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Is fabric spray paint permanent?

Fabric spray paint can be a fun and easy way to customize clothing, accessories, and home decor. Unlike traditional paint, fabric spray paint is formulated to flex with fabric rather than crack. However, there is some debate around whether fabric spray paint is truly permanent or if it will eventually fade and peel with washing and wear. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at fabric spray paint and answer the question: is it really permanent?

Table of Contents

How Does Fabric Spray Paint Work?

Fabric spray paint is a specialized acrylic-based paint that is designed to adhere to fabric fibers. It uses a combination of acrylic polymers and pigments suspended in a solvent carrier. Here’s a quick overview of how it works:

  • The paint is stored under pressure in an aerosol can. When sprayed, it releases a fine mist of paint and solvent.
  • The solvent allows the paint to temporarily penetrate into the spaces between the fabric threads.
  • As the solvent evaporates, the acrylic polymers and pigments deposit onto the surface of the fabric fibers and harden.
  • The acrylic plasticizers allow the dried paint to remain flexible so it can move with the fabric without becoming brittle and cracking.

This allows the paint to bond directly to the fabric itself. The end result is a painted coating that adheres to the material while retaining some stretch and bend. This differs from standard craft paints that would sit on top of fabric and quickly crack with movement.

Factors That Impact Durability

There are a few key factors that impact how permanent fabric spray paint will be:

Fabric Type

Certain fabrics hold spray paint better than others:

  • Natural fabrics like cotton, linen, and silk have fibers that the paint can grab onto for better adhesion. The natural texture also allows the paint to soak in.
  • Synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon, and rayon are trickier surfaces for spray paint to bond to. The smooth, plastic-y fibers don’t absorb the paint as well.
  • Blended fabrics offer a combination of natural and synthetic fibers for moderate paint adhesion.

For best results, natural fabrics like cotton and denim are ideal spray paint substrates.

Paint Flexibility

The more flexible the dried paint, the better it can move and bend as the fabric does without cracking and peeling. Look for spray paints designed specifically for fabric that indicate flexibility or permanence on the can.

Washing and Drying Method

How the painted fabric is cared for makes a big difference. Gentle machine washing and hang drying is ideal. High heat, agitation, and throwing painted items in the dryer can cause the paint to become brittle and deteriorate faster.

Abrasion and Wear

Areas that receive a lot of wear and rubbing when the item is used can cause paint to chip and peel more quickly. Densely painted areas also tend to crack more easily than sparse designs. Setting the paint with heat after application can help improve durability.

Does Fabric Spray Paint Ever Fade or Peel?

While high quality, flexible fabric spray paint is designed to permanently bond to fabric, the reality is that fading and cracking can occur over time. With enough washing, wearing, folding, and general use, fabric paint can start to break down and deteriorate. However, there are things you can do to get the longest lasting results:

  • Wash garments before painting so the paint adheres directly to clean fabric rather than any existing finishes or residues.
  • Use light, misting coats and avoid saturating the fabric excessively.
  • Follow specific product instructions, especially when it comes to setting or curing the paint.
  • Avoid overly stretchy fabrics that will constantly move and bend, pulling on the paint.
  • Be extra gentle in washing and drying painted items.
  • Expect the need to occasionally touch up peel spots after many wears and washes.

While not a permanent solution for every situation, fabric spray paint can still deliver long lasting results with proper application and care. Many users report painted fabric lasting through dozens of gentle washes when done correctly.

How to Make Fabric Spray Paint Stay on Longer

Here are some tips to extend the life of your fabric paint job:

Wash and Dry the Fabric First

Make sure your fabric doesn’t have any product residue on it that could act as a barrier to the paint. Wash and dry items thoroughly before starting your project.

Use a Primer

After washing, apply a thin mist layer of primer to help the paint adhere. Look for specially formulated fabric and textile primers.

Apply Light Coats

Mist on multiple thin layers rather than one thick, wet coat. This prevents oversaturating the fabric.

Use Heat Setting

Many brands recommend heat setting the paint after application using an iron or dryer. This helps fully cure the paint.

Add a Top Coat

Finish off your project with a clear acrylic sealer spray to seal in the paint and provide protection.

Gently Wash and Air Dry

When it’s time to clean, use gentle cycles and cold water. Line dry or dry flat to prevent cracking.

Best Fabric Spray Paints for Permanence

Not all fabric spray paints are created equal when it comes to durability. Here are some top-rated, long-lasting options:

Tulip 3D Fashion Paint

Tulip is a popular brand for fabric painting. Their 3D paint provides an extra flexible, permanent finish that can handle washing. It comes in a wide range of glossy colors.

