How to Remove Paint From Concrete

Paint Splatter on Concrete

smiltena / Getty Images

Overview
  • Working Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 20 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5 to $20

Around the home, accidents do happen, and sometimes they happen in the worst way. Spilling paint on concrete often means accepting the paint stain and learning to live with it. But paint can be successfully removed from concrete with just a few basic tools and materials that you may already have on hand.

Basics of Removing Paint From Concrete

Paint that spills and subsequently dries on a smooth, glossy surface is easy to remove. Dried, hardened paint drops on a smooth glossy surface such as prefinished hardwood flooring, laminate, or vinyl flooring can be picked off with a fingernail.

But concrete is porous. Its porosity means that paint sticks very well to it, especially if the concrete is clean. This is to your disadvantage if you want to remove the paint from the concrete. Even with smooth concrete, the paint grabs onto the pores. It's even harder to remove paint from rough concrete.

With freshly spilled paint, the best course is always to wash it off immediately—usually within minutes. If that is not possible, let the paint harden, then peel off as much of the paint as possible with a scraper. Embedded particles are next brushed away with a wire brush. Wood glue can be used to peel away more embedded paint particles. Finally, a pressure washer removes the rest of the paint.

When to Remove Paint From Concrete

The concrete should be over 60 degrees F for the latex paint to be pliable enough to peel off. If the weather is cooler than that, lightly apply heat from a heat gun to soften the paint.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Wire brush
  • Paint scraper or putty knife
  • Pressure washer
  • Latex or nitrile gloves
  • Garden hose and nozzle

Materials

  • Wood glue

Instructions

  1. Hose Fresh Paint Off of the Concrete

    If you are painting and accidentally spill paint on the concrete, it is always best to spray off the concrete immediately with a hard stream of water. If you can get to the paint in time (usually within 20 to 30 minutes), all of the paint solids and much of pigments should wash away. The longer the paint sits on the concrete, the greater the chance that the pigments will stain the concrete.

    Hosing Paint Off of Concrete
    Lee Wallender
  2. Lift Off Paint With a Putty Knife

    If the paint has been sitting on the concrete for more than 20 to 30 minutes, let it dry and harden.

    Use the putty knife or another thin scraping tool to lift up an edge of the paint. In many cases, you should be able to peel much of the spilled paint off of the concrete. Latex paint is especially easy to remove in this manner since it dries to form a strong, flexible rubber-like coating.

    Lift Off Paint With Putty Knife
    Lee Wallender

    Tip

    If the concrete was dirty before the paint spill, this can work in your favor since the dirt acts as a release agent.

  3. Use a Wire Brush to Remove the Paint

    Once you have a majority of the paint removed with the putty knife, switch to the wire brush. Lightly abrade the concrete with the brush to remove paint embedded into the pores of the material. The brush also helps you to scrape away paint embedded between pieces of aggregate.

    Wire Brush Paint Off of Concrete
    Lee Wallender
  4. Use Wood Glue on Concrete to Remove Paint

    Stubborn sections of paint on concrete can be removed with wood glue. Squeeze a moderate amount of glue on top of the paint. Leave the glue thick, maintaining a crown on the glue. Thinly applied glue is difficult to remove.

    Once the glue has fully cured, peel it off within a fingernail or with the putty knife.

    Wood Glue on Concrete to Remove Paint
    Lee Wallender

    Tip

    Test the wood glue on a remote section of the concrete before using it for the painted area.

  5. Pressure Wash Paint Off of Concrete

    Pressure washing is the final mechanical method of cleaning paint off of concrete. Start with a wide spray. Hold the pressure washer wand at a low, 15-degree angle to the concrete. Do not overwork the concrete or you risk chipping away the concrete.

    Pressure Wash Concrete
    Carlofranco / Getty Images
  6. Additional Cleaning Methods

    Small sections of paint on concrete can usually be successfully cleaned of the paint solids. In some cases, even if the solids are removed, the pigment will remain. It is difficult to remove the pigment other than by increasing the intensity of abrasion with the pressure washer.

    A concrete stain can be applied to cover up or tone down the stain. The concrete stain must be applied over the entire concrete area. Concrete stain does not lend itself to spot application.

    Concrete Clean of Paint
    Lee Wallender

When to Call a Professional

Removing paint from concrete on a large scale can be a time-consuming activity. Call in a professional if you have a large amount of concrete to clean. Professionals, too, can calibrate the pressure washer to avoid damaging the concrete.