How to Remove Spray Paint from a Car

No one wants to spend their Saturday morning looking up “How to remove spray paint from a car” after their car was tagged overnight, but sometimes it happens. 

Luckily, there are several tried and true methods that can help solve your problem with ease, saving you time, money, and energy better spent hanging out with family all day. You can read more about How to Remove Spray Paint from Rims & How to Remove Spray Paint from Tires.

Below are 10 of the best ways to remove spray paint from a car:

How to Remove Spray Paint from a Car
How to Remove Spray Paint from a Car

The Best 10 Methods to Getting Spray Paint or Graffiti Off a Car:

Method 1: Use Soap and Water

Soap and water is the safest and easiest method. Before using a harsh chemical to get persistent graffiti off, it should be your first choice. The weather will affect how quickly the graffiti dries. To be effective, you will have to wash it off using soap and water within 24 hours, which can be a challenge if you don’t see the paint until hours later. 

You will need:

  • Bucket for the water
  • Clean rags (preferably microfiber cloth)
  • Concentrated detergent soap
  • Warm water

How to:

Prepare the mixture in the bucket.

  1. Prepare the mixture in the bucket.
  2. Rub the area using gentle circles.
  3. Wash to get the residue off.

Method 2: Use Non-Acetone Nail Polish Remover

Use ethyl acetate nail polish remover when figuring out how to remove spray paint from a car because it is not as harsh as an acetone-based nail polish remover. Although it is more gentle, it is a chemical that can strip the coat on your car. Stop immediately if you see flecks of your vehicle’s paint because the topcoat is wearing off. 

You will need:

  • Bucket
  • Clean rags
  • Soap
  • Warm water
  • Non-acetone nail polish remover

How to:

  1. Prepare the soap and water mixture in the bucket.
  2. Dab the cloth into the nail polish remover.
  3. Work the cloth in careful circles.
  4. Wash the car thoroughly with soap and water.

Method 3: Use a Clay Bar

A clay bar is safe and effective when searching for how to get spray paint off a car without damaging the exterior. You can get a clay bar kit that comes with the materials you’ll need. The biggest drawback is that it’s one of the most expensive options. 

You will need:

How to:

  1. Cut off as much clay as you need, then shape it with your hands.
  2. Apply a generous amount of lubricant to the flat side of the clay.
  3. Rub it over the affected area with firm pressure.
  4. Wipe off excess lubricant with the cloth.
  5. Wash it or wax it to protect the exterior in the future (optional).

Method 4: Use Rubbing Compound

An automotive rubbing compound doesn’t contain detergents or solvents. It uses abrasive particles to remove sediment, similar to how sandpaper works on wood. This can be an effective method for how to remove spray paint from a car, but it can easily strip the vehicle’s paint if you’re not careful.

You will need:

How to:

  1. Apply as little rubbing compound to the cloth.
  2. Work in small, controlled circles. Patience is key when using this substance.
  3. Wax then wash the vehicle’s surface.

You may want to work as quickly as possible, but this will increase the chances of making a mistake and damaging your vehicle’s paint. 

Method 5: Use Gasoline

You might not have considered using gasoline when looking up How to remove spray paint from a car, but it’s a popular DIY choice when on a budget. Be careful because it is flammable and abrasive, like non-acetone nail polish remover. Switch out your rag when the spray paint begins to smear. 

You will need:

  • Bucket
  • Water
  • Soap
  • Clean cloth
  • Gasoline

How to: 

  1. Prepare the materials by mixing the soap and water in the bucket.
  2. Dab the cloth with gasoline, then gently work in small controlled circles from the edges to the center.
  3. Wash and rinse your car thoroughly to avoid any problems with flammability in the future.

Method 6: Use Lacquer Thinner

Next on the list on how to remove spray paint from a car is using lacquer thinner. You might want to try this method if the non-acetone nail polish remover you borrowed wasn’t strong enough. Lacquer thinner is a strong solvent used to dissolve resins on wood finishes, but it’s useful for this too. 

You will need:

How to:

  1. Apply a small amount of the thinner to the cloth and rub it on the affected area.
  2. Rub vigorously until all residue is removed.

Rinse the area between and afterward to prevent the thinner from eating away at the vehicle’s topcoat. 

Method 7: Use Butter Wet Wax

Butter wet wax or carnauba wax is a natural oil that helps break down spray paint and makes your car shinier. This liquid wax makes it easy to rub the surface to easily peel the spray right off. There are no abrasives that will scratch the surface. This is one of the most gentle options for how to get spray paint off a car.

