5 Best Ways To Remove Paint From Cars

You’ve got paint on your car. Now what? This article will show you how to get paint off a car, and the five best ways to remove it.

How To Remove Paint From Car

If you’ve ever gotten paint on your vehicle, you know what a headache it can be to remove. The paint might have gotten on your car because of a project you were working on nearby, from recent road construction, or from vandalism.

Either way, you will have to put a little elbow grease into the removal. Thankfully, with some simple ways to get paint off a car, you can restore the shine and luster once again.

In this guide, I discuss the ways to get the paint off of your vehicle, starting with the easiest method first. I will also talk about the cost of having your vehicle professionally cleaned. 

How to Get Paint off a Car

If you want to get fresh paint off a car, you want to act fast. At first, you might be able to use just water and soap. If that doesn’t work, you have to try something more powerful, such as lacquer thinner, gasoline, nail polish remover, or a rubbing compound. 

Here are some more detailed steps on how to get paint off a car:

1. Water/Soap Mixture

Water Soap

If the paint is fresh on the car, you might be able to get it off with some simple water and car wash soap. Obviously, you want to try this method in any instance because it is the least damaging.

If your vehicle is sitting in the sun, the paint is going to bake on, making it more difficult to get off. That’s why you need to act fast if you plan to get it off with this simple method. 

Start by mixing warm water and car wash soap in a clean bucket. With a clean, soft rag, you can gently scrub the area. Do not use a dirty rag, or you can create scratches in the paint from the debris. Continue gently rubbing the area in a circular motion until all of the paint is removed. 

Once all of the paint is removed, you might choose to finish washing the car. Either way, you need to ensure that the area is dry. Use a microfiber cloth to dry all of the water spots. 

2. Nail Polish Remover

Nail Polish Remover

When soap and water don’t work, you need to kick things up a notch. Most households have nail polish remover on hand, but you want to make sure it is acetone-free. Any nail polish remover with acetone can damage the paint. 

With a clean rag, apply some nail polish remover to the paint splatter. It’s best to dab it on the area. Once the paint comes off, you want to rinse the area down with water to avoid damaging the car’s paint. 

3. Lacquer Thinner

Lacquer Thinner

If the paint won’t come off with soap and water or nail polish remover, it’s probably already too dry. You will need something more powerful, such as lacquer thinner. 

Lacquer thinner is a strong solvent that cleans substances off of wood, but you can also use it on your vehicle.

Use a clean rag to apply the thinner and remove the paint. As the paint starts to come off, use warm water to get the lacquer off of your automotive paint before it erodes that as well. 
To protect your car paint, you want to start with a minimal amount of thinner. You can always add more if you need to later. 

4. Gasoline


Another handy item you might have in the garage is gasoline. It works similarly to the nail polish remover and lacquer thinner. You will want to dab a small amount on a clean cloth and apply it to the paint splatter.

If you decide to scrub the area, do so gently. Don’t push too hard, or you could remove the original paint on your vehicle. As soon as the paint splatter is coming off, you need to rinse the area with water to remove all of the gasoline. Dry the vehicle to remove all water spots. 

5. Rubbing Compound

Rubbing Compound

If you have some time and want to remove the paint safely, try a rubbing compound instead. This method will take some patience, but it’s the best way to remove stubborn splatters without damaging the paint. 

Put some of the rubbing compound onto your clean, soft rag. Scrub the area in a circular motion, but only apply gentle pressure. If you are working on a large area, just focus on a small spot at a time. Trying to do too much at once can lead to damage to your paint.

After you remove the paint, it’s best to wash and wax the car. This step helps protect the paint from any further damage. 

Can You Sand off Dried Paint?

If all else fails, you might need to sand your car to remove the paint. This isn’t a step you want to take lightly. Sandpaper and some elbow grease are sure to get the dried paint off of the car, but it can also remove the good paint too. If you choose to use sandpaper, you want to move very slowly and pay attention to what you are doing. 

RELATED: How Much Does a Car Paint Job Cost?

To sand off dried paint, you wash and dry the vehicle first. Once you are finished, you need to section off the paint splatter with some automotive masking tape. After the rest of the vehicle is protected, you can start sanding.

Ideally, you will use wet-dry 300-grit sandpaper. Once you have removed the paint splatter, you want to transition to 1200-grit sandpaper. Once you are finished, clean the sanded area because you don’t want to leave behind anything that can scratch up the surrounding paint. I recommend washing the area before removing the tape. 

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