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How to Remove Spray Paint (From All Kinds of Surfaces)

We ARE going to get it off. If you don’t have what you need around the house, we’ll show you what you need to remove spray paint from any surface.

Act Quickly. Here is how to remove spray paint without damaging your things:

Graffiti? You need to act quickly if it is recent: paint it with any oil you have around, such as cooking oil, then scrub and wash. Grab some graffiti remover for next time as it’s much easier to work with.

Magic: how to easily remove spray paint

Removing spray paint? Check out the go-to graffiti remover: Motsenbocker’s Lift Off is the spray paint remover to use without damaging what’s underneath. Apply two thick coats to the spray paint and wait a while for them to work.

If you have a pressure washer, this comes next. If not, gather some rags, brushes, etc., while the solution soaks. The pressure washer you will have for life costs less than you think and has all kinds of uses beyond washing the car. This Sun Joe is the top of the line, but you can get a lesser one for less.

Blast that graffiti away. Be sure to get the rotating tip if you plan to wash your deck or other wood: it keeps the pressure from damaging the wood.

A stiff brush helps the work too. You need a natural fiber brush: nylon type bristles will be dissolved! This one is a natural fiber that the solvent cannot harm, and it has a hole for a paint pole or broomstick, Hilda.

A great all-purpose marker/paint remover is Goof Off Professional.

Watch a customer review video use of Goof-Off remover…(speakers off!): she has the toughest of all: concrete, and she’s very honest. It does work out for her after repeated treatments. A non-porous surface (like vinyl) would be quicker.

For delicate surfaces, use fine steel wool and for other surfaces, you can use a wire brush: get a good one—the bristles fall right out of budget ones).

Before and after using spray paint remover
Before and after using Goof-Off graffiti remover: thanks to YouTube reviewer!

1. Home remedy: start with cooking oils

We tested the internet’s idea: Borax? Baking Soda? Soap and water? Lame. Maybe if the paint is still wet/soft, but it’s a longshot.

Most spray paints are oil-based. Remember, ‘like-dissolves-like” from school? Try different oils. Let soak and remove with water pressure or stiff brush.

Tip for next time: Grab some Motsenbockers’ Lift off for oil-based paints and for latex paints.

The main solvent for most spray paints is either paint thinner, lacquer thinner, or acetone. These work for removal but can also smear the paint. These are all very flammable: keep out of reach of children and do not breathe the fumes: (please wear a respirator: read about the best respirator …it’s not expensive and it’s a life-saver).* Every home should have a respirator. The Zombie Apocolypse is coming too.

Acetone: Found in this nail polish remover. It cleans so many things. Keep it around away from the kids). We clean our electric saw blades and much more. Drip a little on a coarse rag and apply to the paint that way. It evaporates so quickly that you will have to keep wetting it. Wear a respirator!

Comes with chemical filters: this syle protects your eyes as well as your lungs.

Lacquer Thinner: Nasty stuff, but it melts most paints. Careful: it will also melt many types of plastic etc. Extremely flammable. Use as Acetone, above.

Brake Cleaner? Yes. If the lacquer thinner doesn’t work or works too slowly, try brake cleaner in a spray can. This one is “moderate VOC” which means it’s dangerous.

ALWAYS: Use toxins outdoors or in a very well ventilated area, use eye protection, and nitrile gloves (these last forever), and that respirator. Don’t be macho.

Full face respirator shown comes with the chemical cartridge and over that paper to make it live a long time. The paper filters can be changed and the chemical cartridges will last years and years: keep in air-tight plastic bags. These are complicated things but I simplified it for you.

That old paint stripper you have in the garage? Now illegal. Read about the new law of the EPA.

2. How to remove spray paint in every situation:

Latex? Read about latex and water-based paint removal (spray or not).

