How To Remove Dried Acrylic Paint From a Plastic Palette

How To Remove Dried Acrylic Paint From a Plastic Palette cover image

Acrylics are extremely popular due to their versatility and wide range of uses. However, one of the downsides of using acrylic is that it sticks to most surfaces, including plastic palettes. So what steps can you take to remove dried acrylic paint from a plastic palette?

To remove dried acrylic paint from a plastic palette, soak the palette in hot water and scrub the paint off with a soft-bristled brush. Other cleaning methods include soaking the dried paint in oil, rubbing the paint off using a solvent, and using an acrylic gel medium to peel off the paint.

Thick layers of dried acrylic paint are easy to peel away and don’t require any other cleaning methods. However, if you can’t peel off dried acrylic paint, there are other ways to remove the paint. Still here? Let’s start talking about How To Remove Dried Acrylic Paint From a Plastic Palette.

One – Leave the Palette in Hot Water

When acrylic paint dries up, it forms a hard layer that sticks to your plastic palette. By soaking the palette in hot water, you can loosen up this layer and make it easier to peel off. This method will not damage the surface of your palette and does not require the use of chemicals.

Follow these steps to remove dried acrylic paint using hot water:

  1. Fill a basin with hot water and submerge the palette in it.
  2. Weigh the palette down to prevent it from floating up.
  3. Leave the palette in the water for a few hours (preferably overnight) to soften the dried acrylic paint.
  4. Take the palette out and peel/rub the layer of acrylic off.
  5. If the paint comes off in pieces, store it in a glass jar for recycling or reusingOpens in a new tab..
  6. If there is any residual paint on your palette, use a brush to clean it off.
  7. Rinse it with clean water and allow it to dry.

The hot water loosens dried acrylic paint because acrylics are water-based. A water-based paint is highly likely to dissolve in water even after it has dried out completely. The warm temperature of the water allows it to get quickly absorbed by the paint, making the cleaning process faster.

Two – Scrub Dried Acrylic Paint Using a Soft Brush

If the paint layer on your palette is thick, you can dry scrub it with the help of a soft brush. Using a hard-bristle brush instead of a soft one may be more effective, but it may also leave scratches on your palette. These scratches will make it harder to get rid of dried paint the next time it gets stuck.

The bristles of the brush will physically tear down the dried acrylics. After the dried paint has come off in chunks, wash it off with warm water. 

Three – Soak Dried Acrylic Paint in Oil

Since acrylics are water-based, they don’t mix with oils. Therefore, dried paint may start peeling off when oil gets between dried acrylics and a solid surface. 

To remove dried acrylics using oil:

  1. Soak cotton balls in olive oil.
  2. Place these cotton balls on your palette.
  3. Cover the pallet with cling wrap and leave it overnight.
  4. Remove the cotton balls and rub the paint off with a rag.
  5. Wash the palette with warm water and soap. Let it dry.

Unlike the other cleaning methods mentioned in this article, oil does not dissolve the paint. The oil actually slips under the surface of the dried paint and seeps in, forming a layer between the plastic and the dry paint.

Due to the immiscibility of the oil with the water in the paint, the dried paint gets detached from the surface of the palette.

Four – Rub the Paint Off Using a Solvent

If soaking in hot water or oil doesn’t do the trick, try using a solvent such as an isopropyl alcohol.

To clean the dried paint by this method:

  1. Pour the solvent onto your palette and set aside for about two hours.
  2. Use a clean rag or cotton ball to rub the paint off the palette.
  3. Once the paint separates from the palette, wipe the palette clean.
  4. After the paint comes off, rinse the palette with warm water and leave it to dry.

A solvent is a liquid that dissolves the paint. When dried paint comes into contact with any suitable solvent, it mixes with the solvent and returns to its liquid form. The liquid paint can then be simply rinsed out, and the palette will get cleaned without having to put in much effort. 

If you don’t have isopropyl alcohol, you can use other solvents to clean the palette. These solvents, along with their methods of use, have been mentioned in the article: What Are The Best Solvents For Acrylic Paint?Opens in a new tab.

Five – Use an Acrylic Gel Medium

As an artist who uses acrylic paint, it is highly likely that you have some acrylic gel medium on hand. The purpose of acrylic gel mediums is to alter the properties of the acrylics, making them thicker. They’re used to retain the texture of the paint due to their ability to bond with it.

An acrylic gel medium can also be used to get rid of dried acrylic paint. To do so, follow these steps:

  1. Take your gel medium of choice and spread it over the dried acrylic paintOpens in a new tab..
  2. Allow the gel to dry completely. This should take 3 to 4 hours.
  3. Chip the edge and peel off the dried-down gel. Most of the acrylics should peel right off, along with the gel. 
  4. Rinse the palette with warm water and allow it to dry. 

As the gel medium dries down, it bonds with the layer of dried paint and forms a skin over it. When you peel off the dried gel, the paint also lifts off the surface of the palette. 

Final Thoughts 

Removing thick layers of dried acrylic paint from a plastic palette can be a time-consuming task. However, by following the steps I’ve mentioned in this article, you can easily remove dried acrylic paint with the help of a few items.

Consider any of the following methods to keep your plastic palettes looking new again:

  1. Soaking in hot water
  2. Scrubbing
  3. Soaking in oil
  4. Using a solvent
  5. Using a gel medium 
Gold Coast Art SchoolOpens in a new tab.
Was this article helpful?


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

Recent Posts