Don’t Cry Over Spilled Paint

We don’t like to think about it, but we know that eventually it is going to happen. Surely, you had the good sense to spill the paint on a smooth, hard, sealed floor, because then clean up is relatively easy. Blot up as much of the spilled paint as possible, and clean the rest with soap and water.

But of course you’re not that fortunate. You spilled the paint on the new carpet! The first thing to do is to remember what it said on the cover of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy: “Don’t Panic”. But don’t ignore it, either.

The best way to deal with a paint spill is to avoid having one. That is way clearing the area of obstructions and tripping hazards, as well as laying drop cloths, is part of preparing to paint. Of course accidents will happen, and it is a corollary of Murphy’s Law that the newer the carpet, the more likely they are to happen. We can still minimize the potential damage by avoiding carrying full open paint cans, and limiting the amount of paint we load into the paint tray.

There is a school of thought that a very small spill, such as a dropped roller or a few errand drips, should be allowed to dry. Keep the area isolated the that the mess isn’t spread by traffic, and when it is breakup the dried paint with a scraper or pliers and vacuum. It may even possible to ‘shave’ the ends of the pile using scissors or a razor blade, just be careful not to leave a bald spot.

If there is a possibility that the paint will get deeper into the fibers, more decisive and thorough actions must be taken. You won’t be ‘defeated’ by a stain until the paint dries, so begin working before the paint has a chance to set, and keep it moist until you have it all removed.

Again, restrict traffic to avoid making the problem worse. Use clean rags or paper towels to blot up as much of the paint as possible. Try not to rub, this will drive the paint further into the carpet fibers. Several professional carpet cleaners recommend making a cleaning solution of one tablespoon of dish washing detergent in a gallon of water. Spray or dab the solution onto the stain until the paint is completely removed. Hydrogen peroxide, acetate, and a mild vinegar solution have also been used as effective cleaning solutions. Prudence dictates that you try your solution in a hidden pot of the carpet to be sure there is no damage, but my thought is that the spill has already damaged the carpet, so get going!.

A wet-dry vacuum can help keep to the area from getting too sodden, but remember to keep the paint moist until it is completely removed. If the staining is severe enough, professional help or a carpet cleaning machine may be necessary. Many outlets rent rug steamers. Cover the moist stain with a wet towel to keep it from drying until you can get a machine.

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