Spray paint: Use both solvents and elbow grease. (We list some paint removal tools below the list.)
Always test a spot first: for example, alcohol dissolves dried latex paint, and thinners can stain. If nothing works, go nuclear (see below this list). Don’t know the type of paint? Read how to I.D. paint at the bottom. How to take off spray paint:

  • How to remove spray paint from skin/hands: Read a separate post on getting spray paint off skin.
  • How to remove spray paint from car/autobody: Don’t use gasoline or rubbing compound! It will make things worse. Start with the least aggressive method: A safe start is cooking oil: try any and all before spending any money. Butter Wet Wax has a unique palm oil (and no abrasives) that breaks down spray paint. It’s a liquid: apply liberally with a soft cloth.
  • No good? Jump to a rubbing compound. Yes, this will remove paint, but most modern cars have a thick clear coat (never need wax.)
  • Still no? Last resort is a cutting compound (an intense rubbing compound). Get the wax that comes with. Still no? Sorry, call the autobody guy.
  • How to remove spray paint from glass: First test: wipe with acetone or alcohol. If it gets gooey, it’s latex. First, let’s assume it’s water-based. Soak the glass/paint with water. Use a rag or sponge and keep it wet for maybe 15 minutes. It absorbs and softens. Then with a razor tool scraper or something like that, start scraping. Whether latex or oil, you’ll get some of it. A sharp razor will go much faster than a dull one. Hold the razor in a pair of vice grips if you have them. It should not scratch the glass, but be careful: you can get cut very badly if you go too fast or push very hard then slip. I always have a complete first aid kit: this is the government site on how to put it together: good reading.
  • How to remove spray paint from metal (autobody is above): Go to the nuclear option below, or…
  • If you want to strip paint from iron, steel etc, pull out a heat gun. Don’t start a fire with this thing, which you can easily do, so be careful. After those suggestions, a normal paint stripper is your thing. If you want to protect painted metal, follow the how-to for cars, above. To grind paint off metal use a drill attachment from 3M.
  • How to remove spray paint and all oil-based paint from clothes/fabric: Try to flake off all you can with a fingernail, knife etc. Lay fabric flat on top of a board (as for food prep). Wet with cooking oil (olive, corn…). Let the oil soak for at least 5-10 minutes. Test how it’s working. It should get softer. Scrape what you can with a tool that won’t cut the fabric. You can discard the rag, or wash separately in a bucket before laundering. Oil did not work? Do the same with the paint’s solvent: water, acetone, lacquer thinner etc. Some solvents will ruin fabrics, so do a test spot first (then wash before doing more to see if there is a stain). A gentle oil-based paint remover is Motsenbockers Lift Off. Launder as usual.
  • How to remove all paints from carpet: follow fabric just above. Key point: get it wet with solvent and then read on here. For oil-based spray paint, you might follow this advice. A wet-dry shop vac is very good for carpet spills. The vac shown is a larger one with a stronger motor. I once spilled a bucket on a carpet (actually I can recall doing that more than once *embarrassing*). Here is what I learned: Pour solvent (for latex it’s water, for removing spray paint use lacquer thinner or just cooking oil if you don’t have any thinners. Wet with solvent, suck it up. Repeat. It will come out cleaner than the rest of the carpet.
  • How to remove spray paint from concrete/brick/stone: Be patient. This is difficult because if the surface is unsealed, the paint will be absorbed. Start with paint stripper. See what you can do on your own: Start with a wire brush (linked above) to remove what you can, or try making a paste out of TSP and something absorbent like flour. Let dry. Next, move on to water pressure. A pressure washer is a tool you want to have for life: mine is so well made, I cannot kill it. Not working? Try lacquer thinner. Use the comment box below if nothing works.
  • How to remove spray paint from wood: the go-to product, Goof Off Remover pictured above. Apply twice, let soak, then blast with water pressure or brush and bucket.
  • How to remove paint from vinyl siding: the same as wood, above…but easier. Do test your solvent to make sure it does not harm the vinyl.
  • How to remove spray paint from a house without harming paint: the same as vinyl and wood above.
  • What removes spray paint from plastic? We have a post for removing all kinds of paint from plastic. It’s tricky because plastic also dissolves!

Water-based (latex) paint? Read how to remove latex paint.

Need to paint over a big mess? Read about primers and the number of coats for all situations.

remove this spray paint inside a motel room
Motel in Clearwater Fla: these people must be good at removing spray paint!
water pressure is effective in removing spray paint
Using a pressure washer to remove spray paint

Wiping Tip: You can get a lot more pressure as you rub/scrape paint to remove it if you cover a stiff scraper with a rag: you get more pressure than with your finger, yet don’t create scratches. As your rag gets soiled, move it to expose clean cloth, and repeat. See my video at the very bottom.

