If you have unwanted paint on a wooden surface or need to remove old, dry paint, you may be wondering how to remove acrylic paint from wood. Although acrylics normally wash off, they can leave paint stains on your table after the kids are painting or an accidental spill. Or you may want to restore the paint job on your wood floors or furniture.
There are many ways you can remove acrylic paint from a wood surface. The right process for you may depend on the wood type, the surface area, whether the paint is wet or dry, and the available materials. For example, wet acrylic paint comes off with soapy water.
In this article, we provide step-by-step instructions on the many popular ways you can use to extract acrylic paint from wood. Use the process that’s best for your scenario.
Is Acrylic Paint Permanent On Wood?
Acrylic paint can stain wood, but the paint is not typically permanent. With a bit of elbow grease, you can even clear away dried acrylic paint from wooden furniture. Painting wood with durable acrylics is suggested for furniture or doors, but the paint may peel or chip over time.
How To Remove Acrylic Paint From Wood: 9 Ways
You can get rid of acrylic paint from a wooden surface rather easily with the right tools. However, the process and the equipment you use depend on your project.
The paint removal method you select also depends on whether the paint is wet or dry, the surface area, the wood type, and whether you have an indoor or outdoor project. Use the following guidelines to help you pick the right method for your needs. Watch out for the safety precautions involved with each method as well.
1. Rubbing Alcohol
Rubbing alcohol works like magic at erasing acrylic paint from hardwood flooring, unvarnished wood, or bare wood. Isopropyl alcohol is another option. However, make sure the wood is bare. Proceed with caution, as using rubbing alcohol could dull the shine of varnished surfaces.
When using rubbing alcohol, you must also take a few other precautions. The alcohol is flammable, so never use it near an open flame or excessively hot surface, or you could start a fire. Also, avoid using rubbing alcohol near an open window where you may expose people passing by and keep it away from children.
To remove acrylic paint from wood, follow these steps:
- Scrape off any dry paint on the wood using a paint scraper or putty knife. Try to extract as much paint as you can without damaging the wood.
- Saturate a towel in rubbing alcohol. Pour enough to cover the cloth.
- Rub the towel back and forth onto the paint spots, adding more alcohol as needed.
- If the paint stain is large, use steel wool instead of a cloth to rub the alcohol against the paint to remove it.
- Clean the wood using a soapy cloth to remove any residue.
- Dry the wood with a towel.
2. Soapy Water
When the paint is still wet and fresh, start with soap and water. This option also works well at removing acrylic paint from varnished wood. Make sure to use a soap that lathers well to ensure it can penetrate the wood grain, such as liquid dish soap. You also need to get to the paint before it dries completely, or the hot water and soap will not remove the paint.
Follow these steps:
- Create a soap and water mixture, stirring to create a lather.
- Soak a clean towel in soapy water.
- Use the towel to rub the paint from the surface.
- Keep rubbing the painted surface, lathering the soap, until the paint is gone.
- Remove any residue using the wet towel.
- Use a dry towel to wipe the surface, eliminating the paint residue and excess water.
3. Heat GunHeat guns are a fantastic way to cut out dried paint from a large surface area or wooden furniture, such as a door or table. They are available from your local hardware store. Before using a tool like a heat gun for a large project, check the manufacturer’s directions for the best results.
Heat guns are dangerous. They produce enough heat to melt glass and can pose serious ignition hazards, according to the University of Chicago. Above all, be careful when using this process to remove paint.
To use a heat gun, you need protective gear as well. You will need a respirator or mask and leather gloves. Leather is recommended because they offer heat-free protection for your hands. Wear clothing that can protect your skin from burns, and always keep the heat gun pointed away from your body or any other living creatures.
You also need to work in a ventilated area or open space and keep an extinguisher nearby. Never use an extension cord to power a heat gun for the best results. The extension cord could overheat and cause fire or electric shock. Princeton University offers other heat gun safety guidelines, such as allowing the heat gun to fully cool before putting it down on any surface.
