How to Clean Paint Off Screens

It's a good idea to mask screens well before painting door and window frames because removing paint from a screen can be troublesome. Strong detergents and solvents help -- alcohol for latex paint and acetone or lacquer thinner for oil-based ones -- but they must be used sparingly because they may soften the screen material. Moreover, solvents don't always work on cured paint; you might have to resort to paint stripper in the end.

Cleaning Procedure

As with any stain-removal process, it's best to begin with the mildest cleaners and proceed to stronger ones only if necessary.

Step 1

Blot up any fresh paint, using an absorbent cloth. If you can, support one side of the screen with a cloth while you blot from the other side. Avoid wiping -- you'll just spread paint over a wider area and make removal more difficult.

Step 2

Mix a solution consisting of 1/2 cup of trisodium phosphate per gallon of warm water. TSP is a strong detergent that can remove paint, but it's caustic, so wear rubber gloves and goggles while using it.

Step 3

Soak a kitchen scrubber in the cleaning solution and wash the screen. To make it easier to scrub, support one side of the screen with a rag while you scrub the other side. In most cases, you'll be able to remove most of the paint this way, but if not, a solvent is the next cleaning agent to try.

Step 4

Dampen a rag with isopropyl alcohol to remove dried latex paint; use lacquer thinner if you're trying to remove oil-based paint. Support one side of the screen while you rub the other with the rag. Keep the rag damp, but not moist, and rub in two- or three-second spurts to avoid saturating the screen material with solvent and possibly damaging it. Each time you stop, let the solvent evaporate before continuing.

Step 5

Use paint stripper as a last resort, keeping in mind that it may damage the screen. Test it on a spare sample of the screen material, if you have one. Spread it on the paint with a paintbrush, leave it for about five minutes, then wash it off with a garden hose. Wipe the screen with a clean rag to remove stripper and paint residue.

Chris Deziel

Chris Deziel

Chris Deziel has a bachelor's degree in physics and a master's degree in humanities. Besides having an abiding interest in popular science, Deziel has been active in the building and home design trades since 1975. As a landscape builder, he helped establish two gardening companies.