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 realise 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 centre 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 McArdles, 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 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 colour. 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 colour 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 colour 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 colour from spreading.

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

Once the colour 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.

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McArdles Cleaning & Restoration Technicians are the “face” of our business and more than likely the people you will have the most contact with. All of our technicians are highly trained – not only in the professional services they provide, but also in customer service. We see staff technical training as being a very important aspect of our service and hold frequent training sessions where all of our staff have the opportunity to develop and extend their knowledge.