You look at your painting and sigh a breath of relief at how it turned out.
Now you look at your surroundings… and horror struck as you see bits and blotches of acrylics everywhere–even on yourself. Do you know what to do to clean it? You ask yourself: “How to remove acrylic paint?”
Removing acrylic paint is easier when the paint’s still wet and gets harder when it dries. Normally, you can remove wet acrylic paint from fabric, skin, wood etc. with soapy water. The most common method to remove dried acrylic paint is scrubbing the paint off with soapy water. Other methods include applying solutions and scraping the paint off with a tool.
Acrylic paint coats a wide range of surfaces.
Depending on what kind of surface you’ve spilled the paint on, you may need special products or alternative methods to remove the paint.
Read on to learn what considerations there are for different types of surfaces.
Table of Contents
Is Acrylic Paint Permanent or Washable?
Acrylic paint is made to be “permanent” when it dries but in reality, acrylics are washable if you use the right solution to wash off the paint.
The most accessible solution for many readers is water with soap.
Remember: Act fast when your acrylic paint stains are still wet. These can be easily washed off with water alone.
Acrylic paint is made from ingredients that become water-resistant once the paint dries.
While it’s still wet, it’s easier to wash off surfaces using water only. Dried acrylic paint, on the other hand, is difficult to wash off with water only.
General Considerations for Removing Acrylic Paint
There are different factors that affect the ease of removing acrylic paint from various surfaces.
Some considerations include:
- The strength of the removing agent you’ll use;
- What material you’ll apply your removing agents on; and;
- How smooth or rough the surface where the paint dries.
How you’ll remove the acrylic paint will vary slightly depending on which product you’ll use to clean a particular surface. But generally, these surfaces fall into two categories: hard and smooth.
Your hard surfaces will include many stiff surfaces like stone, concrete, and similar objects while your smooth surfaces will include the likes of clothes, leather, and the like.
Hard surfaces will be able to tolerate stronger cleaning agents than smoother surfaces for example.
Another important distinction would be if these surfaces are made from organic (plant-based and animal-based) and inorganic (stone, concrete, synthetic materials) substances as these affect the effectiveness of certain products you’ll use to remove the paint.
Here’s a microbiology tip: For most inorganic surfaces, using hydrogen peroxide is better at cleaning; while for most organic surfaces, it’s better to use alcohol.
This also improves the disinfection property of these items better.
Want to Keep Things Simple? Here are 5 Common Solvents of Acrylic Paint
Solvents are used to dissolve or soften the dried paint so you can remove them from different objects.
These solvents disrupt the structure of the acrylic polymers which keeps your paint’s shape together when it’s dry.
You can find these solvents in some household items or order them in pharmacies and chemical lab stores.
From weakest to strongest, here are 5 science-backed solvents that can help you remove acrylic paint:
Tip 1: Use weaker solvents first to remove the paint before using stronger solvents.
- Rubbing Alcohol (Isopropyl Alcohol) – this acts directly on your acrylic binder. The higher the alcohol percentage, the stronger it is at disrupting your binder.
- Denatured Alcohol – it’s stronger than rubbing alcohol as it has less water than rubbing alcohol. However, denatured alcohol comes with methanol, a poisonous and flammable substance.
- Acetone – it’s chemically stronger than alcohol at disrupting your acrylic polymers. Hence it’s used as a nail polish remover but don’t use this on plastic and synthetic surfaces as it can dissolve them in some cases.
- Ammonia Solution – it stabilizes emulsions in your acrylic paint by raising the pH (it doesn’t let the acrylic polymers stick with one another). This makes it easier to rinse off the paint. Ammonia solution is flammable, however, and has intense fumes.
- Lacquer Thinner – is a strong solvent with toxic ingredients methanol and toluene (the latter can have long-lasting health effects). Nowadays, there are less toxic options that use ethyl acetate instead of toluene.
Tip 2: Dilution will weaken these solvents. In most cases, adding distilled water dilutes the solvents.
