How To Remove Dried Acrylic Paint From a Car

How To Remove Dried Acrylic Paint From a Car

If you’re someone who has kids or deals with acrylic paints themselves, you know all about the dreaded acrylic paint stains. Whether it’s your own accidental spills or your children portraying their creativity on an unconventional canvas, getting acrylic paint on your car can be stressful. So how do you remove acrylic paint from your car?

The most common solution for dried acrylic paint is denatured alcohol. It is, however, essential to note that concentrated denatured alcohol can ruin your car’s paint job if used externally. To get rid of the paint, you need to soak a sponge/cloth in the solvent or rub the stain using a brush.

In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss How To Remove Dried AcrylicOpens in a new tab. Paint From a Car.

One – Use a Cloth or Sponge to Wipe The Paint Off

If the paint is on a harder surface, like the car’s exterior or the dashboard, you can soak a cloth or sponge in a cleaning solution and wipe it off. Most people use an alcohol-based solution like denatured alcohol and isopropyl alcohol.

For removing dried acrylics from the car’s exterior, it is essential to use a diluted cleaning agent so that the car’s paint doesn’t come off. Alcohol-based cleaning agents can scrub off the car’s paint, so try a milder liquid soap or diluted alcohol first.

Here are the steps to clean your car’s hard surfaces.

  1. Pour some diluted rubbing alcohol onto the dried paint.
  2. Dab it into the paint with a sponge or soft cloth.
  3. Wait a few minutes for the alcohol to soak into the dried paint.
  4. Wipe off the paint once it’s wet.

If there are many layers of dried paint, you might have to use a brush to get rid of the paint. Brushes can leave scratch marks on your car. Therefore, it is essential to use a soft brush and be as gentle as possible.

The hardware inside your car, i.e., the dash, the inner surface of the doors, the speedometer display, etc., are typically made of plastic. As such, it is essential to remember to use solvents that are suitable for plastic surfaces.

Two – Soak Fabrics In Cleaning Solutions and Scrub Off the Paint

The process for cleaning softer fabrics is a bit different. With leather or fabric seats, acrylic paint can seep in, making it harder to remove the stains.

Here are the steps to follow if you’re trying to remove dried acrylic paints from softer fabrics, like car seats or carpets.

  1. Soak the stained part with a cleaning agent like olive oil or liquid soap.
  2. Wait a few minutes for the cleaning agent to seep into the paint-stained fabric.
  3. Once the paint is dry, scrub it vigorously with a cloth or brush.
  4. Repeat the entire process until the paint comes off completely.
  5. You can use a vacuum cleaner to suck up the remaining paint particles for an optional step.

This process is longer than the one for hard surfaces because you have to get the paint out from inside the fabric too. You also can’t always use rubbing alcohol or strong cleaners on fabrics because they might lose color.

NeoNotCFXOpens in a new tab.

Cleaning Agents That Can Be Used To Remove Acrylic Paints

While denatured alcohol and isopropyl alcohol are the most common agents used to get rid of acrylic paint, they may not always be available. So here are a few alternatives you can use.

Soap and Water

Acrylic paints are water-based, so you can remove them with water alone. However, this is only possible if the paint is still wet. 

If water alone isn’t enough to remove acrylic paints, you can mix in a bit of soap or detergent. This solution works better for dried paints on smoother surfaces.

Isopropyl (Rubbing) Alcohol

Rubbing alcoholOpens in a new tab. is easily found in most homes, and many people use it for cleaning. It’s not only readily available but also inexpensive. You can use it to remove acrylic paint from non-porous, smooth surfaces.

It works exceptionally well in higher concentrations but requires care because concentrated alcohol can cause burns. You can also use rubbing alcohol to remove acrylic paints from clothes.

Denatured Alcohol

Another commonly used solvent for acrylic paint is denatured alcoholOpens in a new tab.. While it sounds similar to Rubbing Alcohol, it is more potent. Unlike rubbing alcohol, denatured alcohol contains Ethyl and Methyl alcohols, which are more potent than isopropyl. Denatured alcohol is also more concentrated.

If rubbing alcohol doesn’t work, you can use denatured alcohol to remove acrylic paint from hard surfaces like plastic or metal. It also works great on unfinished wood or when the paint stain is too thick.

Ammonia Solution

Another readily available solvent for paint removal is an ammonia solutionOpens in a new tab.. It works best for non-porous surfaces like plastic, metal, glass, etc.

A lesser-known advantage to using ammonia solution is that it has detergent particles, which makes the eventual rinsing process easier.

A downside, however, is that ammonia is flammable and needs to be kept away from fires. It also emits strong, unpleasant fumes that can damage your lungs if you inhale it for too long.

Lacquer Thinner

Unlike the previously mentioned solvents, lacquer thinner is designed to thin and remove paint. It is a relatively strong solvent and should be handled gently. Besides this, lacquer thinner can also have toxic ingredients. Always wear protective gloves in a well-ventilated room if you’re using it at home.


AcetoneOpens in a new tab. is a very common chemical used as a nail polish remover. It’s much stronger than most of the other cleaning agents on this list and is perfect for stubborn or thick paint stains. The best part is that acetone isn’t abrasive, so it’s unlikely to scratch your car’s surfaces.

One downside to it, however, is that you can’t use it on plastic. Also, while acetone isn’t toxic, it is flammable and produces strong, pungent fumesOpens in a new tab..

Final Words

Acrylic stains, if dried, are very hard to get rid of. The method of removing acrylic paints differs from surface to surface. Removing it from hard, non-porous surfaces like the exterior of your car or the dashboard is easier, but softer fabrics like the seats or carpets of your car require more thorough cleaning.

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Caraca's self-taught artist based in the UK, Ines explores unconventional materials and sustainability.

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