Wondering How to Remove Spray Paint From Any Car Surface? Here’s a Simple Guide

October 2, 2020Car Care and Revamp
Eva Johnson

Digital nomad born in New York but currently living online, Eva knows everything there is to know about packing and moving.

If your car was vandalized and tagged with graffiti, you should find out how to remove spray paint instead of raging about your vehicle being damaged. This should be done as soon as possible because it will be much harder to remove the aerosol as time passes.


Before you start removing a stain, consider inspecting if it’s still wet, how badly your vehicle is damaged, and whether you can remove stains by yourself or should look for professional help. If you decide to do it DIY, keep in mind that there are many different removal methods, and they are not equally effective. Their efficiency depends on the type of aerosol that has been used and its composition.

And one thing more. If you’re not sure how to disconnect the car alarm, or how to change a flat tire, or maybe how to tell if a spark plug is bad, don’t worry. Compared to these mechanical problems, cleaning overspray from your car’s body is quite a straightforward process that requires only the right solvents and patience.

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Besides Metal, Concrete, and Skin, Which Other Surfaces Can Be Spray Painted

Aerosol cans are super flexible and can be applied on tons of different surfaces, including plastic, wood, ceramic, glass, tin, concrete, canvas, terra cotta, laminate, metal, etc. Keep in mind that preparing the surface before spraying is a must in order to achieve a smooth and professional finish. Most decorative items can be painted, but avoid spraying areas that contact beverages or food.

Types of Aerosols You Can Use on Your Car

If your car is damaged or ruined by graffiti, you might want to change its look by repainting it. To do this properly, you can’t use aerosols to your liking, but only proper sprays. Otherwise, using a paint designed for the house to spray your vehicle can ruin it. Imagine what a financial loss it would be if a mistake of this type was made on some of the most expensive cars in the world. That’s why you should choose automotive paints with color pigments, thinner to level the consistency, and with a binder.

Let’s find out what are 4 types of spray paints you can use for your car:

  • Water-based is environment-friendly and most often used in the car industry
  • Nitro-cellulose is highly toxic and is usually used if needed to repaint or touch-up classic cars
  • Acrylic enamel creates a tough coating on your car after drying
  • Acrylic urethane is the most pricey type of aerosol because it creates a very durable surface coating.

But, if you experienced the shock of finding out that your car has been vandalized recently, you’re probably trying to direct your adrenaline toward finding solutions to how to get rid of spray paint and avoiding potential road rage and driving stress. Fortunately, by following the proper instructions and steps, this is a process you can learn to handle by yourself. Many TV shows about cars and videos on YouTube explaining the whole process step-by-step. But, if you’re not sure how to get spray paint off, you can contact some of the best custom car shops to help you.

Today, most aerosols are made of hydrofluorocarbons, which consist of hydrogen, fluorine, and carbon
Aerosol paint is a combination of color stored in a pressure container and a gas propellant

Don’t Worry, Removing Spray Paint from Your Car Is Possible

Looking at your car with a stain on it, you’ll be desperate. With mixed feelings and not knowing why this happened to your car (maybe accidentally, during your house painting, or as a consequence of parking downtown near building works), the first question that pops into your mind is how to get spray paint off a car. Try to relax because this condition is not permanent, and there are many effective ways to restore your vehicle to its previous appearance.

When Removing Spray Paint from Metal, Make Sure to Protect Your Skin and Eyes

Even though the use of highly toxic coatings have been reduced over the years, any kind of exposure to aerosols compounds is risky. So, when removing a stain from your car’s surfaces and metal in general, you should be equipped with protective gear. Since metal is non-porous like wooden surface or concrete, this process is easier and faster, but still requires safety precautions. Before using any paint-removing agents, wear protective gear:

  • Pair of gloves
  • A mask
  • A pair of goggles.
Luckily, modern aerosol cans present a much smaller risk to the environment
Protective gear is a must

How to Remove Spray Paint from a Car

If you’re not sure what type of products you should use to remove paints from your car, one thing is certain – water alone will definitely not remove this strong and durable chemistry from affected areas. Still, your first choice can be dish soap and water. Every household has this natural grease remover, and in combination with the microfiber cloth, soap can do wonders. If this method brings you results, it’s great, but you usually need to try several different products to discover which one is the most efficient cleaner.

Method #1: Nail Polish

If you want to avoid acetone, which is a cheap and good solution but can damage your original paint, try nail polish remover. It can have acetone in it, but is still a better option than pure acetone because it is diluted with other ingredients. But, if you would like to use an acetone-free product, there are nail polish removers without it. Pour a hefty amount on a damp microfiber towel or terry cloth and make small, circular motions to remove the stain. Once the spray-paintings are gone, wash your car thoroughly.

Method #2: Automotive Detail Cleaner

Using a car exterior detail cleaner is the less aggressive treatment when dealing with car graffiti. You can purchase it at an automotive or home improvement store. Spray the cleaner onto the car’s painted area, get a clean and dry cloth, and rub vigorously until all the marks and spots disappear.

