This post may contain affiliate links. We may earn a small commission from purchases made through them, at no additional cost to you.
Regardless of what project you are doing with paint, from a school project, or you may be a professional artist, you will always be concerned that the paint will accidentally splatter or spill, particularly if your workspace has a wooden surface, such as a desk, floor, a table, or any other wooden furniture. Acrylic paint dries especially quickly, and if you fail to remove the paint while it is still wet, you may find it hard to remove. There are, thankfully, many different techniques for getting acrylic paint off of wood, but they will all mean you will be doing some hard work. So, let’s look at how to remove acrylic paint from wood.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is Acrylic Paint?
- 2 Required Elements for Removing Acrylic Paint From Wood
- 3 How to Remove Acrylic Paint From Wood
- 4 Overall Safety Measure to Consider
- 5 Ways to Assist in Removing Acrylic Paint From Wood
- 6 Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Acrylic Paint?
Why is it concerning when you spill acrylic paint on wood? When the acrylic paint has dried, it forms a solid hard surface, that is very durable, making it challenging to remove the paint. Water-based acrylic paint for woodwork consists of three components, which are binder, pigment, and vehicle.
The pigment of acrylic paint for woodwork consists of granular solids that result in the color of your paint. these are broken up or crushed up, and form tiny particle sizes which do not dissolve but remain in the paint suspended. These granular particles or pigment particles can e natural, inorganic, synthetic, or organic, and are in no way similar to the surface to that they have been applied to.
The binder ingredient or material assists in holding the pigment to the surface once the paint has completely dried. Acrylic paint uses an acrylic polymer as a binder that creates a layer or film over the surface of the paint, once the water has completely evaporated.
The vehicle is what transports the pigment and the binder. Acrylic paint’s vehicle is water, which forms a polymer emulsion when combined with the binder. Once the paint has dried (as a result of the watering evaporating, or being absorbed), the results will be a durable, clear polymer film. It is this film that allows the color to remain on the surface of your artwork or workpiece.
There is more to acrylic paint for woodwork than just these three components. As the pigment sits on top of the water, some acrylic dispersant is incorporated to ensure the paint has a consistent mixture. The paint is made more effective through other additives being included.
|These additives are there to assist in keeping the pH level more stable, ensuring that the paint is more durable.
|These form a polymer film throughout the drying process, by activating the polymerization process.
|Defoamers and Surfactants
|These have been added to assist with the drying process.
|These additives assist in any microorganisms from growing on the paint.
|Stabilizers and Thickeners
|To assist in thickening the paint to the required thickness, whilst also creating some texture in your art piece.
Required Elements for Removing Acrylic Paint From Wood
When the water has been absorbed or has evaporated, and the acrylic paint has completely dried, the acrylic paint film will form thanks to the polymer molecules, which are no longer water-soluble. This is why it is necessary to remove the acrylic paint before it has dried, otherwise, you will be forced to use a substance that is capable of dissolving the acrylic resin.
Sometimes it is not possible to remove the paint spill before it has dried, as you may not be aware of the spill until it has already dried. Once dried, you will not be able to remove acrylic paint using only water. Luckily it is not too hard to remove acrylic paint from a wooden surface as the majority of products are fairly affordable and readily available. You will not have to use any form of power tool that could potentially damage the wooden surface.
How to Remove Acrylic Paint From Wood
Removing acrylic paint from your wooden surface is not as hard as you think, but most people worry about potentially damaging the wooden surface. The majority of methods work well with common household materials that we all have available in our bathroom or kitchen. Let us look at the different methods.
Removing Wet Acrylic Paint From Wood
Once the paint has been applied to the wooden surface, it is wet and will stay wet for a couple of minutes. This can be done by wiping down the surface completely, using a clean rag, mild detergent, and some warm water. You can then simply wipe the paint stain off the wooden surface. However, after 20 minutes have passed, the acrylic paint will have dried, and the warm water method will not be effective.
Using Soap and Water
This is the simplest and most affordable option of all methods available to remove acrylic paint from a wooden surface while it is still wet. Sadly, as previously mentioned, once the paint spill has dried the method will not be effective. If it is just a little mess, it is a great method to use to remove the acrylic paint off hardwood floors. The following materials are required.
- Clean Cloths
Removing Excess Acrylic Paint
You can use either a scraper or a putty knife to remove any paint. A great alternative is to use an old bank card, should you not have access to a putty knife or scraper. You can use the corner of the tool you have chosen to use, to scrape off the excess wet paint.
