Does Fabric Paint Wash Off? A Detailed Look At Fabric Paint Durability

If you’ve ever wanted to spice up a plain t-shirt, shoes, or other fabric items with some colorful designs, fabric paint can be a fun and creative way to make them truly unique. But one important question lingers in your mind – will the fabric paint wash off in the laundry and ruin your beautiful creation?

We’ve all been there – spending time and effort customizing something, only to have it fade or fall apart after its first spin cycle.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Fabric paint is generally durable and made to resist washing off with laundry detergent and water. However, the specific fabric paint type and application method impact longevity.

Set-in fabric paints that are heat-set after application tend to be the most wash-resistant.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll look at the factors that affect fabric paint durability when laundered, best practices for maximum longevity, how to treat fabric paint stains, and review the wash-resistance of popular fabric paint options on the market.

How Durable is Fabric Paint?

Fabric paint is designed to bond to fabric fibers for decoration that withstands normal wear

Fabric paint is specifically formulated to adhere to fabric fibers, creating a durable and long-lasting bond. When applied correctly, fabric paint can withstand normal wear and tear, including washing and ironing.

This makes it an ideal choice for various fabric-based projects, such as clothing, accessories, and home d├ęcor items.

The bond between fabric paint and fabric fibers is achieved through the use of special binders and pigments that are designed to penetrate the fabric and create a strong connection. Once the paint is dry, it becomes a permanent part of the fabric, ensuring that the design remains intact even with regular use.

Paint durability depends on the fabric paint type, fabric, and application method

While fabric paint is generally durable, its longevity can vary depending on several factors. The type of fabric paint used, the fabric itself, and the method of application can all impact the overall durability of the paint.

There are different types of fabric paint available, including acrylic-based, oil-based, and fabric dye. Acrylic-based fabric paints are known for their durability and ability to withstand multiple washes.

Oil-based fabric paints provide excellent coverage and can create vibrant designs, but they may require additional steps like heat-setting to increase their washability. Fabric dyes, on the other hand, penetrate the fabric fibers and offer excellent color saturation, resulting in highly durable designs.

The type of fabric also plays a role in the durability of fabric paint. Natural fibers, such as cotton and linen, tend to absorb fabric paint more readily, resulting in a stronger bond. Synthetic fibers, like polyester and nylon, may require additional steps, such as pre-treating with a fabric medium, to enhance paint adhesion.

The application method used can also affect the durability of fabric paint. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application, including proper drying and curing times. Applying multiple thin layers and allowing each layer to dry thoroughly can help create a stronger bond and increase the paint’s durability.

Additional steps like heat-setting and top coats maximize wash-resistance

To maximize the wash-resistance of fabric paint, additional steps can be taken, such as heat-setting and applying top coats.

Heat-setting involves applying heat to the painted fabric to help the paint bond more securely. This can be done by using an iron set to the appropriate temperature or by placing the painted fabric in a clothes dryer on a low heat setting.

Heat-setting helps to make the paint more resistant to washing and fading, ensuring that the design stays vibrant and intact for a longer period of time.

Applying a top coat over the fabric paint can also increase its durability. Top coats act as a protective layer, providing an extra barrier against wear and tear. There are various types of top coats available, including fabric sealants and fabric medium mixed with paint.

These products can be applied after the paint has dried and help to prevent the paint from flaking or cracking.

Tips for Making Fabric Paint More Durable

Choose set-in paints and avoid puff/dimensional paints

When it comes to fabric paint durability, it’s important to choose the right type of paint. Set-in paints, also known as permanent or washable paints, are designed to withstand multiple washes without fading or washing off. They adhere to the fabric fibers and create a long-lasting bond.

On the other hand, puff or dimensional paints, while adding texture to your design, may not be as durable and can easily peel or crack after washing. So, if you’re looking for longevity, opt for set-in paints.

Properly prepare the fabric by washing and ironing

Before applying fabric paint, it’s crucial to prepare the fabric properly. Washing the fabric removes any dirt, oils, or sizing agents that could interfere with the paint’s adhesion. Ironing the fabric smoothens out any wrinkles and creates a flat surface for the paint application.

This step ensures that the paint adheres evenly and securely to the fabric, enhancing its durability.

