Q: I recently had laminated flooring put in an apartment. When the workers finished installing the floor, they painted the walls. But when they painted the ceiling with a roller, little dots of the oil paint splattered all over the floor.

How do I remove these paint spots without scraping the floor or otherwise marring the finish?

A: Drop cloths are wonderful things. If your painters had exercised a little more effort and spent a little more time, you would not have to fix the results of their laziness.

In building and remodeling there’s a definite order to things. In this case it would have been wise to paint before putting in the laminate. Any nicks or scratches made when the floor was installed can easily be touched up before showing the apartment.

But since that is not the case, before suggesting ways to remove the specks, allow us to digress and explain the proper way to prepare a room before painting so that paint gets on the walls and ceiling, not where it doesn’t belong.

Judicious use of masking tape, plastic and drop cloths can eliminate the need to clean up spilled paint. Use blue painter’s masking tape to ensure a crisp line between a surface to be painted and another surface like a cabinet or baseboard. The blue tape is moisture resistant and will not stick to a surface if you get a little paint on it.

Tape plastic sheets over cabinets and countertops so that no paint specks get on them when rolling out the walls or ceiling. Finally, cover the entire floor with drop cloths. Even though they are a bit expensive, we prefer cloth drops used by professional painters. Plastic drops work, but we’ve found that it’s just too easy to slip on them. Also, plastic is for one-time use, then it’s off to the landfill. Heavy-duty cloths can be used over and over again. For added protection, use masking paper at the perimeter of the room. This makes doubly sure that no paint gets on the edges of the floor.

To remove the specks, we suggest you use a graduated approach, starting with mild cleaning agents and working up to solvents if necessary. First, dissolve a handful of trisodium phosphate (TSP) in a pale of warm water. Dip a Scotch-Brite pad in the solution and scrub. It may take a couple of tries, but this should remove most of the paint. For more stubborn marks, a Scotch-Brite pad is also the tool, but use a small amount of paint thinner as the cleaning agent. This should do the trick. This process will take some time and some elbow grease, but with patience, we’re confident you’ll get the job done.

As a last resort, try a small amount of acetone or lacquer thinner. Be careful here, though, as it could dull or mar some finishes. Test this method first on a leftover piece of the flooring or in an out-of-the-way place.

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