelly sitting on the stain for several days and then wipe the area clean.

See Also

About the Author

Priyanka ElhenceIndian by birth, Priyanka grew up in Kenya and attended universities in Switzerland and the UK. After a two-year sojourn in Florida, she moved to Singapore 11 years ago. She has always had a passion for languages, reading, trying out new foods and travelling. Priyanka is a mom to six-year-old identical twin boys and together with her husband, they enjoy embarking on exciting global adventures as a family. In another lifetime, Priyanka used to be a Recruiter before finally following her passion and becoming a freelance writer. She has done freelancing for various magazines and online publications. She is also currently writing a children’s book about her twins and their favourite teddy and the adventures they have shared till now, as seen through the eyes of the little boys.

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