What Are The Best Solvents For Acrylic Paint?

Working with an acrylic emulsion requires that you have significant knowledge of them. Although they are quite common and easy to use, you still have to know how to manage them successfully, especially when it comes to removing paint from certain surfaces in an appropriate way. So, what can you use to remove dried paint, and what are the best solvents appropriate for it?

Acrylic craft paint is water-based, so simple liquids can act as solvents and remove paint from surfaces. You can use water, rubbing or denatured alcohol, acetone, turpentine, ammonia solution, or lacquer thinner. However, which one will work the best depends on the surface and the type of acrylics.

Besides choosing the best type of acrylic medium, it is important to choose the best solvents that will work with it. Therefore, I have provided solutions that will help you remove acrylics from a wanted surface. I will explain how these solvents work and in what conditions it is appropriate to use each of them for successful results. So, What Are The Best Solvents For Acrylic Paint? Keep reading to find out more.

Can You Remove Acrylic Paint?

When you are painting or working on a project using acrylics, it can easily come to applying paint to unwanted places and spots. In this case, you would like to remove the paint; however, it is not so easy when it comes to acrylics. Therefore, you need to know the proper ways and the proper substances that you can use, so removing the acrylic paint would be successful.

By nature of the paint, acrylics dry very fast, so to remove them, you will need to act very fast, i.e., you will need to remove it while it is still wet. However, if you are not ready to react immediately, some other options will help you achieve this. Removing dry acrylic paintOpens in a new tab. is not an easy process, but it is not impossible, meaning that you will have to use special ways to get the wanted result.

Acrylic paints are pigments that are suspended in an emulsion of acrylic polymer in water. To keep the pigments in that state, the acrylics require additives that interact with water and organic solvents. Additives that will work with acrylic paint are surfactants, which are molecules with hydrophobic and hydrophilic portions.

These surfactants hold the pigments together and keep the paint on a palette and the applied surface once the project is fully dried and complete. However, these substances make the paintings susceptible to soiling, meaning that they occasionally catch dust and debris onto them. This is especially common since water based paint is not regularly varnished, meaning debris can easily layer onto the last coating.

Painters try to save their paintings by using dry solutions, such as brushes or sponges, to remove the soiling. If this does not work, then they try particular solvents. However, not all solvents work in the same way.

For instance, some solvents can remove the paint altogether, while others can help in this process. Different solvents will help to remove just the debris without damaging the paint. However, if you want to clean the paint fully, i.e., remove it from the surface where you do not need it, these solvents can really help.

To remove acrylic paint completely, you will need a solvent capable of dissolving acrylic resin or reducing the ability of adhesion. However, you should know that not all solvents will work the same on each surface or material, so you need to consider which solvent is suitable for which surface.

This article will discuss five solventsOpens in a new tab. that are considered the best for removing acrylic paints, but you need to make sure that you are using them on the appropriate surface. Below, you have the solvents along with their suitable surface on which they can be used.

The Best Solvents That Clean Acrylic Paint 

Before using any complex solvent, you should try to clean acrylic paint with water. Since acrylics are water-based paints, they can sometimes be removed with clean tap water. However, this mostly works when you act quickly, i.e., when the paint is still not completely dried. 

On the other hand, if you cannot act quickly or tap water does not work, you can use other solvents. 

  1. Isopropyl alcohol, also known as rubbing alcohol. 
  2. Denatured alcohol.
  3. Acetone. 
  4. Ammonia solution. 
  5. Lacquer thinner. 

Isopropyl Alcohol (Rubbing Alcohol)

Isopropyl alcohol, or as most people call it rubbing alcohol, is a solvent that works on various surfaces. It is proven to remove acrylics successfully on non-porous surfaces, such as plastic or unvarnished and unpainted wood. It can also be used for removing acrylics from clothes. However, you might need to use some grease. 

This is a cheap solution and usually very easy to find. You do not have to go to special stores or anything like that. You probably already have it in your home, and you use it only for cleaning or disinfecting purposes. 

However, if you want something that is really strong and will work for sure, you will need a concentration of 99%. Unfortunately, this kind of concentrated alcohol cannot be easily found in local stores or pharmacies. You will probably have to order it online unless you find a place to sell alcohol with this concentration percentage. 

The rubbing alcohol acts directly on the acrylic binder, and that is why it works so effectively. If you are trying to clean some cotton clothes or natural fabrics, then soaking them in this solvent will work perfectly. If you have difficulty taking the acrylic paint from a particular surface, you can try rubbing the alcohol onto the paint using a toothbrush. 

Nonetheless, since we are talking about a solvent with a strong concentration, you should consider that there might be some consequences of using it. For instance, sometimes rubbing alcohol can cause redness and irritation on the skin. Although these side effects are not common, you might want to wear some gloves to protect your skin. 