Wiping the Acrylic Paint Off
Wet a clean cloth with some water, and then rub at the paint stain with the cloth. Whilst rubbing, ensure you are using adequate pressure. When you see that the cloth has become saturated, swap the cloth out for a clean cloth. Wet the fresh cloth, using some hot water, and apply some bar or liquid soap. The best soap is glycerin soap, but any type of soap will work as long as it can produce some decent lather. Carefully use the cloth to scrub any remaining acrylic paint from the wooden surface.
You should be rubbing with the grain of the wood, maintaining a straight line while you work. If required you can add some additional soap and use a new clean cloth. You want to ensure that you have removed all the paint, including any which has gotten into the wood’s grain. Next, you will need to take a clean cloth and wipe down the whole wooden surface so that all traces of the paint and soap have been removed. When you have finished scrubbing down the wooden surface, allow it time to dry.
How to Remove Dried Acrylic Paint From Wood
The acrylic paint will have dried after roughly 20 minutes, which means it will be significantly more challenging to remove the spill. You can attempt the water and soap method, and if you are lucky, you may have gotten to the spill in time, and it will work. However, if the paint has dried there are other methods to turn to, to deal with the problem of how to remove dried acrylic paint from wood.
Using Vegetable Oil
If the soap and water method does not work, you can then try using vegetable oil, which should work, even if the acrylic paint has already dried. This is a wonderful method, thanks to it being natural. Should you wish to attempt this method you will require the following items.
- Vegetable oil
- Putty knife or scraper
- Paper towel
- Clean cloths
Soften the Paint
Using a clean cloth, with vegetable oil on it, wipe over the paint spill. Ensure that you cover the entire stain with the vegetable oil. Another option is to apply the vegetable oil using a paper towel or brush, directly to the paint spill. As mentioned, the whole stain must be covered in vegetable oil.
Allow the Oil to Sit
Leave the oil on the paint stain for about 30 minutes to one hour, which will allow time for the paint to soften. When softening the paint will start to bubble. This is a good indication that the oil is getting deeper into the paint on the wooden surface. Vegetable oil also really useful for keeping your paint-soaked brushes fresh if you don’t want to constantly clean them.
Using Rubbing Alcohol or Acetone
Rubbing alcohol or acetone are amazing products that can be used to clean acrylic paint off your wooden surfaces. You can find acetone in most nail polish removers, but it will do an amazing job in removing dried acrylic paint from your wooden surface. This method is great to be used on dry acrylic paint and bare wood surfaces or unvarnished wood surfaces. If you are dealing with a varnished surface, the acetone could cause the shine to dull. You will require the following materials should you choose to follow this method.
- Acetone or rubbing alcohol
- Steel wool
- Clean cloths
- Putty knife or scraper
Scrape the Top Layer of Paint Off
Take your putty knife, scraper, or some steel wool, and attempt to remove as many layers of acrylic paint as possible. Take care to not damage the wood in any way, you do not want to cause any fine scratch marks on the wooden surface. You can assist in making this method easier by using the vegetable oil method first. In doing so you will be softening the paint and will make it significantly easier to remove the paint.
Rub the Acrylic Paint Off
Pour some of the acetone or rubbing alcohol onto one of the clean cloths. You can then begin rubbing off the paint stain until you have separated it from the wooden surface. Continue adding additional alcohol until the paint stain is softened enough, but take care, as you can potentially damage the wooden surface with the alcohol. Take the putty knife or scraper and scrape the soft paint off the wooden surface.
Wipe the Residue Off
Take another clean cloth and dampen it with a small amount of warm water and use it with some soap. You can then wipe down the paint residue from the wooden surface. You can then take a dry cloth and wipe down the entire wooden surface. Allow the wooden surface at least 24 hours to completely dry.
Safety Measures When Working With Acetone or Rubbing Alcohol
When using acetone or rubbing alcohol to remove acrylic paint from a wooden surface, there are several safety measures that you need to be aware of and need to adhere to. What followers are a few safety measures you should adhere to?
- Keep in mind that rubbing alcohol is combustible, make sure you do not work with it around any open flames.
- Ensure you are wearing the necessary protective equipment when working with acetone or rubbing alcohol.
- Ensure that your workspace has adequate ventilation.
