How to Remove Spray Paint

Gray spray paint on hand being removed with cotton ball next to container of olive oil

The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 45 mins
  • Total Time: 45 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Spray paint is convenient, but it can be messy. We all know about the dreaded overspray and drips that can leave you with a coating of paint on unsuspecting surfaces. Worse yet, your home or business could be the target of unwanted graffiti.

Luckily, there are numerous tried-and-true ways to remove spray paint. The method you choose for removing spray paint depends on the surface and the type of paint.

There are several products on the market for removing paint. However, we are exploring spray paint removal techniques that use items you might already have at home. Begin by checking the label to determine if the offending paint is oil-based or water-based, if possible. Then try one of the processes below that will work on porous surfaces, metal, plastic, and skin. Each technique varies slightly depending on the base of the paint.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Pressure washer
  • Cleaning brush
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Soft-bristled hand brush
  • Clean rags


  • Oil-based soap
  • Olive oil
  • Industrial paint remover
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Nail polish remover
  • Hairspray


Remove Spray Paint From Wood, Concrete, or Other Porous Surfaces

To treat oil-based and water-based paint that has seeped onto wood, concrete, and other porous surfaces, follow these instructions.

Materials and tools to remove spray paint

The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  1. Set Up Your Pressure Washer

    Set up your pressure washer and adjust the settings depending on your surface. Wood surfaces will require less pressure than concrete surfaces.

    Yellow pressure washer machine turned on outside

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  2. Spray the Paint Until It's Removed

    Slowly move the pressure washer nozzle back and forth along the surface until the paint has been removed.

    Pressure washer spraying water on concrete floor to remove spray paint

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

Remove Spray Paint From Metal or Plastic

To remove water-based spray paint from metal and plastic follow these steps, and follow the extra steps beneath for removing oil-based paint.

  1. Use Dish Soap and a Cloth to Buff the Surface

    Put a small dot of dish soap on a damp microfiber cloth and rub it together to create suds. Gently buff the metal surface to remove any overspray.

    Damp microfiber cloth wiping spray paint from back of white metal car surface

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  2. Rinse and Repeat

    Rinse the surface and the cloth thoroughly. Repeat as necessary. You may need additional steps for oil-based paint. Try the above two steps first. Ideally, you want to use the least abrasive method first so you don’t remove any other paint or coating on the metal. This method is especially true for metal surfaces on cars and patio furniture.

    Microfiber cloth reapplied with soapy water to wipe gray spray paint on back of white car

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  3. Add Carnauba Car Wax

    If the above technique doesn’t work, add some carnauba car wax into the mix and use that to buff off the spray paint. This method might require some extra elbow grease.

    Carnauba car wax wiped with yellow cloth on back of white car surface

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  4. Buff Out the Wax

    Buff out the wax with a clean, dry microfiber cloth.

    If the paint has set for a while or you wish to remove more than just overspray, look into some industrial paint remover solutions.

    Clean microfiber cloth buffing and drying car surface after removing spray paint

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

Remove Spray Paint From Your Skin

If spray paint has gotten on your skin, these steps will help you remove oil-based versions of it.

  1. Use a Skin-Friendly Oil and Rub It Onto Your Skin

    Using your hands or a cotton ball, gently rub your skin with a skin-friendly oil like olive oil or coconut oil. Be extra careful not to get any oil in your eyes since oil can be irritating. Also, be careful not to get oil on clothing or fabric because oil stains can be difficult to remove.

    Gray spray paint wiped from hand with cotton ball and olive oil

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  2. Bring in a Washcloth If It Doesn't Work

    If a cotton ball or your hands won’t remove the paint, use an old washcloth to rub stubborn spots.

    Old washcloth wiping gray spray paint from hand

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  3. Repeat Steps as Needed

    Add more oil and repeat as necessary.

    Washcloth reapplying olive oil to skin with gray spray paint

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  4. Wash Your Hands With Soap and Warm Water

    Next, wash your skin with hand soap or body wash to remove any traces of oil. Rinse your skin and the washcloth thoroughly.

    Hands washed with soap and water after removing spray paint

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  5. Clean Up Rubbed Off Paint

    Clean up any remaining paint from the sink or tub using water and a rag or brush if needed.

    White bowl cleaned with paper towel to remove remaining spray paint

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

Remove Spray Paint Stains From Your Skin

If water-based spray paint has stained your skin, the below instructions will help you get it off.

  1. Dampen the Skin and Scrub

    Oil won’t necessarily help thin out the water-based spray paint. For water-based spray paint, dampen your skin and gently scrub the area with a nail brush and a mild dish soap. If you don’t have a nail brush, a soft-bristled toothbrush or pumice stone should work. Don’t press too hard, a gentle abrasion should be all you need.

    Spray painted arm scrubbed with small scrub brush and soapy water

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  2. Use a Soft Wash Cloth If Needed

    If you have sensitive skin or notice your skin starting to get red and irritated, try a soft washcloth instead.

    Washcloth wiping spray painted arm with soapy water

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  3. Rinse and Wipe Down Your Sink

    Rinse the area thoroughly and be sure to clean off any flakes from the sink or tub.

    Spray painted arm rinsed after removing water-based spray paint

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

Remove Spray Paint From Fabric or Carpet

When it comes to removing spray paint from fabric and carpet, the best way to remove stains is to treat it when it’s wet, which means as soon as possible. Once you notice paint has gotten onto a fabric, drop your painting project, and immediately flush the area with water. These instructions work for both oil- and water-based spray paints.

  1. Rinse Off as Much Paint as Possible

    For wet paint, run the fabric under a hose. Try to flush out as much paint as you can until the water runs clear. If the paint is on a carpet, gently dab the surface with a damp cloth to draw the paint into the towel and away from the fabric.

    Spray painted fabric rinsed under running water from sink faucet

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  2. Add Stain Remover

    For stubborn oil-based stains, add in an oil-based soap or stain remover. For water-based stains, try spraying the area with hair spray. You can also try dabbing the area with nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol, but test a small spot first. Dab the area again with a clean cloth, and see if the paint is transferring from the fabric onto the cloth. If so, the method is working. Continue this process until the paint is gone.

    Stain remover sprayed on to spray painted fabric before cleaning

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  3. Scrape Off Any Paint

    If the paint has already dried, scrape away as much paint as you can with your fingernail or a cleaning brush. Pre-treat the stain with a stain remover and launder the fabric if possible.

    Scrub brush removing spray paint stain from pink fabric

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic