How To: Remove spattered paint from floors

November 30, 2011

Q. Help! I painted the walls in my house recently. Now I notice paint marks on my newly refinished floors. Is there a way to remove the marks without damaging the floors?

Alexandria

A. If you notice paint spatters within the first day, you can usually scrape them off with a fingernail or wipe them up with a damp rag. After that, the paint drips dry more thoroughly and are harder to remove. But for the next two weeks or so, you can usually still rub the spatters off using nothing more than a little water on a rag.

After that, your options are a razor blade, held almost flat to the floor, or solvents. Because there are so many different floor finishes, test in a small, out-of-the-way place to make sure the treatment doesn’t alter the sheen of the floor. If you wound up with a bunch of dull spots where you rubbed on solvent, they could be even more noticeable than the spatters. To check whether the reflection of the light changes, shine a light at an angle on the test area.


(ISTOCKPHOTO)

Beyond water, the mildest solvents that sometimes remove dried latex paint are ammonia (diluted in water) and alcohol, either the denatured type, which is sold as a solvent in paint stores, or rubbing alcohol, which is available at pharmacies. There are also commercial products sold specifically to lift paint spatters, including Goof Off Professional, Oops! Remover, Lift Off #5 Latex Based Paint Remover, and Krud Kutter Tough Task Citrus Remover. Some professional painters get good results with hand sanitizer, probably because of the alcohol it contains.

With any of these products, try rubbing on the solvent with a soft cotton rag — in a test area first, of course. If that doesn’t work, use the kind of scrub pad recommended for nonstick pots and pans. Be sure to follow safety precautions on the label, as some spatter-removers contain highly toxic solvents.

Q. I have string vertical grasscloth wallpaper in my house that has started to come loose from the wall where the seams meet. Even though the wallpaper is old, I’d like to keep it. What is the best way to reattach it to the walls? Do I need a professional to do this?

Oak Hill

A. String vertical grasscloth was popular in the 1970s and is making a comeback as styles from that era come back in vogue. So you’re smart to repair the seams and keep on enjoying the vintage look.

You can reglue the seams yourself, using either seam-repair adhesive, which comes in a tube, or wallpaper adhesive paste, sold in a quart-size tub. Either way, be sure the label says the adhesive dries clear. Some other wallcovering adhesives have a beige color that might bleed through the grasscloth and be visible after the repair.

If you buy clear adhesive in a tube, just use the tip to squirt a thin line of adhesive under loose seams. Pat the seams down, then wipe away any excess adhesive with a slightly damp sponge. It’s important to avoid introducing too much water or smearing adhesive on the front of the grasscloth.

If you buy paste adhesive in a tub, also pick up a syringe, which some hardware stores carry for projects just like yours. Or you can get a syringe from a pet store or a kitchen-supply company. Use the syringe as a precision application tool to get a small amount of adhesive under loose edges.

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to localliving@washpost.com . Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.

The Checklist: Read Jeanne Huber’s roundup of home-improvement tasks you should tackle in December, such as disconnecting hoses, at washingtonpost.com/home.

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