Remember when I removed the acrylic gesso from that piece of wood that turned out to be particle board? That was disappointing. But it did teach me something: paint can be removed from certain things. Sometimes even without destroying those things.
So when I got sick of the lamp I painted red (long story), I decided to try again. I discovered two things:
- Acrylic paint can be removed from metal.
- So can spray paint.
Yes, you read that correctly. So did you mess up a paint job? Don’t like that color as much as you thought you would? Want to start over (or even just fix the mistake)? It’s so easy. Let me show you.
For removing paint from metal, you will need:
- acetone (you can use nail polish remover, just make sure it says 100% acetone)
- rubbing alcohol
- lint-free rags
You will NOT mix these. Please don’t do that.
ETA: Also, I forgot to mention earlier, try to do this in a well-ventilated area. If you can’t, then at least wear a ventilation mask (NOT a dust mask). Breathing in these chemicals in small amounts won’t do any harm, but if you have a prolonged exposure to them it can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, and increased heart rate. On rare occasions, inhaling acetone or absorbing it through the skin can case acetone poisoning. Symptoms can vary from person to person. If you start to experience any of the symptoms on the site I just linked to, seek immediate medical attention. Children and pets will be affected faster than adults, so be sure to keep them away from the area until the smell has gone.
Removing Acrylic Paint from Metal:
Get a lint-free cloth and soak it in rubbing alcohol (not acetone). Squeeze out any excess (you do not want rubbing alcohol dripping all over the place). Then just rub the alcohol on the paint until it comes off.
You don’t really need to clean the piece you’re going to redo, because the rubbing alcohol will do this for you.
Removing Spray Paint from Metal:
Again, take your lint-free cloth and soak it in acetone (again, squeeze out any excess–have acetone drip everywhere is worse than rubbing alcohol). Rub the spot you want to fix (or the whole piece, if you want) until the paint rubs off.
This is something I like to do if I accidentally get too close to what I’m spraying and the paint drips. I just pull that section off the piece I’m redoing and then spray it again. Works every time.
What if I’ve sealed the paint?: It depends on what you used to seal it. If it was water-based (as acrylic paint is), rubbing alcohol should get the sealant off. If the sealant is oil-based (as spray paint is), use acetone. Those are the two main types of paint and sealant you’ll see, so these should work for just about every project. Also, when sealing paint, remember to use the same base.
Does this work on other materials?: I’m not entirely sure on that one. I know it will work on canvas and wood pieces, but you want to be sure to dry them thoroughly as soon as you’re done. Letting the liquid sit there will destroy it. On clothes? I’m not sure.
Can I reuse the cloths?: Not really. The paint will dry to the cloth and make it difficult to use again. You can try hand-washing them after you’re done, but it doesn’t work so well. Do NOT put them in the washing machine. You’re actually not supposed to put clothes in the washer if they have paint on them, anyway (though I’m quite guilty of doing this). But acetone and rubbing alcohol are highly flammable. NEVER put articles that have been soaked in them in the washer and ESPECIALLY not in the dryer. Just be sure to use cloths you don’t mind throwing away. To dispose of acetone, please follow these instructions.
I used this method on some lamps recently.
I then refinished the lamp in oil-rubbed bronze. It looks so much better now.
Do you have your own method of removing paint? How does it work? Discuss it in the comments!