How to Clean Your Paintball Clothes

A Few Tips Will Prevent Stains From a Day on the Paintball Field

Paintball player in full outfit

Stefan Krause/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0

You come back from a great game day of paintball and your favorite paintball clothes are coated with splotches of paint. Now it’s time to get them properly laundered. Although most detergents will remove the hydrophilic fill in paintballs, some brands are more stubborn to remove than others.

Designate a Set of Clothes That Are for Paintball Use Only

Paintball is not easy on clothes and if you hope to keep your gear looking good, you should learn how to properly wash it.

First of all, it is important to remember that you shouldn't have to worry about stains when playing paintball (that can take the fun out of the sport). Instead, designate a set of clothes that are for paintball use only. At least, wear something that can be stained without worry.

Tip: Light-colored and cotton/poly clothes will stain easier than dark colors and garments made with other fibers.

Clean Your Clothes Properly and Right Away

When you do get home from the paintball field, take the time to clean your clothes properly and right away. This will ensure that they stay as stain-free as possible and are ready for the next game day.

  1. Always launder your paintball clothing immediately after returning home. 
  2. Before washing, remove any leaves, sticks, or burrs as these can clog and damage the washing machine.
    1. 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 do no 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. 
  3. Pre-treat spots on clothing with either a powder detergent, liquid detergent, or stain remover of your choice. If a stain remover is not available, an equal mixture of dish detergent and water sprayed directly on the stain works well. 
  4. 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. 
  5. 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.
    1. If your clothing is a cotton or cotton mix, it will normally be fine with these settings.
    2. 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.

Paintball Fill and How Easy Is It to Remove From Clothes?

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. This 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. Like propylene glycol, it is a humectant. This is a sugar alcohol naturally found in apples, pears, and prunes. It is commonly used as in sugar-free gums as well as a thickener in beauty and makeup products.

  • Sorbitol should also wash out completely by following the directions 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 right away. If the dye sits on a fabric for an extended period of time, it will allow the dye to sink deeper into the fibers and it becomes more difficult to remove.

If the Stain Persists

If the garment is laundered promptly and the stain persists, you can soak it in a solution of 1-quart warm water, 1/2 teaspoon dish detergent, and 1 tablespoon ammonia for 30 minutes.

  • If you are worried about colorfastness, check this solution on a seam or an 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 scrub extra detergent into the stain before washing as normal in the washing machine.

Wax, the Most Difficult Element of the Fill to Remove

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 you're about to wash, a special pre-treat is necessary.

First of all, scrape off any excess paint that remains on the garment.

If there is still waxy fill deep in the fibers, proceed with the following:

  1. Place a piece of a brown paper bag on an ironing board and lay the stained garment on top of it.
  2. Put another piece of a brown paper bag over the wax stain.
  3. Use the tip of a warm iron on the top bag to slowly transfer the wax from the garment to the bag — and out of your clothing.

Keep in mind that this trick is generally used for wax stains from a candle, but it will definitely work for stubborn waxy fill.

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