You will need:

  • Bottle of Butter Wet Wax
  • Cloth

How to:

  1. Apply a generous amount of wax to the cloth.
  2. Rub the car in gentle circles until all residue is removed.

Rinse and wash to remove the excess wax.

Method 8: Use Goo Gone Gel

Goo Gone Gel is specifically formulated to loosen the particles in graffiti, making it easier to wash off. It’s safe for a variety of paint styles to help anyone dealing with this messy problem. This adhesive remover is petroleum-based, so it’s designed to keep your car’s topcoat safe. 

You will need:

  • Bottle of Goo Gone Gel
  • Cloth
  • Soap
  • Water

How to:

  1. Apply a generous amount of the Goo Gone Gel onto the cloth.
  2. Rub the cloth over the affected area in gentle circles until all residue is removed.
  3. Rinse the area with soap and water to clean off excess residue.

Method 9: Use Graffiti Remover

Graffiti remover stays true to its name because it’s designed specifically for anyone searching for the most effective method of how to get spray paint off a car. Do a switch test before applying it to the problem area to guarantee it doesn’t pull off the vehicle’s top layer.

You will need:

  • Graffiti Remover
  • Cloth
  • Bucket of clean water

How to:

  1. Spray the graffiti remover onto the cloth or directly onto the car. Let it sit for 1-2 minutes to loosen the particles. However, do not exceed the labeled time frame or risk damaging the car.
  2. Wipe the graffiti remover away with a clean cloth.

Method 10: Get Professional Help

If all else fails after trying every method of how to remove spray paint from a car, it’s time to get professional help. If you don’t feel comfortable with this DIY job, it might be best to make an appointment.

Call the body shop and your insurance agent to get an estimate for the job. They will most likely try one of the previously mentioned methods or they will have to repaint the damage if it’s bad enough. 

You can file a vandalism claim with your insurance if you have comprehensive coverage. Check the deductible to see if you can get reimbursed for the bill. 

What are the Spray Paint Prevention Methods?

One of the best ways to prevent yourself from having to look up “How to get spray paint off a car” before removing unwanted graffiti from your car is using wax. 

Wax is one of the most recommended and inexpensive graffiti prevention methods. Using wax prevents the top layer from being damaged when the spray tries to set onto the surface and later when the spray is lifted during cleaning. 

You can’t always stop these things from happening, but you can do your best to make the process easier if you can’t stop someone from putting graffiti on your car. 


Q: What is the easiest method for removing spray paint?

The easiest method is using soap and water, but it’s only effective within the first 24 hours. 

Q: How to remove overspray from the car?

The best way to remove overspray is using a clay bar because it can be used on the body and windows. 

Q: Does acetone remove spray paint?

Acetone does remove spray paint, but it also strips away the car’s paint in the process. 

Q: Will acetone damage my car?

Yes, acetone will damage the car paint. It’s recommended to use an ethyl acetate remover instead. 

Q: Will paint thinner remove spray paint?

Yes, in some cases, paint thinner or a lacquer thinner will remove it. 

Q: How to remove dried spray paint?

There are several methods to choose from when searching for how to get spray paint off a car that will work based on how long it has been dry. 

Q: Will Goof Off remove spray paint off a car?

Yes, but it should be used with caution to protect the vehicle’s surface. 

Q: Does vinegar remove spray paint?

Vinegar is a safe and economical method for removing spray paint. 

Q: Is Goo Gone safe on car paint?

Goo Gone is safe but should be used with caution. 

Q: What’s the best product for removing spray paint?

The best product depends on the paint and how long it has been dry. 

Q: Will rubbing alcohol damage my car?

Rubbing alcohol will damage and wear out the clear coat. 

Q: How do you remove Rust-Oleum spray paint?

The first choice on how to remove spray paint from a car is water and soap. 


Every car owner is proud of what their vehicle looks like, and having your car tagged with ugly or offensive graffiti is a valid reason to be angry. Rather than take out your anger on the suspected vandal or your annoying neighbor, turn your attention to finding the right method to remove spray paint from your car.

We guarantee each method in this guide can be effective depending on the context of the situation. Finding the one that works best for you might require some trial and error, but don’t worry; this problem will be fixed with a little patience and elbow grease.

Related Articles:

Read More

Share On