Apply in thin, even layers and avoid over-saturation

When applying fabric paint, it’s essential to use thin, even layers. Thick layers of paint can result in a heavy buildup that may crack or peel over time. By applying thin coats, you allow the paint to penetrate the fabric and create a stronger bond.

Additionally, avoid over-saturating the fabric with paint, as this can lead to bleeding and smudging. It’s better to apply multiple thin layers and let them dry completely between each coat.

Heat-set paints once fully dry by ironing or putting in the dryer

To enhance the durability of fabric paint, heat-setting is crucial. Heat-setting involves applying heat to the painted fabric to bond the paint permanently. Once the paint is fully dry, you can heat-set it by ironing the fabric (following the manufacturer’s instructions) or by putting it in a clothes dryer on a high heat setting for a certain duration.

This process ensures that the paint molecules bond with the fabric fibers, making it more resistant to washing and fading.

Finish off with a top coat of fixative spray for added protection

If you want to give your fabric paint extra protection, consider using a fixative spray as a top coat. A fixative spray acts as a sealant, creating a protective layer over the painted surface. It helps to prevent the paint from flaking, fading, or washing off.

Simply follow the instructions on the fixative spray bottle to apply a thin, even layer over your painted fabric. This step can significantly increase the durability of your fabric paint design.

How to Wash Painted Fabrics

Wash in cold water using a gentle cycle

When it comes to washing fabrics that have been painted, it’s important to take extra care to ensure the longevity of the design. One of the first steps you can take is to wash the fabric in cold water using a gentle cycle.

This will help prevent any potential damage to the paint and minimize the risk of it fading or washing off.

Avoid using bleach or other harsh detergents that could break down paint

While it may be tempting to use strong detergents or bleach to get rid of stains on your painted fabric, it’s best to avoid them. These harsh chemicals can break down the paint and cause it to fade or wash off completely.

Instead, opt for mild detergents that are specifically formulated for delicate fabrics.

Air dry instead of machine drying to prevent heat damage

Machine drying can be harsh on painted fabrics, as the heat can cause the paint to melt or fade. To preserve the design, it’s recommended to air dry your painted garments instead. Simply lay them flat on a clean surface or hang them up to dry naturally.

Not only will this help maintain the vibrancy of the paint, but it will also prevent any potential damage from excessive heat.

Spot clean painted areas by dabbing gently with a damp cloth

If you notice any small stains or dirt on the painted areas of your fabric, it’s best to spot clean them instead of washing the entire garment. To do this, simply dampen a clean cloth and gently dab at the stained area. Avoid rubbing or scrubbing, as this can cause the paint to come off.

Once the stain is removed, allow the fabric to air dry.

Turn garments inside out to minimize abrasion during washing

When washing your painted fabrics, it’s a good idea to turn the garments inside out before placing them in the washing machine. This simple step can help minimize the risk of abrasion and friction between the painted surface and other garments or machine parts.

By reducing the chances of rubbing, you can help extend the lifespan of the paint on your fabrics.

By following these simple tips, you can ensure that your painted fabrics stay vibrant and durable for a long time. Remember to always check the specific care instructions provided with your fabric paint, as some brands may have additional recommendations for washing and care.

With proper maintenance, your painted fabrics will continue to be a source of joy and creativity for years to come.

Removing Fabric Paint Stains

Try soaking the stain in cold water before washing

If you have recently stained your clothing with fabric paint, it’s important to act quickly to prevent the stain from setting. One effective method is to soak the stained area in cold water before washing. This helps to loosen the paint particles and make them easier to remove.

Simply fill a basin or sink with cold water and let the garment soak for about 30 minutes. After soaking, proceed to wash the garment as you normally would.

Use a clean toothbrush and gentle laundry detergent to lightly scrub stain

If soaking alone does not completely remove the fabric paint stain, you can try using a clean toothbrush and a gentle laundry detergent to lightly scrub the stain. Gently work the detergent into the stained area using circular motions.

This can help to break up the paint particles and lift them from the fabric fibers. Rinse the garment thoroughly after scrubbing and proceed to wash it as usual.

Make a paste of baking soda and water and gently rub on stain

If the fabric paint stain is still visible after soaking and scrubbing, you can make a paste using baking soda and water and gently rub it onto the stain. Baking soda is known for its stain-removing properties and can help to lift stubborn fabric paint stains.

