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? Here is the answer to that.

Rubbing alcohol will remove paint by dissolving the polymer that binds the paint particles together. This makes the paint dissolve and easier to wipe off from the surface. However, rubbing alcohol doesn’t work on all types of paint. Rubbing alcohol removes only water-based and acrylic paints.

Oil-based paints can’t be removed using rubbing alcohol. To remove oil-based paints, you can use acetone instead of rubbing alcohol.

But this is just a snippet. This post reveals more about removing paint with rubbing alcohol including the steps involved in carrying out the task.

So let’s dive in.

Will Rubbing Alcohol Remove 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 paint particles together. This makes the dried paint lose its bond on the surface and easier to wipe off from the surface after.

Dried paint either as a finish on a surface or as a stain on your floor can be removed by using rubbing alcohol on the paint.

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

Dried water-based and acrylic paints on the other hand can be removed using rubbing alcohol. These paints are largely water-based and thus can be affected by isopropyl.

However, you need to ensure that the surface underneath the dried paint isn’t sensitive. This is because rubbing alcohol though not very strong is still strong enough to dent sensitive surfaces, especially porous surfaces.

To remove dried paint with rubbing alcohol, you need to first clean the surface. Then scrape the dried paint using a putty knife or sanding sponge. After, you can spray rubbing alcohol on the surface and let it stay for a few minutes before wiping off the dissolved dried paint.

Related Read: 5 Things That Can Dissolve Latex Paint?

Does Rubbing Alcohol Remove Paint From Wood?

Rubbing alcohol removes paint from wood. You can use rubbing alcohol to remove all types of finishes and paints from wooden surfaces except oil-based paints.

However, you need to be cautious when using rubbing alcohol on wood especially while working on treated wood and porous wood like Cedar. This is because rubbing alcohol if used carelessly on treated and porous wood can damage the wood.

Rubbing alcohol is one of the most common tools used to remove paint from painted wood. You can use rubbing alcohol to remove both paint stains and finishes from wood. However, you need to know the qualities of the wood before using rubbing alcohol on it.

You shouldn’t use rubbing alcohol on treated wood or porous wood. This is because the isopropyl in the rubbing alcohol can react harshly to the chemicals used in treating the wood. Wooden surfaces that have been treated with varnish or lacquer wouldn’t come out nice if rubbing alcohol is left on them for a long time.

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 the rubbing alcohol 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 finishes to stick to the wood layer.

To remove paint from wood, you need to first scrape part of the paint off the wood first using a paint scraper or a sanding sponge. Then apply rubbing alcohol on the painted area and let it sit for a few minutes. After a while, wipe the paint off the wooden surface with a damp rag.

How To Remove Paint Using Rubbing Alcohol (In 3 Steps)

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.

To remove paint rubbing alcohol, you need the following tools.

  • 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.

Here are the steps involved in removing paint with rubbing alcohol:

  • Scrape The Paint Off The Surface
  • Apply Rubbing Alcohol On The Paint
  • Wipe The Paint Off The Surface

Let’s check out these steps in detail.

1. Scrape The Paint 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.

The first step is to 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.

Before applying rubbing alcohol, you need to remove the bulk of the paint with a paint scraper or a sanding sponge. If you don’t scrape the paint off first, the surface will become very messy and difficult to clean when you apply the rubbing alcohol.

So, use a metallic putty knife or a sanding sponge to remove the bulk of the paint from the surface. When you have removed most of the paint, you can use rubbing alcohol on the remaining. It will also help you to get a cleaner surface.

2. Apply Rubbing Alcohol On The Surface

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

The next step is to apply the rubbing alcohol over the paint. You can either apply the rubbing alcohol directly on the paint or you can spray the rubbing alcohol on the paint from a spray bottle. You can also pour the rubbing alcohol on a rag and use the rag to dab the painted surface.

After applying the rubbing alcohol on the surface, let it sit on the paint for a few minutes. This allows the rubbing alcohol to work its magic. The rubbing alcohol will dissolve the paint particles and loosen the polymer. The polymer is responsible for binding the paint particles to the surface. So when it’s loose, the paint will dissolve and lose its bond to the surface.

After about 10 minutes, you can move on to the next step. If it’s a porous surface or a treated wood, don’t let the rubbing alcohol sit for more than 10 minutes, preferable 5 minutes.

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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 a few minutes, use a damp rag to wipe the paint off the surface. Since the rubbing alcohol has dissolved the paint particles and the polymer, the paint will be very easy to wipe off the surface.