These items will vary in their effectiveness in removing the paint depending on the surfaces you’re putting them on. Here’s a table comparing how advisable it is to use these solvents on different kinds of surfaces:
|Natural Fabrics (Cotton, Wool, etc.)
|Synthetic Fabrics (Polyester, etc.)
|Hard Surfaces (Concrete, Stone, Tile, etc.)
Legend: / – advisable; x – not advisable
Tip 3: If you plan to dilute the solvent, do it incrementally in a 9:1 ratio between your solvent to your distilled water. This prevents your dilute solution from becoming “too weak” at removing the paint.
How to remove Acrylic Paint from the Skin?
Acrylic paint can be removed from the skin with soap and water.
Your skin always sheds its outermost layer so, with a quick wash, this easily removes any paint that has dried on yourself.
Though there are cases where the paint gets to an artist’s eyes, your tears can clear them off.
On the other hand, it’s quite dangerous to ingest paint and you might experience a bit of digestive discomfort. But if you ingested a bit of the paint, it just passes off your body.
You might not be aware of this information, but there are a number of people with allergies to acrylates. They make up a small part of the population but are more sensitive to reacting with a number of acrylics.
You have to be careful not to let any open wound get in touch with the paint as this is the quickest way for toxins in the paint to enter your body.
If you think bits of paint have dried near your flesh wounds, you should immediately wash them with soap and water.
How to remove Acrylic Paint from Hair?
Hair is a part of the skin.
So the method for removing paint from hair simply involves applying your shampoo to the parts of your hair coated by the paint.
For dry paint, you may need to allow the shampoo to seep into the paint.
Run a fine-tooth comb to remove the paint and rinse your hair afterward.
You might need to do these steps a few more times if you have curly or thicker hair. Use hair treatment oils and conditioners to prevent further damage to your hair. (I myself use Olaplex series for hair care).
Cutting the hair is a last-resort option.
How to Remove Acrylic Paint From Canvas?
Art canvasses were historically made from hemp but modern ones are made from linen and cotton. Sometimes polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is used to make the canvas.
For many, your canvas will be made from plant-based materials, which are primarily made of cellulose.
What this means is that the surface they’re working on will be water-resistant, so removing acrylics that seeped through your canvas will be difficult to remove with water alone.
You can try to submerge the canvas in water with detergent and soak it for a period to wash off the excess paint. But the better alternative for removing huge chunks of acrylic would be scraping the paint off the canvas.
You can do this on your canvas by doing the following:
- Wrap your painting in paper towels and ensure you have enough paper towels to cover all sides of the canvas.
- Place a container under the canvas and spray it with water. This causes the paper towels to stick to the canvas and hold moisture.
- Leave the wrapped painting for 20-30 minutes and give another spray afterward. Repeat this process until the canvas is soaked. This step takes several hours to complete.
- Take the paper towels off and get any tool with a hard edge to scrape. A pocket knife is enough (Smith & Wesson sells one).
- Start scraping the acrylic paint at an angle of 90 degrees. Don’t press too hard or you might damage the canvas. The paint should come off. If not, go back to the 2nd step.
- You might notice the paint cracks on some parts of the canvas. You can remove these bits using a regular dish scrub sponge.
Once the canvas dries, you’ll be able to use it again.
How do you remove dried Acrylic Paint?
Removing acrylic paint requires an understanding of the chemistry behind how acrylics are made. In summary, 3 ingredients are used to make acrylic paint: a pigment, a binder, and a vehicle.
Acrylics are made from diesel products. Have you seen how water and oil don’t mix?
The binder is made from diesel products so manufacturers use a method to allow the binder, which contains the pigment, to mix with the vehicle (water).
The binder stays when the acrylic paint dries. To remove the paint, you want to weaken the attachment between the binder and any surface.
Weakening the binder does two things:
- (1) it causes your paint to detach from the surface, and,
- (2) the binder releases the pigment it contains.
The pigment is either washed off or fades as it’s exposed to air. You can visualize this as if you’re chipping paint away but on a molecular scale.