Krylon Easy-Tack Repositionable Spray Paint

This adaptable spray paint can stick to fabric, but also be removed when desired without leaving residue behind. The strong bond it forms makes it more permanent than other repositionable sprays.

Plasti Dip Blaze Fabric Spray

Plasti Dip is trusted for its durable coating abilities. Their fabric formula is flexible when dry and made to resist fading, peeling, and cracking after repeated washings.

Aleene’s Permanent Fabric Spray Paint

Aleene’s is a leading brand in fabric paints. Their permanent spray claims to stay vibrant through 25+ cycles in the washer and dryer without losing adhesion.

Temporary vs. Permanent Fabric Spray Paint

Temporary Permanent
Designed to easily wash out Formulated to bond to fabric for extended wear
Lasts for less washes Holds up better with repeated washing
Less expensive Higher quality paint comes at a higher price
Best for short term wear like costumes or events Ideal for long term fabric customization
Less preparation needed Often requires fabric prep and heat setting

There are some spray paints marketed as “temporary” or “removable” that are designed to easily wash out of fabric. While convenient, these tend not to hold their color as long with repeated washings compared to more heavy duty permanent spray paint.

Tips for Using Fabric Spray Paint

Here are a few techniques to get professional looking results when using fabric spray paint:

Work Outside or in a Well-Ventilated Area

Fabric spray paint contains solvents that can be strong smelling. Working outdoors or near an open window prevents buildup of fumes.

Insert Cardboard Inside Clothing

Slip cardboard between fabric layers so the paint only hits the outer side you want to color.

Use painter’s tape to mask off sections for sharp edges or patterns.

Tape can help create clean lines and variety in your design.

Apply Several Thin Coats Rather Than One Heavy Coat

Light layers give you more control and prevent drips or bleeds.

Use Quick Sweeping Motions About 8-10 Inches from the Fabric Surface

Keep the can moving so the spray mist falls evenly across your project.

Read Product Instructions Carefully and Follow Any Specific Drying or Curing Requirements

This often involves heat setting with an iron or dryer to seal the paint.

Add Decorative Details Like Stencils, Cutouts or Transfers After Base Coating

Extra touches on top of your base spray painted foundation can really make your design pop!

Heat Setting Fabric Spray Paint

Many brands of permanent fabric spray paint recommend heat setting the product after application. This helps the paint fully adhere to the fibers and become more resistant to chipping, peeling, and fading over time. Here are some heat setting tips:

Read the Product Instructions Carefully

Follow the specific time and temperature recommendations provided.

Work in Sections for Large Projects

Rather than attempting to iron or heat set a large area all at once, divide into smaller sections for controlled results.

When Using an Iron, Place a Press Cloth or Parchment Paper Over the Painted Area

This prevents direct contact with the hot iron which could smear the paint.

Preheat Your Iron to the Correct Fabric Setting

Usually a medium to high heat works best for setting fabric paint. Avoid the highest steam setting.

When Using a Clothes Dryer, Air Dry Until No Longer Tacky Before Heat Setting

This prevents paint transfer once dry. Check on progress frequently to avoid over-drying.

Work in a Well-Ventilated Space as the Paint May Emit Fumes

Have access to fresh airflow when heat setting spray paint.

Removing Fabric Spray Paint

Depending on the type of spray paint used, there are a few methods for removing it from fabric if desired:

Temporary and Removable Spray Paints

These are designed to easily wash out with standard laundry detergent and warm water. Repeated washings lighten them gradually.

Rubbing Alcohol

Dampen a cloth with isopropyl alcohol and gently rub the painted area to break down the paint. Check frequently so you don’t damage the underlying fabric.

Acetone or Nail Polish Remover

Use acetone-based removers sparingly, as they can dissolve synthetic fabrics if left too long. Spot test first.

Commercial Paint Strippers

Heavy duty chemical strippers can remove nearly any paint from fabric but require care to avoid damaging the material beneath.

Abrasive Methods

For small areas, gently scrubbing with baking soda, laundry detergent or toothpaste acts as a light abrasive to scrub away paint.

Note that permanent fabric spray paints become very challenging to fully remove once heat set.


Fabric spray paint has come a long way in terms of durability and performance. With the right product, preparation, and care, it is possible to get long lasting results when customizing fabric with spray paint. However, all fabric paints will show wear eventually with repeated washing and use. The more flexible and specifically formulated the paint, the longer it will adhere before fading or cracking. While not an indestructible solution, fabric spray paint provides an accessible way to put creative, colorful designs on clothing and textiles.