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

Graffiti spray paint remover time
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.
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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

Nilodor C517-009 Graffiti Spray Paint/Oil/Water Based Enamel Remover, 1 Quart
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
Removing spray paint? Check out the go-to graffiti remover: Nilodor's 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, that comes next. If not, gather some rags, brushes, etc., while it soaks. The pressure washer you will have for life costs less than you think and has all kinds of uses beyond washing the car. Blast that graffiti away. A stiff brush will work too.

Sun Joe SPX1500 Pressure Joe 1740 PSI 1.59 GPM 12 Amp Electric Pressure Washer
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Watch the 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. You need a natural fiber brush (this brush has a hole for a broomstick, Hilda).

For delicate surfaces, use fine steel wool and for other surfaces 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 are very flammable: keep out of reach of children and do not breathe the fumes: (remember the best respirator is not expensive and a life-saver).*

Acetone: Found in some nail polish removers. 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!

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. Read about respirators: I simplified that complex world of respirators: wear one, please. Always know where it is when you need it—the hard part.

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

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:

For latex and water-based spray paints, go here.

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 this.
  • 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 (intense rubbing compound). Get the wax that comes with. Still no? Sorry, call the autobody guy.
  • How to remove spray paint from glass: You can use acetone or alcohol to see if it is latex. If that stuff makes it 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. Then with a razor 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.
  • 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 call 911 !… Well, unless you 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 strip paint from metal use a drill attachment from 3M.
  • How to remove spray 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 to 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 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. 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. There is a  paint remover made for concrete. See what you can do on your own: Start with a wire brush 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 Graffiti Remover . 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.
  • 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 ( and latex) paint? Go here.

Need to paint over a big mess? Read about primers 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

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 this video.

If you can handle a great tool at under a hundred bucks, grab the pressure washer of your dreams 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 : 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. Here is a video of how it works. You may need the adapter kit depending on what grinder you have.

Bosch Angle 5" Grinder Variable Speed with Paddle Switch, GWS13-50VSP
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

There are other ways of getting nasty. Stripping paint from metal and wood could be a combination of methods including a drill attachment or a variable speed grinder.

3M SandBlaster Grinder Disc 9681 4-1/2-Inch Coarse Clean-N-Strip Disc
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

We like the 3M Sandblaster pads. As usual 3M comes through and nom, we get no money from any manufacturer at all. Here is a video of how the pad is attached and used.

Depending on your grinder, you may need the adapter for this pad.

This grinder can use other types of pads and cutters too.

Or: attach this 3M stripper to any drill: it conforms to curved surfaces on fiberboard, wood, metal, plastic, etc.

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.

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.

I was given this spray paint tent as a present. Set it up inside or outside and your project is protected from dust, and you eliminate overspray.

HomeRight Small Spray Shelter C900051 Portable Paint Booth for DIY Spray Painting, Hobby Paint Booth Tool Painting Station, Spray Paint Tent
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

How to I.D. Paint

Dip a cloth or even a paper towel into a small amount of acetone (rubbing alcohol 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. We always hit old paint with medium sandpaper first.

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)

 

Finally done? Wash skin over and over with lots of soap to get any chemicals off your skin. My friend says that when you get toxins in your body, you should swallow activated carbon pills: they hunt down and grab them like little magnets. We do this. (We also add this to our toothpaste: it grabs the nasty bacteria).

 

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

 

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