Remember how oil and water mix if you add detergent to the solution? The principle behind it applies in general in removing dry acrylic paint. In many instances, acrylic paint can be removed if you use soapy water.
If you don’t plan to remove the acrylic, you might be looking to rehydrate your paint.
Don’t let you paint dry on the plastic palette, as polymers in acrylic will interact and bond with plastic elements in the palette.
How to remove Acrylic Paint from the Brush?
The best method for removing the paint from your brushes is by washing them with soapy water and soap after each painting session.
In case some of the paint dried on your brushes, use alcohol.
Related: The Best Brush for Acrylic Paint on Canvas in 2022 + Care Guide
Removing dried acrylic on your brush can be done through the following:
- Wet your brush by submerging it in water.
- Remove the water and fill the container with rubbing alcohol until the alcohol reaches halfway up your brush.
- Scrub the paint bristles against each other to remove the paint.
- Rinse your brush with water to ensure the paint is off.
- Repeat the process until all dried acrylic paint has been removed from the bristles. A comb also scrapes the softened paint off.
To avoid doing these steps, it is recommended to wipe off acrylics after each use of your brushes by submerging them in water or cleaning them with soap and water during and after your painting sessions.
How to remove Acrylic Paint from Clothes and Fabric?
Removing acrylic paint depends on the type of cloth and fabric the paint stays on. But oftentimes, the laundry process and the addition of a fabric softener (like this one from Downy) will remove the stains on your clothes.
Clothes made from plant-based fabric (cotton, linen, etc.) will have a similar means of removing the acrylic as your canvas–by submerging it in water. The addition of laundry detergent will help remove the paint.
For stubborn acrylic paint stains, it is advised to use rubbing and denatured alcohol to remove the stains. The alcohol seeps into the seams of your clothes and washes out the paint.
This makes alcohol an ideal choice for fabrics that were heat-setted, a process that makes the paint more permanent on clothes and fabrics, without damaging the fabric strands too much.
How to remove Acrylic Paint from jeans and denim?
For denim, rubbing alcohol is the best method for removing the paint. Otherwise, placing your stained denim and jeans on the washing machine can easily remove the paint.
For added measure, you can add a stain remover but make sure that your denim and jeans follow the recommended cycle based on their care label.
How to remove Acrylic Paint from Shoes?
Removing acrylic paint depends on what material your shoes were made from. In general, using detergent with water is a good strategy for wearing the paint off most shoes.
For your next project: Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Shoes? Full Guide & Supplies
How to remove Acrylic Paint from Rubber Shoes?
Most shoes are made from rubber and removing acrylic paint on rubber shoes can be done in 4 simple steps:
- Scraping the excess paint off.
- Wetting the stained area on the paint with a damp cloth.
- Apply a detergent mixture on the shoes to loosen the hold of the paint. A sponge, cloth, or an unused toothbrush can be used to apply the detergent.
- Rinsing the shoes with tap water. Ensure all detergent suds are removed and inspect the shoes.
Angelus sells a strong shoe cleaner though it isn’t ideal for suede shoes.
How to remove Acrylic paint from Leather Shoes?
There are 2 methods for removing acrylic paint on leather shoes:
You can follow the cleaning process as those in removing acrylic from rubber shoes or instead of using a detergent mixture, you use cotton dipped in oil to clean the paint.
The first method will dry out your leather so you should apply a leather cleaner to help maintain your shoes. The second method allows oil to seep through your leather shoes and helps loosen the paint.
How to remove Acrylic Paint from Leather?
The process of using oil to remove acrylic paint might seem counter-intuitive at first (remember acrylics are water-based) but this is the best option strictly because of the properties of leather.
Leather is weaved from animal skin so you can think of leather as having the properties of the skin. And how does the skin cleans itself? By producing sweat and sebum. The latter is oily and waxy.
To cut the lesson short, when you use oil on leather, you’re imitating the way skin cleans itself. So any type of oil can be used to remove acrylic on your leather. These oils will loosen the grip of the paint on your leather and allows you to scrub them off.
How to remove Acrylic Paint from Plastic?