After wiping the paint, it’s possible to notice some parts of the surface that still have stuck paint. Dab these spots with rubbing alcohol again and wait a few minutes before wiping. You can repeat the entire process up to 3 times.

When the paint is off, you need to clean the surface with linseed oil to get rid of any leftover rubbing alcohol on the surface. If the rubbing alcohol is left on the surface, it will stain the surface especially if it’s a wooden surface. So use linseed oil to get rid of the leftover rubbing alcohol.

Does Rubbing Alcohol Remove Paint From Clothes?

Rubbing alcohol can be used to remove paint stains from clothes and other fabrics. The isopropyl in the rubbing alcohol will dissolve the paint stain making it easier to wash off.

However, rubbing alcohol may turn out too strong for certain types of fabrics especially fabrics that have dye on them. This is because rubbing alcohol contains mild bleach that can cause fading, discoloration, and staining on certain fabrics.

So before you use rubbing alcohol to remove paint from a cloth, test out the rubbing alcohol on a similar fabric to see the result. Fabrics that are usually cleaned with rubbing alcohol include cotton, linen, and polyester.

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

To remove paint stains from clothes using rubbing alcohol, you need to first turn the cloth inside out. Then you should mix equal parts of rubbing alcohol and water in a container. This is to dilute the rubbing alcohol so it doesn’t stain, discolor, or eat into the fabric.

Next, pour a bit of the mixed isopropyl on the stained spot on the fabric. Then use a soft brush to scrub the spot to allow the rubbing alcohol to soak into the fabric.

After a while, wash the entire cloth with some detergent and see if the paint comes off. If the paint doesn’t come off completely, repeat the process. But this time, increase the concentration of the rubbing alcohol in the container.

Always remember to test the rubbing alcohol on a fabric similar to the cloth before using it on the cloth.

Related Read: Will Mineral Spirit Remove Paint From Concrete?

Does Rubbing Alcohol Remove Paint From Walls?

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

This is because 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.

Rubbing alcohol can be used to remove paint from walls because the isopropyl will dissolve the paint particles and polymer making it easy for the paint to peel and fall off the walls. However, you will need many bottles of rubbing alcohol to completely strip a painted wall.

Painted walls either concrete or wooden are usually painted with multiple coats of thick paints to protect the wall from handling and damages.

The walls after being painted are also coated with topcoats like wax, sheen, and other oil-based coatings like polycrylic and Polyurethane. To remove the entire paint from the wall, you will need a strong and active product like chemical-based paint strippers.

This doesn’t mean that rubbing alcohol can’t remove paint from walls. But you will need a lot of rubbing alcohol to completely strip paint off walls. Not to mention the fact that rubbing alcohol is ineffective against oil-based paints which seem to be what is used on most walls.

Using rubbing alcohol to remove paint from walls will be time-consuming and cost-ineffective.

As an expert tip, use rubbing alcohol to remove paint stains from walls. You can also use it for small-scale tasks or tasks where you don’t have to strip multiple coatings of paint off a wall.

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

Will Rubbing Alcohol Remove Paint From Metal?

Rubbing alcohol can remove paint from metal but only water-based paints or acrylic paints. Rubbing alcohol is also non-corrosive which means it is safe to use on metal surfaces.

As long as you don’t dilute the rubbing alcohol with water, you can use it to remove different types of paint from metal surfaces without the possibility of corrosion or discoloration of the metal.

However, rubbing alcohol can’t be used to remove oil-based paints from metal. To do this, you should use acetone instead of rubbing alcohol.

To remove paint from metal using rubbing alcohol, you need to first ensure the paint isn’t oil-based. Oil-based paints can’t be removed using rubbing alcohol because the paint particles and polymer are resistant to isopropyl.

If it’s not oil-based you can remove it by spraying the paint with rubbing alcohol. You can also dab the paint with a lint-free cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol.

Since the rubbing alcohol isn’t corrosive, you can leave it on the metal for a while till you see the paint peeling off. The paint might also liquefy depending on the chemical properties of the paint. When the paint is off, wipe the metal surface with a clean rag and leave it to dry.

Related Read: Can You Use Latex on Metal?

Final Words

Overall, rubbing alcohol is an effective cleaning agent that is capable of removing just about any paint stain or finish from any surface. You just need to scrape the paint and let the rubbing alcohol sit for a few minutes. Then wipe off the paint stain and you have a clean surface.

The only caveat is that rubbing alcohol can’t remove oil paints. To remove oil paints, you should use acetone.

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