Whether you're repainting your home or working on a child's art project, paint can easily spill onto your carpet even if you take plenty of precautions. Some paint stains, like watercolor, are easy to lift, while others are a little more stubborn. The type of paint you're working with and whether the paint is fresh or has already dried will determine the best way to remove the stain from your carpeting.
The best time to clean up a paint stain is when it is still wet. If you spilled the paint seconds ago, dab it up with a damp cloth. Wiping could spread the paint around more, so it's important to simply apply pressure with the cloth instead of using a back-and-forth motion. You will be able to get lift the majority of the paint with this method, making the stain lighter in just seconds.
The type of paint you spill on the carpet may make a big difference in how quickly it dries and how easily it can be removed. Fast-drying paints like acrylic will set quickly, while greasier oil-based paints will take plenty of time before they completely sink in. However, oil-based paints are less responsive to water-based cleaners than other combinations. If the paint has dried, you should treat the stain differently than if it is still wet. For example, wet paints can often be sponged up quickly, while dry paints typically must be scraped with a knife before a cleaning solution is applied.
Acrylic paints are water-based and therefore one of the easier paints to remove from carpeting if you notice the spill in time, but they dry quickly so you'll want to move fast. Use nail polish remover or acetone and lift the paint stain by gently dabbing with paper towels or a cloth. Finish the job by using a thick soap, like detergent or shampoo, and hot water to ensure all the color is lifted and to mask unpleasant smells from the polish remover.
Latex paint is also water-based but typically uses vinyl resin instead of acrylic. Vinegar works better with vinyl paints, so you can remove a paint stain using the same method as you would with acrylic paint but substituting vinegar for nail polish remover or acetone.
Be particularly careful when you're working with oil paint. If the stain has already dried, it's probably best to get the stain professionally removed. Oil paints require you to use a dry-cleaning solvent to clean the paintbrushes, so you'll need to use those same solvents to remove a paint stain from carpeting. Unfortunately, dry-cleaning solvents, mineral spirits, acetone and lacquer thinner can discolor your carpeting, so be sure to use a very small amount. If you can, keep the solvent directly on top of the stain and not on any of the surrounding non-stained carpeting to prevent discoloration. Dab gently to lift the paint, and use a thick soapy detergent when you're finished to make sure that you aren't leaving any extra solvent in your carpeting.
If you notice a paint spill after it has already dried, you'll need to follow different steps. Start by using a sharp razor blade or paint scraper to cut off larger pieces of dried paint. Then, spray WD-40 or a citrus-based dissolving agent on to the rest of the dried paint and let it sit for 20 minutes. Use the blade or scraper again to lift of the softened paint. As always, use a detergent and water solution to preserve the color and smell of your carpet once you've removed the stain.