Will Paintballs Stain Clothes? Here’s What You Should Know

Paintball is an exciting and generally safe sport. Still, you need to dress appropriately because you will most likely be hit by paintballs at some point. Sweatshirt, sweatpants, and comfortable shoes are the way to go, but will paintballs stain your clothes?

Paintball balls will not permanently stain clothes because they are not made from actual paint but from a non-toxic, biodegradable, and water-soluble product. The colored stains are easy to remove if you wash your paint-stained clothes immediately after first applying a pretreatment stain remover.

Are you ready to learn more about paintballs and whether they stain clothes permanently? Let’s review just that (and more!).

What Are Paintballs Made Of?

A paintball is basically made from pharmaceutical food coloring gelatin. Indeed, it is made of two solid gelatin shells (often starch) filled with food coloring and welded together. In most cases, the composition of the internal mixture is made up of polyethylene glycol, sorbitol, glycerin, and water.

The paintballs are also biodegradable and non-toxic. They can be of any color and are generally fluorescent in order to locate the impact mark more easily. There are even glittery ones. Some players use red, but this color is very rarely used (or even banned altogether at some paintball sites) because it’s easy to confuse for blood.

Depending on the different brands of manufacturers and ranges of balls, the impact power can vary widely. Most of the balls that you will find on the field during your paintball game will be balls with very low “marking” power. On the other hand, the balls used in competition will be much more fluid and have greater hitting power.

The quality of a ball is defined by its shell’s regularity, weld, staining power, resistance (preventing it from breaking in the launcher), and fragility (promoting breakage on impact).

How To Clean Paintball Stains

Spending a few hours shooting paintballs at each other is a lot of fun. It can also be a big mess. Fortunately, paintball paint stains on a piece of typical cotton fabric aren’t much of a problem, assuming action is taken as soon as possible. Indeed, the best way to end up with permanently stained clothes after a day of paintball is to drop the clothes in the laundry room and leave.

Thus, once the dust settles after an exciting paintball competition, the players must clean their paint-covered clothes. Since the dye used in the paintballs is water-soluble, it should wash off easily and not leave lasting stains. 

The key to ensuring this is not to allow the stain time to seep deep into the clothes. To this end, removing and washing clothes as soon as possible after each game will lead to clean and paint-free clothes for many games.

Video: Does paintball paint come off clothing? How to wash paintball paint.

I also have an article on how to wash paintball paint off cars and houses, you can read it here.

How To Treat Stains on Paintball Cotton Fabric

As with chocolate or blueberries, don’t wait several days to clean your clothes and equipment. The longer you wait, the more time the paint will have to settle into the fibers of your material. Wash your clothes at 86°F (30°C), and the stains should go away quickly.


  1. Wash your clothes as soon as possible. When you get home from a day on the battlefield, throwing your clothes into the washing machine quickly is essential. Run your typical cycle with the usual amount of detergent.
  2. Separate dyed paintball clothing from other clothing, especially whites, delicate, and light-colored fabrics. Paintball clothing is best washed on its own. Place the clothes in the washing machine, use standard laundry detergent, and follow the particular garments’ care instructions. Pre-treatment and extended soak styles should not be necessary.
  3. Run the washing machine normally. When the cycle is complete, carefully check all clothing – inside and out – to make sure paintball stains are entirely removed. If they are, transfer to the dryer and run a normal drying cycle. Usually, as long as the clothes have been washed quickly after the game and not left to sit, no stains should remain. If the stains are still there, do not place the clothes in the dryer. Instead, go to the next step.
  4. Apply a pre-treatment stain remover to the remaining stains. Follow the product instructions. Brush gently to help remove the stain. When brushing is complete, throw it in the washing machine and run it through another wash cycle.
  5. Dry the clothes normally. They should look just like they did before playing paintball. After all, the stains that are more likely to damage your paintball clothes are grass and dirt, not paint. But because of the grass, mud, and paint, wear old clothes you wouldn’t mind getting roughed up on your next game.

Tips and Warnings

  • If the clothes are covered in large or small balls of paint or mud, try washing them with a garden hose or first in a sink. This will save your washing machine from potential problems.
  • Do not leave paintball stains on cotton for more than a few days. These stains are very difficult to remove if they remain on cotton clothing for a long time.
  • Wear dark and/or old clothes. The easiest way to play paintball without having to worry too much about your clothes is to just wear your old, dirty joggers and sweatshirt. 

Are There Some Types of Paintballs That Stain More Than Others?

Even if you take great care in washing your clothes after a game of paintball, some types of paintballs may stain your clothes more. It depends on these 3 factors:

Paintballs Dye

Red or pink paintballs dye are more staining. This is due to the food coloring contained in the paint mixture. Since red is a more aggressive color, it is likely to permeate your clothes, especially if you are wearing white or lighter colors. To prevent this from happening, wear dark colored clothing.

Note that due to its similarity to blood, several paintball sites do not allow red colored paintballs.

The Quality of the Paintballs

The quality of a ball is defined by the regularity of its shell, of the weld, its staining power, its resistance (prevents it from breaking in the launcher) and its fragility (promotes breakage on impact). Poor quality balls will stain clothes more because the mixture is less soluble in water. 

Be aware that some paintball places sell poor-quality balls. Therefore, and also for your safety (since cheap paintballs are also very hard and pinch the skin much more), it’s imperative when choosing a paintball establishment to ensure the quality of the material provided. 

The Date of Manufacture of the Paintballs

This factor is also related to the quality of the paintball. Indeed, they must be used soon after manufactured. If they are too dry, they might stain the clothes more. Ideally, it’s best to go to a busy paintball center, where the balls are used quickly and where there are new balls regularly made available to the players.


If paintballs are of good quality, they shouldn’t leave stains on your clothes. This is due to the specific material (gelatin) they are made of. On the other hand, if, coming back from your paintball day, you forget your clothes in a pile in the corner of your room, the late washing may leave you with unpleasant surprises. 

So be sure to wash your clothes immediately after a game. You will then be ready for your next match with your friends. And don’t worry, if you stick to the game’s safety rules, you shouldn’t come home with a ton of bruises!