How To Remove Paint From Hair

Good luck painting without back splash. Even if you’re careful, stray droplets will land somewhere. And there’s a good chance that somewhere is your hair. But how to wash it out without destroying those lovely locks? The DIY experts at Stack Exchange chime in…

Title image by Sean Gallagher.


We painted recently with a latex/acrylic-based paint and we didn’t use plastic hair caps. Now we’ve got unsightly paint splotches on our hair. After several washes the paint still hasn’t faded. It is very noticeable.

Please let me know how I can remove the paint while leaving the hair intact.

Originally asked by James


Answer: Soak + Fine Comb

This E-How article says that a soak with your normal shampoo, followed by running a fine-tooth comb through the affected area(s), should remove water-based paints including latex acrylic. By fine-tooth, I assume they mean a comb like a pocket or dressing table comb, but you may have more luck with something like a lice comb.

Now, latex paint with VOCs (What is low VOC paint?) may cause other types of discoloration, similar to thinners (which is why you NEVER put paint thinner on your hair; no turpentine, no acetone, no methylated spirits, no nothing).

Also, certain dyes, like red and orange, will soak into surfaces (even some things you wouldn’t consider “porous”, like ceramic tile) and become extremely difficult to remove. I dunno what colour you painted the closet or exactly what type of paint you used, but it may not be a layer of actual paint causing the discoloration anymore.

Answered by KeithS

Image: Anthony Easton

Answer: Monkey Around

When this happens to the kids (we let them help when painting) I just pick the paint out of their hair with fingernails while watching TV – they sit still and it’s quite ‘Gorillas in the Mist.’

It does take a wee while, but it works without the use of any chemicals.

Answered by Rory Alsop

Answer: Olive Oil

I find that olive oil or similar cooking oil usually removes sticky hardened gunk, paint, gum, etc…

Answered by Drai

Answer: Dish Soap & Toothpaste

Try dish soap and really wet hair. If that doesn’t work, you might try using some gritty toothpaste. The dish soap will get between the hair and the latex and help it come off. The toothpaste will act as a mild abrasive and chew up the paint so that it can be washed away.

Answered by Zach


Answer: Soak (for Hours)

Water dispersion paint (latex/acrylic is one type) is not fully water-resistant — it will get much weaker and softer once you leave it in damp conditions for several hours. (Check out the difference between “latex” and “acrylic” water dispersion paint— there is no difference!) So you need to somehow make the hair wet and keep it wet. After a rather long period of time the paint will get weak and break down. At that point, you can try to carefully separate the paint from the hair. — Answered by sharptooth

Image: Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget

Update from the Asker

We tried several of the solutions here but nothing worked. We had to wait until the hair grew out, and then cut it off. Hair dye would not even cover the paint. I think there were a couple reasons we were unsuccessful (please correct me if I’m wrong):

  • We waited too long before trying to clean out the paint.
  • The hair was particularly vulnerable because of frequent dye jobs.

Hopefully we’ll have better luck next time!

Do you know the secret to removing paint from hair? Submit your answer at Stack Exchange or leave it in the comments. Stack Exchange is a place to trade expert knowledge on diverse topics from software programming to cycling to scientific scepticism.

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