Paint spruces up walls, cabinets and trim, but it doesn't look so great slopped all over the carpet. First, don't panic: Wet latex paint cleans up fairly easily with water and dishwashing soap. But if you spilled oil-based paint, forget the soap and water; instead, head for the solvent you use to clean your paintbrushes.
No matter what type of paint you spilled, work quickly to remove it, starting by soaking up the excess.
Dealing With Splatters
When vigorous painting or a dropped brush sent a few splatters flying on to your carpet, disregard the "work quickly" advice; instead, wait about 30 minutes for the paint to dry. Peel off the dried bits of paint with a pair of tweezers or, if that fails, snip off the tops of the affected carpet fibers with a pair of cuticle scissors.
Keep the Spill Confined
Latex- and oil-based paint spills are easier to clean up when they're in a contained area. Surround the perimeter of the spill with old towels or something absorbent; sawdust or cat litter work well. If it's just a small spill, you can skip this, but if the spill is larger than your palm, this extra step will save you trouble later.
Grab a roll of paper towels and start sopping up the paint, using blotting motions. Do not scrub or move the paper towel across the carpet in any way. For larger spills, let the towels do the work for you at first. Detach two sheets from the roll and fold them over each other: Drop these on the paint; let the towels soak up the spill for several seconds; remove the towels and repeat. Repeat the procedure until you can see the carpet fibers; then, use gentle blotting motions to remove as much of the excess as you can.
Latex Paint Spills
Fill a spray bottle with shower-temperature water and spray the remaining mark until the area is wet again, and the paint looks a bit gummy. The warm water reconstitutes the paint, making it easier for the soap to break it down.
Blot the area with towels until the towels come up clean. Fill a bowl with warm water and a few drops of dish soap. Using a sponge, dab the area -- again, using blotting motions -- until the carpet is spill free. Wet a clean sponge with clean water, and dab at the spot one more time to remove the soap residue.
Treating Oil-Based Paint Spills
Although latex paint cleans up easily with soap and water, oil-based paint will just scoff at your efforts. Check your paint can to see what the manufacturer recommends for cleanup: Paint thinner or mineral spirits are common, but formulas vary. Grab a handful of white rags and wet them lightly with the recommended solvent and dab at the stain, moving to a new area of the rag with each dab until the paint lifts completely. If the blotting doesn't work, try gently scrubbing in one direction, not back and forth.
When you're satisfied, mix a few drops of dish soap with warm water, clean the area gently with a sponge, and then use a clean, damp sponge to remove the residue.
Here's the bad news: The paint may not completely disappear, and any solvent runs the risk of damaging your carpet. However, solvents are the only thing that will completely remove oil-based paint. If this method fails, you may have to .
When You’re Done
Once the oil or latex paint is completely cleaned up, tend to your perimeter if you used cat litter or sawdust. Hold a dust pan on the inside of the perimeter and use a soft brush or towel to brush the product into the pan. Wait until the area is completely dry, and then vacuum up the residue.