How to Safely Clean Spills and Splatters

How to Properly Clean Up Paint Spills

Know What Works

It helps to know which substances may come in handy if things get messy. Keep in mind that certain cleaning methods and solutions are better suited for specific situations. With that in mind, some common paint cleaning materials interior house painters may use include:

  • Soap, Water, and a Scraper
  • Mineral Spirits (Paint Thinner)
  • Chemical Paint Strippers
  • Paint Removing Gels
  • Nail Polish Remover
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Vinegar and Oils

The cleaning options listed above have unique pros and cons. Depending on the surface you’re from which you’re trying to remove paint, one substance might damage the surface, another might get the job done properly, and another might not do much at all. This is why it’s important to choose your method according to the surface with which you’re working. For example, using soap, water, and a scraper can work wonders for removing paint from glass windows, but it might not be so effective for cleaning a paint spill on concrete -- a chemical paint stripper would be better in this situation but would be far too corrosive for wooden surfaces.

Paint State Matters

To clean spills and splatters safely and effectively, you must also pay attention to whether the paint is wet, dry, or somewhere in between. Generally speaking, it’s easier and more effective to clean up paint while it’s still mostly wet. Of course, when house painting, you might not notice some paint splatters until they’ve dried. If this happens, it usually helps to apply some heat to the area (i.e. a blow dryer at a proper distance or friction from rubbing) in order to loosen up the paint. From there, you can use one of the aforementioned cleaning solutions as needed, being careful to not scrape surfaces or rub paint further into carpeting, etc. Nail polish remover and rubbing alcohol are typically good options for softening and cleaning up dried paint.

Paint Type Matters, Too

Different types of paint might be more easily cleaned up in specific ways based on their composition. Check your products or consult an interior painting service to see if there are any instructions for removing unwanted paint and picking up spills.

Reduce Harmful Fumes

Some of the cleaning methods listed earlier yield toxic fumes. Nail polish remover, chemical paint strippers, and mineral spirits (paint thinners), in particular, often contain volatile organic compounds that can harm the body when ingested. To stay safe on the job, make sure you thoroughly ventilate the area to allow harmful fumes to escape. Proper ventilation is vital for any interior painting project anyway, so you should have these bases covered, to begin with.

When in Doubt, Perform a Test Clean

If you’re not sure how well a cleaning solution will work on a given surface, test a small (ideally concealed) area to see how the paint responds. If it seems to be working, you can go from there. If not, perform another test with another cleaning method.

Protect Yourself When Cleaning Spills and Splatters

While the main goal of cleaning up spills and splatters is to keep paint away from surfaces that don’t need it, the most important part of this process is keeping yourself safe. Many of the products used for cleaning up paint, as well as the paint itself, are toxic when consumed. Some substances can even harm the skin when directly touched. For these reasons, it’s important to wear protective gear, such as gloves, close-toed footwear, safety goggles, and a mask whenever cleaning up paint messes.

Paint has a way of winding up where it shouldn’t. Some spills and splatters are inevitable -- don’t panic when it happens. Instead, approach this problem thoughtfully and you’ll be able to safely and efficiently clean up just about any paint-related mess that comes your way. The residential and commercial painting pros at Endure Painting have seen plenty of paint spills and splatters, so we know exactly how to handle these situations. For more information regarding our skills and services, call us at (510) 458-2120 or send us an email at

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