For a long time, white has been the color of choice for most painters. The question is; what’s up with painters and wearing white clothing? Why do they really opt for white?

Painters started out wearing white as a way to distinguish unionized members from non unionized members. In fact, some unions made it mandatory for painters who belonged to their unions to wear white. However, over the years, the reasons have gradually become more practical.

For example, since most materials used by painters — including caulk, plaster, paint, and spackle — are white, having white clothing is preferred because it hides splatter and drips better. And in cases where a painter is dealing with non-white paints, the spatter and stains can act as badges of honor — a sign of their experience and dedication as a painter. White clothes also tend to be cheaper.

Here is what you should know about painters and their preference for white colors.

In the 19th century, when labor unions were at their peak, painters’ unions resolved to have their members wear white. This was so as to distinguish themselves from painters who didn’t belong to unions. It also served as an easy way of making sure that people can tell painters apart from railway workers and farmers — who even though wore the same type of clothes, often chose stripped, brown or blue clothes.

Why do painters wear white

White shows painters “battle scars”

Historically, there wasn’t a better way for a painter to demonstrate their skill and experience than by the paint splashes and stains on their clothes. This is so especially given the fact that buying new clothes wasn’t something that people did a lot. Getting new clothes was more expensive and so people tended to stay with their work clothes for longer periods.

As a result, a painter who had more visible paint splashes and stains on their clothes was often considered to be more experienced and skilled. And so to painters, wearing white gave them the best opportunity to showcase the evidence of their experience as white clothes are good at showing even the faintest of paint stains.

White is a cooler color

Painters often spend a lot of time outside. Painting can also be physically taxing, especially when handling hard-to-reach areas. Therefore, having clothing that makes it a little bit bearable to stay in the hot sun can go a long way towards making a painter’s life easier.

White clothing doesn’t absorb heat as easily as darker colors. It is better at reflecting off heat, something that makes it better suited for protecting painters against heat. As a result, painters tend to love white/brighter clothing.

White clothing is pretty cheap

Getting work clothes that are affordable is something that most painters value. This is so especially considering the fact that their job is primarily “dirty”. And given that their appearance plays little to no role in terms of their workmanship or success in their field, they typically go for the most affordable options.

White clothes are easier to produce. This is because they don’t require the extra step of dyeing in order to give them color — the base material is, more often than not, white. The fact that it is easier and cheaper to produce usually means that they generally cost less. Therefore, when given a choice, painters often go for the cheaper and more affordable option: white.

White is the base color

Sometimes, painters choose white simply because it doesn’t show paint splashes and drips. This is so mainly because most of the materials that painters handle is white. This includes paint, caulk, and other materials that they may have to use in order to get their job done. And since white can camouflage the accidental stains better, a painter doesn’t have to worry about changing their work clothes as often.

Paint clothes and gear

The following are paint clothes and gear that every professional painter should have.

  • Shirts — well-fitting shirts that do not restrict a painter’s movement are ideal. The perfect shirts are those that allow for maximum freedom of movement without being too loose to a point where they get into the paint tray.
  • Pants — white paints that are non-restrictive are perfect.
  • Headgear — a hat or a bandanna is often a must-have in order to keep paint away from a painter’s hair
  • Eyewear — a pair of safety goggles usually goes a long way towards keeping debris, paint splatter, and dust — especially when preparing a surface for painting — from a painter’s eyes
  • Footwear — any shoes that are comfortable, light, and that have good treads will do. Most painters prefer good quality work boots that offer a great climbing grip.
  • Paint mask — a paint mask is great at shielding your nose and mouth from paint splashes and dust.
  • A respirator — to protect their lungs from toxic paint particles and toxic chemicals. It is a must-have for those who are spray painting.

Should I wear white during DIY paint jobs?

No, unless you have a pair of white clothes already lying around, you don’t need to wear white during DIY paint jobs. This is because you won’t really reap the rewards that professional painters get from wearing white.

Since DIY jobs tend to take less time, chances are that you won’t be spending a lot of time in the sun. The reflective ability of white clothes will thus be of no use to you. Furthermore, as a DIYer, you don’t really need the instant recognition that professional painters get from wearing white simply because it is not your profession.

There is also the fact that when compared to simply putting on a pair of worn-out old clothing, having to buy white clothing will prove to be unnecessarily expensive. You may even have to discard them right after the job since DIY painting jobs will likely not spring up as often as painting projects would for a professional painter.


Generally, painters don’t wear anything to protect their work clothes from paint splatters. They tend to wear accidental paint splatters as badges of honor and proof of their work.

However, for those that care about keeping their clothes clean, then an apron usually comes in handy. This can be a simple apron, like the one used in the kitchen or for any other DIY project. For others, a painting smock is their ideal choice of protection from paint splatters.

Painter’s paints are clothes specifically designed to be worn by painters during their work hours. They are usually made from white canvas. They are particularly designed to a painter’s needs and as a result, tend to feature a lot of pockets.

The pockets tend to be big enough to hold almost all of the accessories that a painter may need in the course of painting. This includes being big enough to hold rags, brushes, screwdrivers, putty knives, and other accessories. They can even be considered to be oversized.

Painters tend to wear shoes that are light, and which have good enough treads to help prevent accidental slipping, especially when using a ladder to paint high walls. As a result, it is not surprising to find a painter wearing everyday shoes that are just comfortable.

However, most professionals tend to prefer good work boots that have great grips for climbing.

White color is preferred by painters because most painting materials, including caulk, are white in color. Therefore, white clothes tend to not show splatters as readily as colored clothes.

There is also the fact that white clothes are relatively more affordable than colored clothes. And since most painters already wear white, a good number of painters simply wear white because other painters wear it, and is thus an easy way for them to set themselves apart as professionals.

Painters’ pants became popular as a fashion statement in the 1970s. However, they had already been in production as work clothes since the 1920s.

The first thing that one has to do is to first remove as much paint as they can from the clothes before laundering them like they would normal clothes. You can begin by scraping off any paint on the clothes. And if what you are dealing with is water-based paint, rinse it in warm water. The water will slowly wash the paint off. And once it does, simply launder it normally.

But if you are dealing with oil-based paint, then you will need to get your hands on turpentine and a strong detergent. Start by applying turpentine on the splatter and then rinse it. After rinsing, simply apply the detergent to the affected area before rinsing it off. And after you are done, launder it normally.

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FAQ’s  painters wear white

Timothy Munene
Author: Timothy Munene - Timothy is a freelance writer and an online entrepreneur.