Does White Spirit Remove Paint? (How-To)

While painting, you can get unwanted splatters and stains on the surface. Since white spirit is effective in removing stains, can it remove paint? 

White spirit can remove fresh paint stains from different surfaces, including concrete, wood, and tiles. However, if the paint has cured, you can’t remove it. 

White spirit only contains 30% alcohol, meaning it isn’t strong enough to penetrate and dissolve dried coatings, especially oil-based finishes. 

Dried Paint

White spirit won’t remove dried paint because it is a mild solvent containing just 30% alcohol. This makes it incapable of removing dried coatings. Cured oil-based paints especially clear coats and varnishes can’t be removed using white spirit alone.

However, you can use it to kick-start to paint removal process. The solvent can be used alongside stronger solvents and paint removers to remove dried coatings. 

You can use white spirit to soften (weaken) a dried coating, then use scrappers or scrubbing brushes to strip the softened coating off the surface.

To remove dried coatings off a surface, you must use an alcohol-based solvent. This is because alcohol is strong enough to dissolve and remove dried coatings. Acetone and rubbing alcohol are great choices. 

On the other hand, white spirit is not alcohol-based. Though the solvent contains about 30% alcohol, it also has a larger volume of petroleum distillates. And, that doesn’t work great with dried coatings.

Solvents that contain a high volume of petroleum distillates aren’t great for removing coatings. They are designed to thin paint before applying it, so they don’t have a high percentage of alcohol to actually remove the entire coating. 

Related Read: Can Mineral Spirits Remove Paint?

How To Use White Spirit To Remove Paint?

Removing paint with white spirit isn’t a tough task. But like every other solvent, you need to be careful while using it to prevent long-lasting damage to the surface.

Here are the tools that you need:

  • A bottle or keg of white spirit
  • Paint scraper or putty knife
  • Dish Soap
  • Warm Water
  • Scrubbing brush
  • Clean rags

1. Wipe The Affected Spot

Wipe The Affected Spot

First, wipe the affected spot with a clean rag. After cleaning it, inspect the finish, If the finish has a glossy appearance, it’s most likely oil-based. If it has a flat textured appearance, it’s water-based. 

White spirits can remove some dried water-based finishes (although very unlikely), but it can’t remove oil-based finishes. So, if the finish is oil-based, choose a different solvent, such as acetone.

2. Scrape The Paint Off The Surface

Scrape The Paint Off The Surface

Scrap as much paint as possible off the surface using a scraper or putty knife. This helps to remove the bulk of the coating, helping the white spirits to deal with less paint. 

This also works for dried paints. As stated earlier, white spirit doesn’t usually remove dried finishes. But if you scrape the bulk of the dried coating off first, you might just be lucky.

To scrape the paint off, position the scraper or putty knife at a 30 or 45-degree angle. This helps to get the tip of the scraper underneath the coating so it is easier to remove it. Then, push the scraper underneath the coating and lift it up. Repeat this until most of the coating is gone. 

Note: You can also apply white spirits over the coating to soften it. This makes scraping it easier. 

3. Apply The White Spirit

Apply The White Spirit

Once you scraped most of the paint, apply white spirits to the surface. To apply it, use a spray bottle or a rag. Usually, a rag will do just fine. Pour it on a rag, then use the dampened rag to wipe the affected spot repeatedly.

You can also pour it directly onto the surface. But, this should only be done on non-porous surfaces like glass, plastic, and concrete. This is because non-porous surfaces are impermeable. 

On the other hand, you shouldn’t pour it directly on porous surfaces, such as wood. This is because the wood has tiny holes and pores that allow the white spirits to soak into the surface. This can cause the wood to discolor, stain, or make it unpaintable. 

After you apply the white spirits, wait 10 minutes. You will notice some changes in the coating. The coating can change its color, dissolve, or even appear wrinkled. After 10 minutes, wipe the surface with a clean rag and inspect it. 

4. Scrub The Remaining Paint Off

Scrub The Remaining Paint Off (For Dried Paint)

If there are leftovers on the surface, re-apply the white spirits, wait 10 minutes, and use a scrubbing brush to scrub the paint off. This helps to lose the bond of the coating, so it’s easier to remove it. 

5. Wash The Affected Spot

Wash The Affected Spot

You shouldn’t leave white spirits over porous surfaces for too long, it can cause different problems. You shouldn’t also leave it over non-porous surfaces for too long as it can stain it. 

After removing the paint, mix dish soap and warm water in a bowl. Use the mixture to wash off the white spirit residue from the surface. After washing the spot, rinse it with clean water up to 3 times. Then you should clean the affected spot with a clean towel.

Ensure all the water and moisture on the spot are cleaned off. Then leave the spot to dry.

6. Last Resort

Last Resort

If white spirit didn’t remove the coating from a surface, it means the coating has dried properly and you can’t remove it. You must use a stronger solvent, such as acetone to remove it. The last result should be a chemical-based paint stripper. They are designed to remove even the toughest finishes and sealants off surfaces. 

Different Surfaces:


You can strip fresh coatings off concrete surfaces using white spirits. However, if the coating has dried, you can’t remove it. Concrete is porous too, so you shouldn’t use too much solvent as it can damage it. 

Related Read: Does Goo Gone Remove Dried Paint?


White spirit can remove water-based dried paints that haven’t fully cured from wooden surfaces. If the paint hasn’t cured yet, it means it hasn’t bonded to the surface yet, so you can remove it. 

However, wood is a porous surface, so you shouldn’t use too much white spirit as you can discolor or stain it. 


White spirit can remove paint from brick, but only if the coating is still wet. Also, you should apply the white spirit on the brick by using a rag and not pour it directly. Bricks are porous and if they absorb white spirit they might get discolored. 


White spirit can remove paint from metal, but you need to scrape the paint using a scraper first. Remove most of the paint and then apply white spirits. Leave it for 10 minutes and then clean the metal surface using warm water. 


White spirits is commonly used to remove paint from brushes. Pour white spirit into a clean bucket and put the brush inside the bucket and leave it there for 10 minutes. Move the brush around the bucket. After 10 minutes, get the brush out off and clean it with warm water. 

If the paint has dried on the brush, then pour some warm water into the brush before applying mineral spirits — this works best for water-based paints.   

Final words

In summary, white spirits can remove fresh paint coatings from a surface, but it will struggle to remove dried coatings. That’s because white spirits only contains 30% alcohol, so it isn’t strong enough to penetrate or dissolve a dried coating. 

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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