Follow these steps:
- Put on your protective gear and double-check your ventilation for safety.
- Turn on the gun, and set it to the maximum heat setting.
- Hold the heat gun around four inches above the surface. Move it in small, circular movements across the paint.
- The paint should begin to bubble on the wood. When this happens, set the heat gun aside and use a putty knife to scrape off the paint. Make sure to scrape following the wood grain and use gentle pressure to avoid causing damage to the wood.
- Allow the wood to cool. When it’s no longer hot, use a damp towel with soapy water to eliminate the remaining residue.
- Leave the surface to dry.
4. Denatured AlcoholSimilar to the option with rubbing alcohol, denatured alcohol is a powerful way to discard acrylic paint from unfinished or unvarnished wood. However, denatured alcohol is stronger than regular rubbing alcohol. Go with this choice if you need more effectiveness than rubbing alcohol provides.
However, you should know that denatured alcohol can be poisonous and highly flammable. Always head to a well-ventilated space and keep an extinguisher nearby in case of fire. You may also want to use a respirator or protective mask for safety.
Here are the step-by-step instructions:
- Cover a paintbrush or cloth with denatured alcohol.
- Coat the alcohol onto the dry paint, leaving a generous amount to break down the acrylic resin on the surface for two and five minutes.
- Scrape off the now soft paint using a scraper or putty knife. Try to go easy on the pressure, as a putty knife could damage the surface.
- Get rid of the paint you remove appropriately.
- Repeat the process of applying the alcohol and scraping the surface until the paint is completely removed.
- Use cold water to dampen a towel, and wipe the surface to remove any remaining residue.
5. Vegetable or Olive Oil
If you’re removing dry acrylic paint, go with vegetable or olive oil. Use the oil to remove dry acrylics.
Here are the steps you need:
- Drop the oil directly onto the painted surface.
- Use paper towels to rub the oil gently.
- Cover all the acrylic paint with oil.
- Allow the vegetable oil on the surface for 15 minutes, which should soften the paint and cause it to bubble. Don’t touch wood during this step.
- Scrape the acrylic off the wood using a paint scraper. Use gentle pressure to eliminate the stain without causing any damage or scratches to the varnish.
- Remove the oil and any remaining paint pieces using a damp towel.
- Repeat the steps as needed to remove any remaining paint.
You can use paint solvents to strip thick layers of acrylic paint away from wood quickly. There are a few options, such as ammonia, lacquer thinner, or methylene chloride. These solvents can dissolve a thick layer of paint from unpainted or unfinished wood without harming the finish.
However, keep in mind that all paint solvents come with environmental dangers and serious health risks. This option is one of the most toxic. For this reason, you may want to reach out to a professional if you need assistance. If you choose to work with solvents, always wear protective gear and take safety precautions.
Here are the steps:
- Put on your protective equipment, including gloves, long sleeves, goggles, and a respirator. Avoid allowing the chemical to contact your skin and open a window or check the ventilation.
- Add a thin layer of solvent to the painted surface using a paintbrush or roller.
- Allow the solvent to sit on the surface for 20 to 30 minutes or follow the manufacturer’s recommendation.
- Remove the bubbling paint using a putty knife or plastic scraper. Move following the wood grain.
- Pour mineral spirits on a cloth, wiping it on the wood. The mineral spirit is powerful at neutralizing the wood and removing any remaining residue or solvent.
- Follow the mineral spirits by cleaning off the surface using a clean, wet cloth.
- Finally, let it fully dry. After around a week, you can refinish the surface.
7. AcetoneAcetone is so powerful at removing many types of paint, so it’s no wonder that you can use it to remove acrylic paint. You can purchase acetone from any hardware or paint store. This process is best at pulling out acrylic paint from unfinished or bare wood.
Use these step-by-step instructions to remove acrylic paint with acetone:
- Layer the acetone on top of the acrylic paint, covering the liquid with paper towels. Acetone evaporates quickly, which helps slow down the process long enough for the paint to soften.