Most plastics are made from polyethylene or other diesel-based ingredients which it shares with acrylics. This similarity makes most acrylics not stick to plastic surfaces because their binding agent doesn’t adhere to the plastic.
This property shared between acrylics and plastics makes scraping and chipping acrylic paint off plastic surfaces the most laborious yet the less product-heavy method. You can use a knife to chip off the acrylic like in a canvas or use your hands to forcefully remove the acrylic.
If you left it dry on your palette you will be able to just peel it off like I did:
Remember: Solvents should never be used on plastics as they can burn your plastics and release noxious fumes.
How to Remove Acrylic Paint from Wood?
Removing paint from wooden surfaces can be as basic as using oils or soapy water to remove the stain or more intensive like using strong solvents like lacquer and thinner. This will depend on how much paint you want to remove and the thickness of the wood.
What you might not have considered using is a heat gun. A heat gun can be used on larger surfaces and is easier to use on wood oriented vertically.
However, because you’re heating paint up this can release some volatile ingredients and your paint so protective gear should be worn first. This method will cause your paint to bubble up or crack and scrappable. Heat can damage your wood a bit, so it’s better to use this method on thicker wooden furniture.
If the paint stain on your wooden surfaces is small, sticking to water with soap and oil is the better option. Wooden cupboards and drawers are also suited to these methods as they are relatively thin pieces of furniture.
Professional artists use solvents to effectively remove paint from wood but this is also the riskiest because of the chemicals involved in the process. If you plan to use solvents to remove paint, wear protective gear.
If you’re familiar with the technique, sanding can also be used to remove chunks of paint. This process thins your wood, however.
If it is a small area, sanding may help. I removed that way unwanted paint and even epoxy from the borders of a tray I was customizing.
How to remove Acrylic Paint from Glass?
For many glass surfaces, using water will be enough to soften the acrylic paint and you can then scrape off the paint.
The smooth surface of glass makes it easier to use friction to scrape and remove the paint. Additionally, glass can withstand the strength of vinegar and nail polish remover so these two household items can be used to remove your dry paint.
Related: Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Glass?
Having this in mind can help remove stains off your glassware and your glass windows. Be mindful when using vinegar and nail polish remover on any stained glass as you don’t know if it might also remove the colored coating of the glass.
How to remove Acrylic Paint from Concrete?
Concrete is a mixture of cement, water, and gravel. However, the roughness or smoothness of your concrete surfaces affects how quickly it is to remove acrylic paint. Another factor to consider is if you have primed and sealed the concrete.
For smooth concrete surfaces, scraping the paint is the easiest method of removing acrylic paint. Textured concrete, meanwhile, requires that you dabble alcohol or hydrogen peroxide to allow the paint to remove from crevices in your concrete.
Concrete surfaces can also withstand solvents like paint thinners and ammonia so they can be used to remove the paint. This is helpful when you have used concrete to build your walls and floors and got paint stains on them.
Good thing to know: Hardy construction materials like tile, stone, asphalt, and other masonry structures, benefit from using the suggested methods on concrete to remove paint on these types of surfaces.
Also, there is stamped concrete. This concrete can be skillfully designed to look like other kinds of surfaces (hardwood, tile, etc.). You should inspect the surface closely so that you might use the appropriate paint-removing item.
How to remove Acrylic Paint from a Carpet?
Scrapping the paint with any sharp object should be done first to remove the paint on your carpet. Follow it up by applying hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol (depending on your carpet’s fabric) and wipe the stain with a microfiber cloth.
Acetone should be a last-resort option and you should test the carpet for color-fastness (how resistant its color from fading is) first before going all-in on the acetone. Carpets made from fibers that contain acetate, triacetate, or modacrylic can be damaged by acetone, however.
Usually, laundry washing your carpets can also clean the stain regardless of what fabric your carpet was made from.
How to remove Acrylic Paint from the Couch?
Most couches are padded to protect their frame. If padded with foam, you can get paint off your upholstery by scraping as much paint with a smooth tool first. A stiff brush can be used to pull chunks of paint from the fabric without damaging your couch padding.
