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How To Clean Paintball Stains

By Megan Muhlestein

How To Clean Paintball Stains
Nan Palmero/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

You come back from a great game day of paintball and your favorite paintball get up is coated with splotches of paint. Now it’s time to get them properly laundered. Although most detergents will remove the hydrophyllic fill in paintballs, some brands are more stubborn to remove than others. Paintball fill includes propylene glycol, sorbitol, dye and sometimes wax; each of these elements can be removed with the proper care.

The main ingredient in paintball fill is propylene glycol is a colorless, clear, viscous liquid that is a humectant, which means that it will form hydrogen bonds with water. This is good news! Propylene glycol is not a problem to remove with your normal washing machine detergent. Read the directions on the detergent and use the correct water temperature found on the tag of your garment.

The next element is sorbitol, and like propylene glycol is a humectant. It is a sugar alcohol found naturally in apples, pears and prunes and is commonly used in sugar-free gums and in beauty and makeup products as a thickener. As with propylene glycol, it should wash out completely by following the directons on your detergent and garment tag.

The dye used in paintballs is the same grade as food dyes. Food dyes do wash completely out of clothing, but the trick is to launder them promptly. If the dye sits on a fabric for an extended period of time it will allow the dye to sink deeply into the fibers of the garment and it becomes more difficult to remove. If the garment is laundered promptly and the stain persists, you can soak it in a solution of 1 quart warm water, ½ teaspoon dish detergent, and 1 tablespoon ammonia for 30 minutes. If you are worried about colorfastness, check this solution on a seam or inconspicuous spot. If the garment is cotton, this solution will work well. After the 30 minutes, pre-treat the stain with a stain removal product, or just scrub some extra detergent into the stain before washing as normal in the washing machine.

Some brands of paintball contain wax in varying quantities as a thickener. This is the most difficult element of the paintball fill to remove. Before any shots are fired, consider using high grade paintballs which are less likely to contain a waxy fill. Paint that contains a waxy fill will dry very thick and will literally feel waxy, like a crayon. Many people describe waxy paint as “chalky” “thick” or “pasty.” If these qualities are noticed in the clothes to be laundered, a special pre-treat is necessary. First, scrape off any excess paint that remains on the garment. If there is still waxy fill deep in the fibers, proceed with the following: Place a piece of brown paper bag on an ironing board, followed by the stained garment. Then place another piece of brown paper bag over the wax stain. Place the tip of a warm iron over the brown paper bag and it will slowly transfer the wax from the garment to the bag - and out of your clothing. Keep in mind that this is generally for wax stains from a candle, but it will definitely work for stubborn waxy fill.

Now that we’ve narrowed down each element of the paintball fill, some general tips and instructions on different detergents, stain removers and water temperature are needed. Always launder your paintball clothing immediately after returning home. Before washing, remove any leaves, sticks or burrs as these can clog and damage the washing machine. This is extremely important if you are washing microfiber rags that were used to clean equipment. The rags pick up anything with a rough edge and it will not do any good to wash them, because the fibers have such a strong hold that no matter the temperature or detergent, the leaves, sticks, burrs etc., will remain on the microfiber. Then, pre-treat spots on clothing with either powder detergent, liquid detergent of stain remover of your choice. If a stain remover is not available, an equal mixture of dish detergent to water sprayed directly on the stain works well. The trick is to really rub the detergent or stain remover into the fibers and allow it to sit for 2-5 minutes before washing. After pre-treating, wash as normal with the highest possible temperature the fabric will endure. If your machine has a “sanitary cycle” or “super hot” setting, and the fabric will allow it, use it. If your clothing is a cotton or cotton mix it will normally be fine on these settings. This setting has been tried and tested and it will do the best job of taking out the stains, regardless of the detergent you use.

Last of all, remember that you shouldn’t have to worry about stains when you play paintball, so consider wearing clothing that is set apart for paintball use, or clothing that can be stained without worry.

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