- Ensure that the acetone and/or the rubbing alcohol are kept away from all animals and children.
- Should the rubbing alcohol come into contact with your skin, it could result in redness and swelling.
- Never combine acetone and rubbing alcohol, the results can be potentially dangerous, use only one product or the other.
Using a Solvent
The best method, and the fastest method, is to remove the acrylic paint using a solvent. Sadly, it is also an unsafe method to use. The chemicals are toxic and are therefore potentially dangerous for the environment and your health. If you have a thick layer of paint that you need to remove on an unpainted or unfinished wooden surface, and you are not worried about impacting the finish of the wood, then this is the method for you. you will require the following materials should you wish to use this method.
- Paint solvent
- Paint roller or paintbrush
- Clean cloths
- Mineral spirits
- Respirator or mask
- Putty knife or scraper
Choose Your Solvent
Paint solvents are an efficient method to remove acrylic paint from a wooden surface and can be done quickly. You can choose to use chemicals such as ammonia, methylene chloride, paint stripper, or thinners. The most commonly chosen product is methylene chloride. This is a more environmentally friendly solvent than the other options, but is still a very toxic and dangerous chemical and should be used with care. You will need to ensure that all safety equipment and safety precautions should be used when using any form of solvent.
Put on Safety Gear
The fumes are particularly dangerous and toxic, you will need to wear the necessary safety gear to ensure you are adequately protected. It is necessary to wear the relevant protective gear, including gloves, goggles, and a mask (or respirator). It is paramount that you are working in a well-ventilated space.
Apply the Solvent
Use either your paint roller or paintbrush to apply a thin layer of solvent over your paint stain. Ensure that you do not pour the solvent straight onto the wooden surface as this can be extremely dangerous for both you and others. After roughly 20 to 30 minutes the paint will begin to bubble. This illustrates that the solvent is working.
Remove the Paint
Scrape the softened paint off using either the scraper or your putty knife. Work in the direction of the wood grain and be careful to not push down too hard as this can damage to the wooden surface.
Apply some mineral spirits to a dry clean cloth, then wipe down the entire wooden surface using the cloth. You want to ensure you remove both the solvent and the paint residue. Use another clean cloth soaked in water to wipe down the wooden surface again. This will ensure that the solvent is neutralized completely. Then allow sufficient time for the wooden surface to completely dry – this will take roughly one week.
Using a Heat Gun
For this particular method, you will need to initially establish if the area where the paint is, is a large enough space to justify the use of a heat gun. This is because a heat gun will only be effective to remove acrylic paint from larger wooden surface areas like furniture or a complete door. The use of a heat gun requires exposing the paint-stained surface to an extremely high temperature of over one thousand degrees Fahrenheit. The exposure to the heat will cause the paint to bubble and peel off in just seconds. In addition to the heat gun, you will require the following materials.
- Heat gun
- Clean cloths
- Heatproof gloves
- Putty knife or scraper
- Respirator or mask
Take All the Necessary Precautionary Measures
To begin with, you will need to read the instructions that you received with the heat gun and ensure that you follow them carefully. You will need to put on the relevant safety equipment, for example, safety goggles, heatproof gloves, a respirator, or a mask, and of course, the area you will be working in requires adequate ventilation.
Heat the Paint
Use a clean cloth to remove any dirt or debris and plug the heat gun into the power source. Switch it on and set the gun to the desired temperature setting. Firmly hold the heat gun in your hand, and allow a few seconds for the gun to fully warm up. We recommend you try a small section of the wooden surface, to begin with, to determine how it works. Aim the gun towards the paint stain and hold it roughly three to four inches away from the wood’s surface. Move the heat gun in a circular motion, working carefully as you go. Ensure that you do not exceed more than 10 to 20 seconds as any longer the heat could potentially damage the wooden surface.
Scrape the Paint Off
Hold the gun in one hand and the putty knife or scraper in the other hand. As soon as the paint begins to bubble, use your scraper to flick the paint off the surface. Work on a small patch at a time, and clean the mess from your scraper before you have any type of buildup. Work carefully so as not to damage the wooden surface, and continue the process until all the paint has been removed.
Wipe the Wood Surface Clean
Once the wood has cooled down, you can remove the residue by wiping down the surface using a clean cloth. You can clean down the surface using some rubbing alcohol, or just simply use soap and water.