- Allow it to sit for five minutes.
- Use a scraper on the paint, then use a clean rag to rub more acetone on the lingering paint. Scrub the paint back and forth. You should see the paint start to build upon your towel.
- Repeat step three as needed.
- When the paint is gone, clean the wood surface with soap and water. A damp towel is ideal, as too much water could damage the wood.
- Dry the wood with a towel, and allow any remaining moisture to dry.
If you want to remove thick acrylic paint on a wood door, try the sanding method. The process is effective, but it requires effort to remove the paint completely. A power sander allows you to reduce the effort and time the project includes, but if you cannot access one, collect your sanding block and fine sandpaper. Look for 80 to 150 grit.
Sanding the wood is also the best way to remove acrylic paint stains from wooden furniture, such as coffee or end tables.
If this sounds like your project, follow these instructions:
- Prepare the safety equipment and head to a well-ventilated or open-air area.
- Now, you can prepare to sand by either getting your power sander ready or wrapping sandpaper on your sanding block.
- Use back and forth movements to sand away the acrylic. Doing so helps get rid of thick paint layers and deep stains in the wood grain.
- Remove the dust.
- Next, move to a higher grit and repeat the previous step. This is a fantastic time to switch to 150-grit.
- Clean up the dust, and use a damp towel to clean off the wood surface. At this stage, the wood appears brighter and feels softer.
- Then you can repaint or varnish the surface as you see fit.
9. Paint StripperFor tough exterior jobs, you may want to go with a chemical paint stripper. They work well for removing thick acrylic paint on a vertical wooden surface, like a railing or deck. Plus, you can expect them to get even the toughest jobs done in minutes.
The downside to using a paint stripper is the toxins. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission says that you must make sure you use paint strippers properly or they are extremely hazardous to your health and safety. Some paint strippers contain carcinogens like dichloromethane, aka methylene chloride, which has serious health effects, including death.
Here are the instructions to follow:
- Start by putting on protective gear, including long sleeves, goggles, and gloves. You want to avoid your body from contacting the chemical. Head to open or well-ventilated space.
- Apply the product with a paintbrush, covering the acrylic surface.
- Allow the product to sit for two or five minutes, then use a high-pressure hose or pressure washer to clean it off.
- Grab a paint scraper or putty knife to remove the leftover paint.
- Dampen a cloth and use it to wipe off the surface.
- Leave the wood to dry for at least 48 hours.
- Make sure the wood is dry, then you can sand and refinish it.
Will Acrylic Paint Wash Off Wood in the Rain?
Fresh, wet acrylic paint washes off in the rain. Unfortunately, acrylic is a water-based paint. This means it is more susceptible to moisture. However, it becomes more water-resistant after drying.
Even though it’s water-based paint, acrylic is highly durable when it’s 100% dry. The paint can wash away easily if it doesn’t dry correctly, you don’t seal the paint, or you don’t use a textile medium when working with fabric, for example. The paint should not wash off a wooden surface in the rain if you seal it. However, it may peel or flake over time.
Can You Paint Over Acrylic Paint?
You have the option to paint over acrylic as long as it’s dry without worrying about peeling or lifting the previous layer. The reason is that acrylics are insoluble. As the paint dries, it becomes a film on top. Adding new paint will only alter the texture or color, depending on your process and paint choice.
Best Acrylic Paint Stripper for Wood
Are you looking for the best chemical paint stripper to remove acrylic paint from wood? Here are our top picks.
Is Acrylic Paint Easy to Remove From Wood?
Acrylics are easy to remove with a precise method. There are many ways you can use to remove paint from wood. The materials, safety precautions, ease, amount of time, and effectiveness associated with your process depend on the wooden surface you’re working with and the method you use. Always consider your project specifics.
Did our list help you find the best paint removal process for you? Share this article and your paint removal experiences with your friends.