Tip: Use circular strokes like whenever you brush your teeth. This movement can lift the dried paint off the fabric on your upholstery.
After this, blot the stain but don’t rub the stain to prevent spreading the paint. Stain removers or vinegar can be used to help this process. Blot the area with a damp towel repeatedly until you remove the paint. This can take several rounds to remove all stains from your couch.
Couches made from wood and concrete should follow the methods suggested in the previous sections. Moreover, concrete couches and benches coated with paint can withstand solvents to remove dry paint.
How to remove Acrylic Paint from Countertops?
Your countertops can be made from wood, marble, tile, concrete, or other materials. Luckily for all these hard surfaces, wiping with water and soap will remove any acrylic paint that dried on these surfaces.
Unless your countertops have textured surfaces, it’s much easier to wipe the paint off. You should focus on what material your countertop surfaces are made from.
Marble, granite, and concrete countertops can withstand lacquer. Wooden and acrylic countertops should be cleaned with weaker cleaning agents like oil, soapy water, or specialized paint scrapers.
How to remove Acrylic Paint from the Floor and Walls?
The type of finish used on your flooring and walls influences the effect of products in removing paint. Your floor and walls may be made from tile, wood, concrete, or other construction material. There are appropriate products and methods to use for these kinds of surfaces suggested in the early sections of the article.
Bare floors and walls benefit from pressurized water in removing paint stains while floors and walls covered with vinyl and linoleum can be cleaned from paint stains by mopping water and detergent on these surfaces. You can allow the detergent mixture to stay longer before rinsing it with water to remove the paint.
You can use cleaning solutions, like this one from Bissel, to remove different stains on different types of wall and floor surfaces.
How to remove Acrylic Paint from a Car?
Removing acrylic paint from your car depends on the type of coating you have on your vehicle. The coatings of most cars are made from Teflon, liquid glass, or ceramic. The first one is a bit difficult for acrylic paint to latch on so most cars with paint stains have either liquid glass or ceramic coatings.
The most available for many car users are ceramic coatings. For most users, a car wash service is enough to clean the paint off your drive. This is especially the case for car wash services with pressurized water pumps as the pressure is enough to knock the paint off your car.
For people who can’t afford to send their cars for a washing service, they can do it on their own with a garden hose in hand. As long as you have pressurized water, you can easily remove the paint stains on your car in addition to using a detergent to scrub the paint stains off.
Paint Removal FAQ
Want to learn what people around the internet ask about removing acrylic paint? Here are some of the most common questions:
Is Acrylic Paint easy to remove?
Acrylic paint is easy to remove while it’s wet but becomes difficult to remove when dry. The main factor that influences how “easy” it is to remove the paint is the solution you’re using to remove the paint.
Highly-reactive products like strong cleaning products (ammonia, etc.) are strong enough to remove the acrylic paint in little amounts. But because these products are strong, they can also damage the surface you’re using them on. So using these stronger products should be on a case-by-case basis. They aren’t ideal to be used on fabrics and more so, your skin.
Read more: Is Acrylic Paint Waterproof?
What erases Acrylic Paint?
Acrylic paint is made from an acrylic polymer which is a by-product of diesel. In order to erase acrylic paint you have to disrupt this polymer to release the pigment it contains.
The removal of the polymer makes it easier to remove the pigment and therefore erases the acrylic paint in the process.
Therefore, anything that disrupts the structure of your acrylic polymers can technically erase your acrylic paint. These include simple items like rubbing alcohol, acetone, and lacquer thinners.
You can also increase the transparency of your acrylic paint to make it look like it isn’t there, but this method is best used on wet acrylic paint.
Can you use nail polish remover to remove Acrylic Paint?
Acetone is used to remove nail polish and is a good option for removing acrylic paint on various hard surfaces. But on smooth surfaces like fabric, it isn’t recommended to be used.