Other main tip: If you can handle a great tool at under a hundred bucks, grab the pressure washer of your dreams (pictured at the top of this page) that you will never regret buying.

The Nuclear Option: how to remove any paint with electricity

We prep for re-painting with a variable speed grinder (shown): this removes the paint along with some of the substrate, but it’s not catastrophic and leaves you a fresh start. Use it with the paint removal pad (also shown).

Don’t use a HIGH speed grinder: it melts paint…not in the good way.

Here is a video of how it works. You may need the adapter kit depending on what grinder you have.

There are other ways of getting nasty. Stripping paint from metal and wood could be a combination of methods including a drill attachment. Attach it to any drill: it conforms to curved surfaces on fiberboard, wood, metal, plastic, etc.

But the grinder above is best. This grinder can use other types of pads and wheel cutters too.

STAY SAFE: Read about respirators: I simplified that complex world of respirators: wear one, please. Always know where it is when you need it.

Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments and we’ll get right back to you. Thanks.

* Did you ever read the label of a can of spray paint? The worst toxic agent is Toluene. Ick. Read the research on why you need to wear your respirator when near these awful organic solvents. Read my post simplifying the complexity of respirator filters and masks linked just above.

Example: “Contains TOLUENE, XYLENE AND ACETONE. Vapor harmful. May affect the brain or nervous system causing dizziness, headache or nausea. Causes eye, skin, nose and throat irritation.”

How to I.D. Paint

Dip a cloth or even a paper towel into a small amount of acetone (or rubbing alcohol which works slower). If the paint turns gooey, it is a latex-based paint and you can proceed by painting over the surface with any type of paint. If it’s oil, just hit it with medium sandpaper first to create bonding. If you don’t, it will flake off with just a fingernail…then you are removing all the paint and starting over, like John and Yoko.

Related posts:

How to Touch-Up Paint In 4 Steps (mostly deals with walls, but gives some tips)
How to Get Spray Paint Off Skin (with Home Remedy)
How to Remove Paint from Plastic (Without Damage)
How to Remove Latex Paint: Dry or Wet (Painter’s Rag Trick)


how to remove spray paint from a masterpiece by banksy: don't
Spray paint masterpiece by Banksy. Should art be removed as graffiti?

Finally done? Wash skin over and over with lots of soap to get any chemicals off your skin.

46 thoughts on “How to Remove Spray Paint (From All Kinds of Surfaces)”

  1. Hi,

    I am trying to remove black spray paint from mirror closet doors in the living room that a previous owner painted that are gold underneath. I think it will be messy and I won’t be spray washing. The doors are special order fit and very expensive. Will graffiti remover work. He also painted the tracks and I don’t want to mess up the ceiling where the top track is which is painted white. Any suggestions?

  2. Hi Brad, haven’t read a solution on how to remove overspray off wallpaper in my trailer. Its spray can paint. I covered everything but forgot the ceiling close to where I was spraying. Used GooGone but it streaked the paint. Tried feathering it out, but left white areas. Luckily the wallpaper is light in color (to look like wood) but is still shows the beige paint color. Uugh

    • Googone is for glue from labels etc, but can work on some paint. Spray paint is the hardest.
      As I wrote above, start with oils and work you way into more toxic solvents. Careful with acetone …wear a respirator…see this site for info.
      I’m thinking you may need to use a stain blocking primer then paint again. Hard to know since I cannot see it.
      Maybe don’t try to remove: just prime and paint. I’m guessing.

  3. Hi there. I am trying to remove graffiti from my window that most likely has been mixed with brake fluid. Everything I have tried so far leaves an opaque mark e.g. motsenbocker’s lift off, acetone, the pink stuff (miracle cleaning paste), windex + razor blade scraping, isopropyl alcohol, etc.

    Based on your article, I might have to use the brake remover. If you have any other suggestions, I would greatly appreciate it! Thanks in advance!

    P.S. Will email you a photo in case that’s helpful!

    • Since it’s glass, you will have success.
      I see the photo, it’s laying flat. Great. Now drip acetone onto the ink. It evaporates very quickly so do small areas and keep them wet for a while. You might cover the wet acetone with some sort of plastic, but acetone will melt most plastic. IMPORTANT: do not breathe the fumes.
      Have your razor scraper ready after it soaks a while. Scrape what has soaked.
      Let me know how it goes?