Denatured Alcohol

Denatured alcohol is another solvent for acrylic paint. However, it is a little bit stronger than rubbing alcohol. Although stronger, it can be used on plastic surfaces as well. The stronger features of the denatured alcohol come from two reasons: it does not contain water, and it is made of ethyl and methyl alcohol, which are stronger than isopropyl. 

Denatured alcohol can be used on plastic surfaces as a solvent for removing acrylic paint, meaning that if rubbing alcohol does not work, this would be the stronger solution. In addition, denatured alcohol also works on unvarnished and unpainted wood. Therefore, if you sometimes have a more dense application of acrylics, denatured alcohol would be the solution as a stronger solvent. 

When it comes to stronger solvents, it is recommended that you first try with the weaker ones. This is a smarter solution since you do not want to damage the surface. You want to remove the paint. Therefore, if you have a plastic or wood surface, first try rubbing alcohol, and in case it does not work, proceed with a denatured one. 

Using denatured alcohol does not come with any serious side effects, and possible irritation on the skin is not expected. However, if you decide to use denatured alcohol, you need to consider that it contains methanol, which is a strong poisonous substance. This means that it can be quite flammable, so working in well-ventilated spaces along with fire prevention is of crucial importance. 


Acetone is a strong option for a solvent. As you know, acetone removes nail polishes, so you are probably already aware of its strong features and properties. That is why this solvent is used on firmer surfaces, and it does not require a lot of scrubbing. When you use this solvent on particular surfaces, you probably will not damage them since you do not need to use force to remove the paint. 

Acetone is mostly used on glass and metal, which are non-porous surfaces. Since these surfaces can be delicate and should be handled with care, acetone would be a quite appropriate solution. To remove the paint, you will not need to scrub hard. Therefore, you will not need to worry about scratches or other damages to the surface.

However, you should not use acetone on plastic surfaces or some synthetic fabrics. Since it is a strong solvent, it is quite suitable for unreachable areas where scrubbing is unnecessary. If you scrub acetone on plastic or fabrics, you should expect visible damages of the materials that cannot be repaired in any way. 

Acetone is extremely flammable, similar to denatured alcohol. However, it is not poisonous, meaning that it contains a really low level of toxicity. Also, you should expect intense fumes when working with it, so well-ventilated areas should be seriously considered. 

Ammonia Solution

Ammonia solution is one of the most common solvents used in households for removing paint from different kinds of surfaces. It is a cheap and available solvent so that you can find it anywhere quite easily. Non-porous surfaces such as metal, plastic, and glass will react well on this solvent. 

Ammonia is usually used to stabilize emulsions of acrylic paint by raising the pH. This might be the best solution for removing acrylic paint since it includes particles of detergent that make the rinsing simpler and easier. It is recommended to go with an ammonia solution first to remove acrylics because it has maybe the best features. 

However, you should be careful when using ammonia since it can be a flammable solution, and the fumes can be intense. If you decide to work with ammonia, it is best to do that outdoors where the air is fresh and does not need ventilation. You should also be prepared with fire prevention equipment in case of unpleasant events. 

Furthermore, even though this is really rare, you should know that ammonia can cause allergic reactions. Therefore, before deciding on using it, you should ensure that you are not allergic to this substance. 

Lacquer Thinner 

Lacquer thinner is another solvent option to remove acrylic paintOpens in a new tab. effectively from glass and metal surfaces. Since this is a stronger option, you should use it carefully, i.e., you should not indulge in any scrubbing because that might damage the surface. Also, lacquer thinners usually contain some toxic ingredients, so working with them in safe environments is crucial. 

The toxic substances in question are methanol and toluene, and it is recommended that you manage substances like these in outdoor conditions. Toluene could be really dangerous and cause some long-lasting health issues. 

However, nowadays, you might find safer options that do not consist of toluene but ethyl acetate. This is considered a greener way of making lacquer thinner, and it makes this solvent a low-toxic substance that is safer for use than before. The ethyl acetate gives the solvent a fruity odor making it more pleasant for work. 

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Can You Wash Off Acrylic Paint? 

As I mentioned before, since acrylics are water-based paints, water can be used as a solvent as long as you act quickly, i.e., as long as you try to clean the paint while it is still wet. However, once acrylics dry out, you cannot wash them anymore. Even if you use a soap or a strong detergent, it is not usual for acrylic paint to come off clothing or any other surface. 

Final Words

Acrylics are the most commonly used paints by artists; however, they can be tricky when it comes to solvents. However, appropriate solvents work with acrylics; you have to know the proper surfaces for them. 


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

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