How To Get Oil-Based Paint Out Of Your Hair: 4 Ways


Anyone can get paint in their hair. It can happen if long hair falls forward and touches the paint container or a wet surface. If you unintentionally scratch an itch on your head with painted hands, you can transfer the product to your hair. But how do you get it out?

You can easily get oil-based paint out of your hair with a variety of products you likely already have at home. Some of them are natural, and others need care and caution if you use them near your skin or hair. 

In conjunction with some scrubbing, the following methods can be used to get the paint out:

  • Dish detergent or clarifying shampoo
  • Another oil, such as olive or coconut
  • Toothpaste
  • Chemical paint removers

4 Methods For Removing Oil-Based Paint From Hair

Oil-based paints will bond to coated surfaces, including your hair, clothing, and skin. You could try to scrape the paint off with a finger or fine-toothed comb. Unfortunately, this likely will not remove all of the paint.

If only a few strands of hair have paint on them, you can cut those off.  

If the paint won’t come out with scraping, or you have a lot of painted hair, try to remove the paint using one or more of the following methods, before opting for a new hairstyle.

1. Dish Detergent Or Clarifying Shampoo

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If the paint is still wet, you can use some dish detergent or clarifying shampoo to strip the oil paint away. These products have surfactants and ingredients that will remove oily buildup. They will trap any oily substances into their suds which can then be washed away.

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Dish detergent is known for getting oily stains out of many things, such as Tupperware, and can help release the bond of oils to hair as well. This is especially true if used in conjunction with some scrubbing.

However, once the paint is dry, it has more strongly adhered to the pores of your hair and becomes  more difficult to remove. 

To use shampoo or dish soap:

  1. Dampen the hair with warm tap water to open up the hair’s pores.
  2. Apply the soap to the affected strands, thoroughly coating them.
  3. Rub it in to create a lather.
  4. Let it sit for a minimum of 10 minutes.
  5. Scrub the soap-covered hair with a washcloth, fine-toothed comb, or your hands.
  6. Rinse and repeat as needed.

Alternatively, use another of the methods below to remove oil-based paints from your hair. Consider following up any method with a bit of dish detergent or clarifying shampoo to wash the hair clean of residue.  

Then, follow up the final washing with a moisturizing conditioner, since natural hair oil loss and damage may occur after the use of harsh products.

2. Other Oils

In conjunction with soap, the use of another oil is the best method for getting the paint out. 

Oils will bond to each other. Therefore, you can apply any of the following oils to the painted hair to draw the paint out:

  • Coconut oil
  • Baby oil
  • Canola, vegetable, or olive oils
  • Mineral oil
  • WD-40 (see note below)

Complete the following steps:

  1. Gather the oil, a fine-toothed comb, and plastic wrap.
  2. Soak or apply oil to saturate the painted hair.
  3. Wrap your hair in plastic wrap to encourage its absorption into the strands.
  4. Let the oil sit for 3 to 4 hours. 
  5. Remove the plastic wrap and use a fine-toothed comb or your fingers to pull the softened paint out.
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The oil will also make your hair feel soft, but if it leaves too much residue or if you used WD-40, follow up with a cleansing shampoo in the shower.

Note: If you use WD-40, you need to avoid getting it on your skin or scalp or breathing in the fumes. This product contains chemicals that can irritate the skin and lungs. Save this type of oil as a last resort. 

    1. Wear gloves and eye protection. 
    2. Spray WD-40 on your hair outdoors, focusing on painted strands that do not touch the scalp.
    3. Let it sit for only a few minutes. 
  • Wash your hair and skin thoroughly after use.

3. Toothpaste

Toothpaste can work as a scrubber to remove paint. It will work better with water-based or latex paint, but is worth a try as a scrubber with an oil-based one as well.

Complete the following steps:

  1. Apply and cover painted stands with toothpaste. 
  2. Massage it into the strands with your fingers. 
  3. Use a fine-toothed comb, a toothbrush, or your fingers to scrape the paint off.
  4. Rinse and repeat as needed.

4. Chemical Paint Remover

This method is a last resort, and should be used only if you can ensure the chemicals do not touch your skin. Products such as turpentine, mineral spirits, or paint thinner will remove oil-based paints. 

These chemicals must be used in a well-ventilated area. They can be toxic and are flammable. 

A haircut may be a better option at this point, since chemical paint removers will “burn” away the oil-based paint and can burn your skin and hair as well. 

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In theory, they could be wiped on with a rag (and gloved hands). Then they should be rinsed and washed off right away to remove the chemicals and the paint with it as soon as possible.

After Care And Prevention

If the use of chemicals or attempt to remove the paint has damaged your hair, a professional hair stylist can help you prevent further breakage or damage. Unfortunately, a haircut may also be in store for you.

The next time you paint, take care to not get paint in your hair. 

Wear a baseball cap or bandana or tie long hair back into a bun. 

An even better option is to wear a disposable shower cap. Then, if you get paint on it, you can simply throw it away.

In Conclusion

Getting paint in your hair is a common occurrence. If you do not want a haircut, you can try using dish detergent, clarifying shampoo, cooking or other oils, toothpaste, or chemical removers.

Keep in mind that chemical removers can be hazardous to your hair and skin, and may result in burns or the need for a haircut. Therefore, this should be the last resort option.

Try a natural method with soap first, and if all else fails, ask a hairstylist for help.