How to Get Paint off Skin

Paint splatters on hand

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Overview
  • Working Time: 10 - 20 mins
  • Total Time: 10 - 20 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Whether you are spray painting outdoor furniture, painting a room, creating an oil on canvas, or just helping a kid with finger paint, there is sure to be some excess paint that must be removed from your hands or face. The best way to remove the paint depends on whether it is water-based or oil-based paint. And, of course, you want the removal method to be the gentlest and least toxic one available.

We'll cover all of the types of paint and the best way to get rid of any traces on your skin. As a bonus, these methods work well to remove paint from hair, as well!

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Washcloth
  • Nail brush
  • Loofah sponge

Materials

  • Glycerin
  • Liquid or bar soap
  • Pumice-based soap
  • Salt or sugar
  • Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol
  • Cotton ball
  • Mineral oil, vegetable oil, or baby oil
  • Mineral spirits
  • Old rags

Instructions

How to Remove Water-Based Paints From Skin

Water-based paints are the easiest types of paint to remove from the skin. While they're easiest to remove while the paint is wet, water-based paints are also simple to remove after they have dried. Types of water-based paints include:

  • latex interior and exterior house paint in liquid or spray form
  • acrylic craft paint
  • watercolors
  • tempera brush and finger paint
  • fabric paint

As with most cleaning methods, always start with the gentlest step and move to more aggressive cleaners as needed.

  1. Use Soap and Water

    At a sink or in a bucket of water, wet the area of skin that has wet or dry paint splatters with warm water. Generously apply liquid soap or rub the area with a bar of soap. Work the soap into a lather and use your hands or a washcloth to gently scrub away the paint. Rinse well with warm water and repeat the steps if small splatters remain.

  2. Add an Abrasive Element

    If the paint didn't come off with just soap and water, add an abrasive element to help the paint release from the skin. Use a bar of soap that contains ground pumice or add a teaspoon of table salt or granulated sugar to the lather created by your regular soap. Wash your skin with a gentle scrubbing motion in warm water and then rinse well.

  3. Use Isopropyl Alcohol

    If the paint has dried, dampen a cotton ball with some isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol. Apply the alcohol to the dried paint and let it work for one or two minutes to begin to dissolve the paint. Wash the area with soap and warm water. Use a washcloth to provide a gentle abrasion.

How to Remove Oil-based Paint From Skin

Oil-based paints (enamels, artist oils, varnishes, and stains) are more difficult to remove, especially if they have dried on the skin. They contain petroleum distillates that can be irritating to the skin and should be removed as soon as possible. While solvents like turpentine and mineral spirits will remove oil paints easily, they should only be used after other treatments have been tried.

  1. Use Oils

    Use an old cloth to generously apply mineral oil, baby oil, vegetable oil, or even mayonnaise to the skin area covered with paint. Use a nail brush, loofah, or old washcloth to gently work the oil into the paint. Let the oil sit and work on the skin for one or two minutes. Scrub the area and wipe off the paint with an old cloth.

    Wash the area well with soap and warm water. Add an abrasive like pumice, salt, or sugar if plain soap doesn't remove all the paint. Repeat if needed, especially around fingernail beds.

  2. Mix Glycerin and Mineral Spirits

    If the paint is especially stubborn, you may need to add a solvent to remove the paint. Use as little of the solvent as possible, clean up in a well-ventilated environment, and work as quickly as possible.

    Use a cotton ball to apply glycerin to the paint-covered skin to begin loosening the paint. Use a second cotton ball to add some mineral spirits to the area. Rub the two together gently with an old cloth to wipe away the paint.

    Immediately wash the area with soap and warm water to remove the glycerin and solvent.

    Tip

    Mineral spirits or "white spirits" is a more highly distilled form of paint thinner or turpentine.

Tips to Keep Paint Spatters off Your Skin

  • Wear thin rubber or plastic gloves when painting.
  • Wear old long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and closed-toed shoes when painting.
  • Prevent splatters when painting with a roller by using a paint roller guard.
  • Add a pistol-grip handle tool to spray cans for easier use and less paint on your trigger finger.