By: Jessica Verhey

Every manager has his or her own paint spill story.  We all do.

What matters is not the spill itself, but what actions lead to the spill, how it was handled and what was learned.

Franchisees learn how to prevent and clean spills in College Pro Painters field training. They also learn what to do if a spill occurs on a customer’s property. In turn, franchisees train their crew members.

As much as we don’t want to think about paint spills, accidents do happen and it is important to be fully prepared when they do.

I ran a College Pro Painters franchise for three years. In those three years, I can remember three significant spills.

Looking back, I know each spill could have been prevented and what I would have done differently. In each situation, I managed to clean up the spill and leave with a happy customer.

Overall there are three types of paint spills to watch out for:

 1)    Oil paint spill:

An oil paint spill is by far the worst type of spill. Oil paint is thick and cannot be cleaned with water. Once in my business, we spilled white oil paint on a black tiled roof.

The best strategy for dealing with oil paint is to mop up the access paint right away. In most cases, a paint spill should occur on a drop sheet. Remove the access paint quickly. If the paint dries, it is impossible to clean, so you need to work while the paint is still wet.

Use paint thinner to clean up remaining paint and then use something to soak it up. I used dirt or mulch. Wire brushes are helpful to get in-between cracks. It is important to have two people work on the spill, so don’t be afraid to ask a crew member to help.

 2)    Latex paint spill:

Latex paint is easier to clean, but must also be worked on while wet. Warm, soapy water is the best antidote for a latex spill. My worst experience with latex paint was when we spilled a gallon of paint on a customer’s driveway.

Use a power washer to remove excess paint. Then use a bucket with warm water and soap. Wire brushes are also helpful to remove the entire spill.

3)    Paint thinner spill:

While paint thinner is a great tool to remove an oil paint spill, it can also leave a mark. Sometimes paint thinner can leave an oil stain on surfaces. It is also dangerous to use in extreme heat, so read the instructions before you or your crew members use the product.

After applying paint thinner, use dirt or mulch to soak up the access oil and then clean with soapy, warm water.

If the spill will take a long time to clean, my recommendation is to let the customer know.

This may seem awkward at first, but the best thing to do is to be open and honest about the spill and what you plan to do to fix it. In one case, I had to ship in special cleaner from the states to clean a deck spill. The customer was appreciative of my efforts, and, in the end, recommended my services.

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