Remove Spray Paint

The Ultimate Guide to removing spray paint from your car’s paintwork

It’s very annoying when you go to your car in the morning and realize that vandals have defaced the car with spray paint. However, this is no reason to panic. Spray paint can be removed from car paint in several ways, such as acetone, nail polish remover, clay putty, or carnauba wax.

Use acetone or nail polish remover

Get a bottle of acetone or nail polish remover that contains acetone.

If you don’t have acetone handy, a bottle of nail polish remover will do. Such products contain a formula that dissolves the nail polish from painted fingernails. This is basically what you want to do with the spray paint on your car. The brand is irrelevant. The higher the acetone concentration, the better.

Dampen a cloth with acetone or nail polish remover.

Terry cloth or microfiber cloth is best as it won’t scratch the car paint. Keep the cloth constantly damp. If it starts to dry out, wet it again with acetone or nail polish remover. Wear gloves during the cleaning process. This protects your hands and prevents them from discoloring.

Gently rub the spray paint with the cloth in small, circular motions.

Be careful when doing this to avoid accidentally removing the clear protective coating. The spray paint will be absorbed by the cloth, so you should turn it on regularly.

Wash the car after removing the spray paint.

After removing the spray paint, give your car a thorough wash or rinse. You should wash the areas where the paint was located particularly well. Also, make sure that acetone or nail polish remover is completely removed.

Use cleaning putty

Wash and dry your car.

This is an important step as all surface dirt must be removed before using clay. You can wash your car by hand or drive through the car wash. If the spray paint is still fresh, there is a chance that the hot water is already removing some of the spray paint from the car paint.

Get some cleaning clay.

Clay Putty is a polymer abrasive that removes anything on your car’s paintwork without scratching or damaging the surface. Several brands are commercially available, including Detailer’s Pride Clay Putty. An alternative are kits, which consist of a lubricating spray (this is needed for the cleaning putty), wax and a microfiber cloth. You can find cleaning putty at auto parts stores.

Knead the cleaning clay well.

For your purposes, you only need a small, palm-sized piece. If you bought a whole bar, cut it in half. Then seal this piece in a ziplock bag and place it in a bucket or bowl of warm water. This warms up the putty and makes it more malleable. Now knead the clay with your hands and form it into a pancake or flatbread.

Apply a putty lubricant.

A lubricant is necessary so that your putty can glide over the surface and not stick. Give the lube a good shake, then spray it onto both the putty and the spray paint that’s on the car paint. Use enough lubricant to prevent the putty from sticking to the car paint. You can find putty lubricant at auto parts stores.

Rub the putty over the spray paint.

Hold the putty in your hand so it doesn’t cover your fingertips—it shouldn’t completely fill your palm. The rubbing action should be applied with firm pressure, as if you were rubbing a bar of soap over your skin. Rub until the spray paint comes loose. If the playdough is covered with too many paint particles, fold it up, knead it again, and form a new, clean patty.

remove residue.

Then wipe the kneading residue off your paintwork with a microfiber cloth. Apply light pressure to the areas of the car paintwork that you have treated with the cleaning putty.

Grow the car.

Unfortunately, the cleaning process with the putty also removes the existing layer of wax. It is therefore important that you wax your car again, protecting it from future damage and restoring the shine to the protective paint. Apply the car wax in a circular motion with either the included applicator or a sponge, or use a buffing machine.

Use carnauba wax

Get liquid carnauba wax.

Carnauba waxes contain carnauba oil, which breaks down the spray paint. The wax gently removes the spray paint from the paint surface and will not damage or scratch the car paint. Carnauba wax is commonly available at auto parts stores but can also be found online.

EXPERT COUNCIL Professional car detailing expert Chad Zani is the Head of Franchising at Detail Garage, a professional car detailing company with locations across the US and Sweden. Based out of Los Angeles, California, Chad is using his passion for professional auto detailing to teach others as he grows his business nationwide. Chad Zani Professional Car Detailing Expert Our Expert Agrees: Carnauba Wax can remove dried spray paint without damaging unnecessary layers of clear coat. If you still have spray paint left, try a compound like V36.

Applied the wax with a sponge.

Apply a sufficient amount of the liquid wax to a soft sponge or cloth. Spread a large squirt or several small squirts of the liquid onto the sponge. You can also use the wax in larger quantities without hesitation. Be generous with the wax, since it’s supposed to dissolve the spray paint.

Rub the sponge over the spray paint.

Apply the carnauba wax to the affected areas of your car using firm pressure in a circular motion. In addition to the main surface, also cover smaller splashes and paint dots. Turn the sponge over when it’s soaked with spray paint, or use a new one.

Polish off the wax.

Once the spray paint has been removed, the wax will need to be buffed off. Use a clean microfiber cloth for this. Buff the ingrown areas in small, circular motions.

Tips

Spray paint should be removed as soon as possible because the longer it dries, the harder it is to remove. Paint stains on car windows can be easily removed with acetone and a razor blade. Read our blog to learn more about car maintenance.

Warnings

Aggressive products such as scouring agents should be avoided as they would damage the car paint even more. No matter which method you choose, always do a small test on an inconspicuous area first.

About the Author

Fernando James

James has offered expert financial insight at CouponAnnie since 2020. As a freelance writer, he has been published in a variety of prominent publications. He's been featured on the Washington Post and Financial Planning Magazine, and has been quoted by Money Magazine, Retailmenot, and more.