Does Rubbing Alcohol Remove Paint? (How-To)

Rubbing alcohol or isopropyl is an effective cleaner that removes different stain types from various surfaces. But can rubbing alcohol remove paint?

Rubbing alcohol will remove paint by dissolving the polymer that binds the particles together. This makes the coating dissolve and easier to wipe off from the surface.

However, rubbing alcohol doesn’t work on all types of paint; it removes only water-based and acrylic paints, but can’t remove oil-based paints.

Dried Paint

Rubbing alcohol will remove dried water-based or acrylic paint from any surface including fabric, wood, metal, and plastic.

The isopropyl in the rubbing alcohol will dissolve the polymer that binds the particles together. This makes the dried paint lose its bond on the surface and makes it easier to wipe off.

However, you can’t remove dried oil-based paint using rubbing alcohol. This is because oil-based paints use synthetic or natural oils as the solvent. The particles are also resistant to the isopropyl in the rubbing alcohol.

Since water-based paints use water as their solvent, they are affected by isopropyl. However, you need to ensure that the surface underneath isn’t sensitive. This is because rubbing alcohol is strong enough to dent sensitive surfaces, especially porous surfaces.

To remove dried paint, pour the rubbing alcohol over the coating, wait 10 minutes, then scrape the finish with a putty knife.

Related Read: 5 Things That Can Dissolve Latex Paint?

How To Remove Paint Using Rubbing Alcohol?

Removing paint using rubbing alcohol is an easy task but the success of the task depends on the type of paint you want to remove and the type of surface you are working on.

Here are the tools that you need:

  • A Clean Rag
  • A Bottle Of Rubbing Alcohol
  • Sanding Sponge Or A Metallic Putty Knife
  • A Spray Bottle (Optional)
  • A Face Mask And A Pair Of Gloves

Now, let’s get to work.

1. Scrape The Finish Off The Surface

The first thing you need to do when removing paint using rubbing alcohol is to clean and scrape the old paint off.

First, clean the surface. This helps you to get a clear view of the surface you are working on. It also helps to get rid of dirt and grime on the surface before removing the paint.

Next, scrape the bulk of the paint with a scraper or sanding sponge. If you don’t scrape, the surface will become messy and difficult to clean. It also helps the solvent remove the finish easier since there’s less paint to deal with. 

2. Apply Rubbing Alcohol On The Surface

After that, you need to apply the rubbing alcohol directly to the painted surface.

Pour the rubbing alcohol directly over the coating or spray it from a spray bottle. You can also pour it on a rag, and use the dampened rag to wipe the surface. 

After applying it, let the solvent sit on the coating for a few minutes. During these minutes, the solvent will dissolve the particles and loosen the polymer. The polymer is responsible for binding the particles to the surface. So when it’s loose, the coating will dissolve and lose its bond to the surface.

Related Read: Will Goo Gone Remove Paint From Carpet?

3. Wipe The Paint Off The Surface

Now, let the rubbing alcohol on the surface for a few minutes, then take a rag and wipe off the paint.

After 10 minutes, use a clean rag to wipe the paint off the surface. Since the rubbing alcohol has dissolved the particles, the coating will liquefy and you can wipe it off. If there are leftovers on the surface, re-apply the solvent and wipe it off after 10 minutes. 

Once the finish is removed, clean the surface with linseed oil to remove rubbing alcohol residue, especially for porous surfaces. If the rubbing alcohol is left on the surface, it will stain and damage it. 

Different Surfaces:

Wood

You can use rubbing alcohol to remove paint from wood. However, you need to be cautious when using it on wood, especially while working on treated wood and porous wood like Cedar. This is because it can damage the wood. Isopropyl of the rubbing alcohol can react harshly to the chemicals used in treating the wood. 

Also, you shouldn’t leave rubbing alcohol on porous wood for too long. This is because porous wood tends to absorb liquids easily. So if you leave it on the porous surface for too long, the rubbing alcohol would be absorbed by the wood. This can cause permanent stains on the porous wood and make it difficult for new finishes to stick to it.

Clothes

You can use rubbing alcohol to remove paint stains from clothes, but it can be too strong for certain types of fabrics. This is because rubbing alcohol contains mild bleach that can cause fading, discoloration, and staining on certain fabrics.

So, before you use it, test it in a similar fabric to see the results. Fabrics that are usually cleaned with rubbing alcohol include cotton, linen, and polyester.

The presence of mild bleach in the solvent doesn’t make it suitable for use on materials like wool and silk. If you are to remove paint stains from such materials, you will need to super-dilute the isopropyl to reduce its concentration.

Related Read: Will Mineral Spirit Remove Paint From Concrete?

Walls

Rubbing alcohol removes paint from walls but it’s best suited for stains and small-scale tasks. For larger walls and thicker finishes, it’s advisable to use a paint stripper.

You will need a lot of rubbing alcohol to remove the entire paint from a wall and this will not only take time but cost more than getting a paint stripper.

Related Read: Is Nail Polish Remover Strong Enough To Remove Paint?

Metal

Rubbing alcohol can remove water-based paint from metal surfaces. It is non-corrosive and safe to use on metal. Since it isn’t corrosive, you can leave it on metal until the coating comes off. However, you shouldn’t dilute it with water as it can increase the chances of corrosion or discoloration. 

Plastic

You can use rubbing alcohol to strip paint from plastic. It doesn’t damage or melt plastic because plastic is a non-porous material. 

Final Words

In summary, you can use rubbing alcohol to strip water-based finishes (only) from different surfaces. The solvent will dissolve the particles and binders and make the coating liquefy. Once the coating is liquefied, you can wipe it off the surface. 

Tony Adams
Tony Adams

Tony is a professional painter and an author of DIY Geeks. Tony has completed over 1,000 painting projects for his clients. It's safe to say he knows what he Is talking about,

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