Chemistry-wise, the acetone in your nail polish remover attracts the molecules in your acrylic paint stronger than the surface the paint is coated on. So instead of attaching to your canvas or other surfaces, your paint attaches with the acetone solution.
Will Vinegar remove Acrylic Paint?
Vinegar is acidic (specifically acetic acid, which can also be used to create acetone) which helps in removing acrylic paint.
The acidity of vinegar causes a disruption in the structure of the acrylic polymers in your paint. However, there is more water in vinegar than there is acetic acid, so you might need more amounts of vinegar to remove the stain.
One downside of using vinegar is its pungent smell that’ll cling on the surface you’re removing the paint on.
Will Ammonia remove Acrylic Paint?
Ammonia is also a strong disruptor of acrylic polymers so it can remove acrylic paint.
However, ammonia is a chemically “strong” type of product that reacts to anything it gets into contact with. So using it as a paint remover can also damage the surface you’re working on.
In general, household cleaning products aren’t meant to be used to remove dry acrylic paint as they’re too strong at removing the paint (and dirt) that they damage your surfaces.
You may use them on hard surfaces like concrete but not on soft ones.
Does Acrylic Paint clean up with water?
Acrylic paint can be cleaned with water only while it’s wet. Once the paint dries, it becomes water-resistant so the only way to ensure the water cleans up your paint is to add soap or a stronger detergent to your water.
The previous household items of nail polish remover, vinegar, and ammonia can be mixed in a ratio with your water to offset their reactiveness and manageably remove your acrylics without damaging your surfaces.
Doing homemade mixtures, however, is tricky and requires understanding how chemicals interact with water to create their DIY paint remover.
But adjusting volumes and ratios is a valuable learning experience for many painters that can save them money on buying commercial paint removers.
What tools can help me remove paint from different surfaces?
Unused rugs and clothes to wet will be sufficient to remove paint stains. You can also invest in a paint scraper that you can use on different surfaces.
Readers should consider the following household items to wipe the paint with (we’ve them to brands with many positive customer reviews):
If you have the budget, there are commercial paint removers you can buy on the market that can also remove other types of stains apart from paint.
Can you put Acrylic Paint down the sink?
You can drain acrylic paint down the sink but it poses some environmental problems on its own. For one, you don’t know if you’re sewage goes into a treatment facility or directly into the environment.
Even though acrylic paint is water-based, some ingredients of acrylic paint are toxic, harmful, and outright nonbiodegradable. So even if it’s possible to drain acrylic paint down the sink, it isn’t an eco-friendly means of removing the acrylic.
Acrylic paint is a popular painting medium for many artists. Because of this, it can easily spill onto different kinds of surfaces.
Wet acrylic paint is easier to remove but on the other end, removing dried acrylic is a challenge on its own. Thankfully, the chemical property of acrylic paint makes it easier to remove if you use the right kind of solution.
Be mindful of the resilience of the surfaces you’re working with. For most beginners, it’s recommended to use water and soap to remove the paint. If there are persisting stains, that’s the time they should proceed to use alternative methods and stronger solutions.
Interested in the Science?
You might want to remove dry paint quickly, but if you want to learn deeper about the way acrylic paint interacts with different objects, here are some recommended scientific articles:
- The different materials used to make shoes
- How your skin cleans itself from paint
- What an acrylic polymer is
- Allergies to acrylates
- How acrylic paint is related to plastics and why some solvents are better at removing them
- Standards used to measure color-fastness
- How car coating evolved
Masha Eretnova, born in 1991, is a Buenos Aires-based certified teacher, artist, and member of the Professional Artist Association with 20+ years of personal painting journey.
She started painting and drawing very early and is now an international abstract artist and educator passionate about acrylic painting, gouache, and crafts.
Her works are part of international exhibitions and contests, including ArtlyMix (Brazil), Al-Tiba 9 (Spain), Exhibizone (Canada), and many more.
Besides her artistic pursuits, Masha is also skilled in SEO blogging and digital marketing, running several niche websites. She also holds a post-grad diploma in Teaching Film Photography and 2 music school diplomas: piano and opera singing.