Apply the paste to the stained area and gently rub it in using a clean cloth or sponge. After a few minutes, rinse the garment thoroughly and wash it as usual.

For tough stains, apply rubbing alcohol and rinse thoroughly

If you are dealing with particularly tough fabric paint stains, rubbing alcohol can be a useful solution. Apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol to a clean cloth and blot the stained area. The alcohol helps to break down the paint particles, making them easier to remove.

After applying the rubbing alcohol, rinse the garment thoroughly to remove any remaining traces of paint and proceed to wash it as normal.

Avoid harsh stain removers like acetone that could damage the fabric

While it may be tempting to use strong stain removers like acetone to tackle fabric paint stains, it is important to exercise caution. Acetone is a powerful solvent that can effectively remove paint, but it can also cause damage to the fabric.

It is best to avoid using harsh stain removers and opt for gentler methods instead. Always test any stain remover on a small, inconspicuous area of the fabric before applying it to the stain directly.

Fabric Paint Options by Wash Durability

When it comes to fabric paint, one of the common concerns is its durability after washing. Different fabric paints have different wash durability, and it is important to choose the right type of fabric paint for your project based on your desired level of longevity.

Here is a detailed look at the different fabric paint options and their wash durability.

Set-in and permanent fabric paints (most durable)

Set-in and permanent fabric paints are considered the most durable option when it comes to wash durability. These paints are specially formulated to adhere to fabric fibers and withstand regular washing without fading or flaking.

They are designed to create a long-lasting bond with the fabric, ensuring that the paint stays vibrant and intact even after multiple washes.

Set-in and permanent fabric paints are often heat-set, which means they require heat to fully activate and bond with the fabric. This can be done by either ironing the painted fabric or using a heat press.

Heat setting helps to lock the paint into the fabric, making it resistant to washing and fading.

Some popular brands of set-in and permanent fabric paints include Tulip Soft Fabric Paint, Jacquard Fabric Paint, and DecoArt SoSoft Fabric Paint. These paints offer a wide range of colors and finishes, allowing you to create beautiful and durable designs on your fabric.

Puffy/dimensional and acrylic fabric paints

Puffy or dimensional fabric paints and acrylic fabric paints are also known for their wash durability, although they may not be as long-lasting as set-in and permanent fabric paints. Puffy fabric paints create a raised, textured effect on the fabric, adding dimension to your designs.

Acrylic fabric paints, on the other hand, have a thinner consistency and provide a smooth, flat finish.

Both puffy/dimensional and acrylic fabric paints are designed to withstand washing to some extent. However, it is important to note that repeated washing and exposure to harsh detergents may cause the paint to gradually fade or crack over time.

To enhance the wash durability of these paints, it is recommended to heat-set them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Popular brands of puffy/dimensional fabric paints include Tulip Puffy 3D Paint and Scribbles 3D Fabric Paint. For acrylic fabric paints, brands like Liquitex, Golden, and FolkArt offer a wide range of colors and finishes to choose from.

Fabric markers and fabric crayons (least durable)

Fabric markers and fabric crayons are the least durable option when it comes to wash durability. While these products allow for precise and detailed designs on fabric, they are not designed to withstand regular washing.

The pigments in fabric markers and crayons may fade or wash off completely after a few washes, especially when exposed to harsh detergents or high temperatures.

However, fabric markers and crayons can still be a great option for temporary or decorative designs that do not require long-lasting durability. They are often used for projects like temporary fabric decorations, costume designs, or artwork that will not be regularly washed.

Popular brands of fabric markers include Sharpie Fabric Markers and Tulip Fabric Markers. For fabric crayons, Crayola Fabric Crayons are a popular choice.


Getting creative with fabric paint is a great way to make clothing, accessories, and home decor uniquely your own – and your hard work can withstand laundering if you choose the right products. Set-in fabric paints that are properly heat-set offer the most wash-resistance for decorated fabric items.

Follow fabric paint instructions closely and handle washed items with care for the best chance of the colors and designs lasting through many wears and washes.

With some thoughtful preparation and care, you can feel confident to use fabric paints to unleash your creative spirit without worrying about your designs washing away!

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