How to Get Spray Paint Off a Car

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  • Method 1: Soapy Water
  • Method 2: Non-Acetone Nail Polish Remover
  • Method 3: Stronger Solvents
  • Method 4: Professional Paint Removal Kits
Spray paint vandalism isn’t just annoying, it also damages the value of your car. If you use your vehicle professionally, the damage could hurt your business, too. Fortunately, there are a few easy ways to clean the affected area of spray paint that won’t damage your car.
Whether you want a basic home remedy or tips on picking a good professional cleaning kit, here’s how to get spray paint off your car using soapy water, non-acetone nail polish remover, and other solvents you can get from an auto parts store. And if that doesn’t work? We’ll explain how to pick a professional kit to help remove the spray paint from your vehicle.

Method 1: Soapy Water

Materials Needed
  • Bucket
  • Rags
  • Soap (such as a dish soap)
  • Warm water
Step 1: Check how fresh the spray paint is. If you’re lucky and catch the vandalism before the paint has time to fully dry, you can clean it off with soapy water. Touch the paint to see if it feels tacky, and check your fingers for traces of wet paint. Depending on the season and the weather, spray paint may stay wet longer than you’d expect.
Step 2: Gather your supplies. To clean with soap and warm water, you just need a couple buckets, clean rags or a microfiber cloth, a gentle soap, and water. You can use whatever soap you’d usually use to clean your car.
Step 3: Wash the spray paint with soap. Feel free to be generous with the soap. Rub a rag with soapy water over the paint in small circular motions, changing sides as the paint comes away. Once the rag has paint on a certain side, it won’t be able to work as well. Depending on the amount of spray paint, you may need to repeat the circular motion with several rags.
Step 4: Rinse the area. Once you’ve washed off all the spray paint, rinse the area thoroughly. A full wash of your car, especially if it hasn’t been washed in a while, will help prevent the area you washed from fading faster than the dirty areas.

Method 2: Non-Acetone Nail Polish Remover

Materials Needed
  • Nail polish remover
  • Rags
If soap and water isn’t cutting it, you can try nail polish remover to remove unwanted paint from your car. Be very careful what kind you use, though. Never use nail polish remover with acetone. It is as harsh on your paint job as it is on fingernails, and you could easily make your problems worse for your car’s original paint and end up at the body shop.
Step 1: Apply the nail polish remover. To use the nail polish remover, apply a small amount to a clean rag and gently rub it over your car’s paint. Try starting from the outer edges and work in a circular motion over small areas. By weakening the hardened edges, you’ll make the middle much easier to remove.
  • Note: Nail polish remover may make the spray paint lighter before it goes away entirely. If the paint has lightened, but some is still there, try using a new rag. Nail polish remover breaks down the chemicals in the paint until it’s essentially wet again, and if a rag gets enough paint on it, it could actually put the paint back on your car. Always keep a sharp eye on the color of the paint being stripped to make sure the nail polish remover isn’t taking away paint that’s supposed to be there.

Method 3: Stronger Solvents

A number of stronger solvents ranging from lacquer thinner to gasoline may be used as home remedies for spray paint. The problem is that the stronger these solvents become, the higher the chances grow that they could remove all paint from a certain area.
At the very least, the stronger solvents could weaken the surface coat protecting your paint job. Even if you don’t see the damage right away, the area you clean with solvents could suffer faded paint or even rust before the rest of your vehicle.
If neither soap nor nail polish remover works, it’s safest to get a professional spray paint removal kit. They are sold at most auto parts stores, and some even come with customer satisfaction promises that could protect your car if you mess up. They also take the guesswork out of mixing solvents, which is a major advantage if you’re worried about preserving your paint job.

Method 4: Professional Paint Removal Kits

The best kits are [clay kits]. They may leave you feeling like you are back in elementary school, but playing with clay is actually one of the best ways to get spray paint off your car. In these kits, a clay bar replaces the rag you would use for most other techniques. Solvents in the kit are specifically designed to combat spray paint and present a lower risk of damaging your car’s looks.
It’s not a good feeling to come out in the morning to see that your car has been tagged, but if you react quickly you might be able to get the worst of it off yourself. If the spray paint has set in, your best bet will be to take it to a professional auto body repair shop.

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