Sanding the Wood
This is a great method to use if you are just learning how to get acrylic paint off wood. However, this tends to be extremely time-consuming and strenuous. This is the preferred method to use for unfinished wood, such as furniture like tables and chairs.
By sanding down the stained area, you will be able to remove the paint from the wood surface. You can either sand down the surface using sandpaper or a sanding block. Or, if you wish to decrease the amount of time it takes, you can use a power sanding machine. In addition to the sanding paper, you will require the following materials.
- Sandpaper (80 to 150 grit)
- Clean cloths
- Sanding blocks
- Goggles and gloves
- Power sander if required
- Clean hot water
- Respirator or mask
Sand the Wood Surface
Begin by removing any stray dirt or debris by wiping the surface down using a clean cloth. Ensure that you are wearing the necessary safety equipment like a mask, goggles, and gloves, and ensure the space you are working in is well ventilated. The sandpaper should be wrapped around a sanding block, once done you can begin sanding. Use a circular motion when sanding, and work in the direction of the grain of the wood. If you do not follow the grain you can leave unsightly scratches on the surface of your wood.
If the paint stain covers a larger area, then we suggest you use a power sanding machine. The sander will require an 80-grit sanding disc. Work carefully when sanding the wooden surface, so you do not damage it in any way.
Clean the Wood Surface
Take a clean, damp cloth and wipe down the entire wooden surface to remove any residue. Work with the wood grain when wiping. Wipe away any remaining paint. Now your wooden surface is clean and ready for you to apply any varnish or stain should you so wish.
Overall Safety Measure to Consider
Before you begin, remember that the most important thing is safety, and you need to adhere to all safety measures to ensure that you do not damage the wooden surface when you remove the acrylic paint spill or stain.
- Whatever method you turn to remove the dried acrylic paint spill, ensure that you kept it far away from animals and children.
- Ensure the space you are working in has adequate ventilation, keep all windows open, and ensure that there is a fresh cross-flow of air.
- Whichever method you choose to use to remove the dried acrylic paint spill, always test out the product first on a small section of the wooden surface to see what will happen.
- Take care to select a method that will work with the type of wood you are dealing with.
Ways to Assist in Removing Acrylic Paint From Wood
Removing acrylic paint from a wooden surface can be quite easy, or prove to be more challenging, as we have shown from the above methods. We have put together a few tips to assist you with the cleaning process and make the entire process more enjoyable.
- It is imperative that you read all the instructions on the container of whatever product you have chosen to use, as the instructions provide you with a clear directive on how to use the product.
- Determine the type of work you are dealing with, and only use the products recommended for that particular type of wood.
- Do not combine any of the cleaning materials, as it could potentially create a highly dangerous and toxic substance.
- Do not apply the solvent over areas of the wood that do not have the paint stain on, as it could potentially damage the wood.
So, there you go, you now know what to do to remove acrylic paint stains from wooden surfaces, whether the stains are dry or wet. Depending on the type of work you are dealing with, and whether the acrylic paint is wet or dry, will determine the method you need to use. Regardless of your situation, there is a method best suited for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Removes Acrylic Paint?
To remove wet acrylic paint, all you require is soap and water. However, what removes acrylic paint if it has already dried? To do this you will require the following materials; vegetable oil, rubbing alcohol or acetone, solvents like methylene chloride, paint stripper, or ammonia, and lacquer thinners. Another method you can use to remove paint is a heat gun, or you can sand down the wood.
How to Remove Dried Acrylic Paint From Wood Using Vinegar?
You can use some warmed vinegar (it can be warmed in the microwave or on the stovetop). Once heated, you can apply the vinegar to the paint stain using a cloth or a brush. The vinegar can then be left on for 20 minutes, and then you will be able to scrape off the softened paint.
How to Get Acrylic Paint off Hardwood Floors?
When dealing with the problem of how to get acrylic paint off hardwood floors, you can use a putty knife or a scraper to remove as much of the paint as you possibly can. If you are left with any paint, you can simply rub it off, using some rubbing alcohol on a clean cloth.
Can You Use Thinners to Get Acrylic Paint off Wood?
You may wonder how to get acrylic paint off wood. Since acrylic paint is made using plastic polymers, you can use lacquer thinners to remove acrylic paint. Unfortunately, this method will only be effective when applied to dried paint. As with any form of toxic or hazardous materials, ensure that the relevant safety precautions are adhered to.