Method #3: Detailing Clay

You’ll be fascinated by how powerful this polymer can be – it removes paints and graffiti without scratches. Just make sure to wash and dry your vehicle before using the clay in order to get the maximum of its efficiency. Take a piece of clay, soften it, and make a pancake of it. Use clay lubricant to the affected area and onto the clay pancake. Rub the clay over the damaged surface in a back and forth motion until the paint is removed. With a microfiber towel, wipe eventual residues. It’s useful to know that clay removes previously applied coats of wax, so it’s recommended to apply a new layer at the end.

Method #4: Butter Wet Carnauba Wax

If you’ve tried everything already mentioned, and you’re still wondering how to get spray paint off a car, with butter wet wax, you will finish the job. It is a smooth, liquid creme wax that provides a natural protective coating. Furthermore, it’s a natural product that cleans your car from road tar, tree sap, light scuffs, bird droppings, and overspray. How to use it and remove the aerosol stains from the car? Here are the steps to follow:

  • Shake the bottle well and spread a thin coat over the surface with a microfiber or foam applicator
  • If using a machine application, place 4-6 dots of wax on the soft pad and spread it over one panel. Use a dual action polisher and it’s recommended not to exceed pressure and speed setting 3
  • This wax should be used on the shiny and clear exterior car surfaces, no matter if they’re made of plastic, metal, or glass.

Why is this butter wax so efficient? It contains carnauba oils that will easily break down the overspray. When cleaning with a sponge or cloth, apply the wax on it, and in a circular motion, rub the affected area until the spray is removed. After that, take a microfiber cloth and remove any leftover wax.

YouTube video

How to Clean Spray Paint Using Household Products

If you belong to the group of people who like non-toxic products, and above all cheap and easily accessible, you should look around and see what might be an appropriate cleaner in your household. Does vinegar remove spray paint?, might be one of the dilemmas you would like to know the answer before the cleaning process. Vinegar will remove the stains but can cause dot damage to the paint. This means you should polish the color after cleaning. To simplify this process, consider using other available products you probably have somewhere in your bathroom or kitchen.

Use Inexpensive Cleaning Solvents

Cleaning metal surfaces can be performed successfully using affordable cleaning solvents, such as baking soda and mineral spirits. For larger panels on your car, apply baking soda to a damp towel and rub. If you can see stains remaining, the clay will remove them efficiently.

People usually ask Will mineral spirits remove spray paint? Yes, they will, but only in case if the coloring is oil-based. So, this mixture is suitable for aerosols that contain oil. When it comes to larger areas, you can try with clay first, and after that with mineral spirits. They will remove any remaining paint flakes and paint stripper. After that, use a clean cloth for drying.

Rubbing Alcohol for Water-Based Paint

If your overspray coloring is water-based, the most successful method is using rubbing alcohol. When using it, you should wear rubber gloves in order to protect your skin and hands.

Using a clean and soft cloth is the final step in every cleaning method
Microfiber towel is one of the most important tools when cleaning your car

What Steps Do You Need to Take if Your Car Has Been Vandalized

Your auto insurance policy should cover any damage to your car, including graffiti if you have full coverage. So, before you start removing overspray DIY or paying experts to do that for you, thanks to your insurance company, your car can be recovered by following these steps:

  • Take photos and contact the police within 24 hours
  • Call your insurance company
  • Visit National Auto Collision Centers, which can repair the body and exterior damage.
Make sure to have all the evidence about damage in order to repair your car
Take photos of your car and use it as evidence for the police and insurance company

If You’re Relocating, Auto Insurance Will Protect Your Car from Any Kind of Damage

Sometimes, your vehicle can be damaged during shipping car cross country. So, if you’re moving soon, you should think about a reliable auto transport company and auto shipping options, such as door-to-door auto transport. Since your car is the most important possession besides your home, it’s useful to know that many companies’ policies should be checked before loading your vehicle on the carrier. You should know what kind of protection the auto transport company can provide for your car, especially if it comes to exotic auto transport.

Vandalism can happen during auto transport, and that’s why you should determine whether open carrier transport is the right choice, or maybe enclosed auto transport would suit you better. If you’re not sure what the pros and cons are when it comes to car transport open VS enclosed, you should ask for a car shipping advice from your company. It transports cars from state to state, no matter if they are the president’s limo or a vehicle whose owner is looking for the cheapest way to ship a car. It’s up to you to ask everything you want to know, including things about auto transport insurance.

In order to avoid unexpected hassles and costs, here are things to know when preparing a car for shipping:

  • Ask your car shipping company for proof of insurance
  • All agreements and considerations should be in writing
  • Check with your auto insurance company whether it covers your vehicle during transport or not
  • Be familiar with car bill of lading, which is a kind of big receipt for your paid service – it includes everything that goes into transporting your vehicle.

Only with full auto shipping services, you can rest assured that you will safely move the car to another state. Whether you’re an experienced driver or a newbie on the most famous routes in the USA, keep in mind that your auto transport company is obliged to inform you about their policy before agreeing to the contract. So, suppose your auto transportation company failed to provide you with the expected services. In that case, you can issue a complaint with local authorities such as the Better Business Bureau office. After all, knowing your rights in the process is as vital as choosing a right shipper.

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