  4. Hi- Wondering how to remove spray paint from a latex Halloween mask? I’ll need to repaint the mask (but obviously not with spray paint this time). Any recommendations on how to safely remove it from the mask and what to use instead? Thank you!!!

    • Hi. That is the one combination I think, when you cannot remove paint: The latex will melt with any solvent not water and the paint will not move without solvent.
      If you are going to paint, just go over the old mistake. Should bond ok for one trick or one treat.
      Good luck

    • Hi. It’s just like this article says: start wtih the least toxic: olive oil or the like. If that does not work, move down the line all the way to acetone. My best guess is rubbing alcohol will be your stop.
      Let me know if it does not work.

  5. So I painted the sun visors in my girlfriends car with spray paint. It’s tacky like it never dried. I’m not sure how to remove the paint and not damage the sun visor. Any pointers other than what you wrote above?

    • I am guessing you did not shake it well enough, or that it was used before and someone did not shake, and sprayed out uneven propellent, resin, etc… Anyway, first test on a good surface, not painted and check your solvent’s effect. Like the other side of the visor or car seat etc…same material.
      Then when you get something that causes no harm, give it a go.
      Probably citrus remover and if not, then the toxic remover

  6. There are some ways to remove spray paint from eyeglasses. Remove paint from glasses with vinegar, get paint off eyeglasses with rubbing alcohol, remove paint from eyeglasses with mineral spirits, or get spray paint off glasses with acetone. Hope this tips can help everyone.

    • I’ve done it. The thing about glasses is some coatings are like plastic laminate. It dissolves in the solvents that will dissolve spray paint.
      So what to do? Like the article above says, start with cooking oil and go more toxic gradually. Try everything in order. I think Acetone will ruin your glasses, assumint they are not real glass, with no coatings.
      Do tests in small spots.

  7. Hi Brad, I have spray painted the area around my built in oven which is wood. Now we getting a new oven and before that I would like to remove the spray paint. Please help me as I have spray painted it about 6 months ago. I need it gone, what can I use.
    Thank you Debra

  8. Hi Brad,I oversprayed a brown colour on a aluminium slat gate to cover silver screws,so paint was dripping down,wiped with Acetone and left a white bit sticky wide mark ,wanted to cry cause it’s a new gate,how can I get rid of it cause it’s noticeable, thankyou,hope can help M.M

  9. My neighbour has sprayed their fence black – unfortunately it has also sprayed my French doors – glass & frames – I have been able to remove from glass using hob cleaner bot not the frame – any ideas?

    • Hi. I would ask the neighbor to take care of it. But in any case, if the paint was latex, and your doors were painted with oil, rubbing alcohol or even acetone will remove it…but if you doors are latex, it’s all going to turn into a gray goop,….
      So they will need repainting. hire a pro and give your neighbor the bill.

      Good luck,

  10. My son’s classmate was spray painting upwind from him on a windy day. There are speckles of paint all over his eyeglass frames and lenses. Regular cleaning spray for the lenses doesn’t remove the paint. What do you suggest I try that won’t damage the anti-scratch coating or the UV color changing coating?

    • Start with cooking oil, then if no help, go progressively more toxic… up to paint thinner then last, acetone. The products above are there for this kind of thing. Have them on hand!
      Acetone and alcohol and others may remove the coatings on the glasses if he has non-reflective etc.
      Test in small, small spots first.
      another warning: don’t breathe the toxic solutions!!

    • Sorry to hear this. It’s most likely oil-based paint. Start with cooking oil..takes time to work, but very safe. Move on to lighter fluid if needed, then paint thinner. Most cars today have a clear coat, not paint, on top, so do a test in a hidden spot to make sure these things don’t remove paint.
      If these fail, go to the Motsenbocker’s linked on this page. Work slowly and patiently.
      If all fails, let me know here.
      Good luck

  11. Hi Brad, please can you advise me? My husband mistakenly used Canbrush Spray Paint C30 black on our wood burner.. I need to know the best way to remove it as it sets off the smoke alarm when it gets hot..
    Kind regards


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