How to Remove Dry Paint from Car Paint

by Ryan LawrenceUpdated July 21, 2017
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The reconstructed ancient car painted in two colors. image by Yuri Bizgaimer from

Items you will need

  • Rubber gloves

  • Rags

  • Lacquer thinner

  • Terry cloth

  • Buffing wheel with a wool pad


Do not use mineral spirits or paint thinner in place of lacquer thinner, as these solvents are not powerful enough to loosen dry paint from a car's finish.

Most automobile owners go to great lengths to protect the luster and beauty of their car's finish. So when paint find its way onto auto paint, panic tends to quickly set in. If you can get to the paint while it is still wet, you can generally remove it with nothing more than a damp cloth. However, when paint dries, it can be difficult to remove without causing damage to the underlying surface. If you need to remove dry paint from car paint, you'll have to employ specific techniques or you may scuff and scratch the surface you are trying to save.

Put on rubber gloves to protect your hands. Moisten a rag with lacquer thinner, but do not soak it, as lacquer thinner can damage a car's finish if too much is applied. Ring out the rag if you notice any lacquer thinner dripping from it.

Wipe the dry paint with the damp rag, allowing the lacquer thinner to soak in for thirty seconds.

Wipe the dry paint with a terry cloth. Apply pressure and move the terry cloth in a clockwise, circular motion. Move on to step four only if dry paint remains on the car.

Apply lacquer thinner to the dry paint in the same manner as you did in step three. Affix the wool pad to the buffing wheel and put the wheel on its lowest setting. Begin buffing out the dry paint, increasing the speed gradually until all of the dry paint has been removed.

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