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Is Acrylic Paint Washable? Will It Come Off Fabric, Skin, Wood?

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When it comes to choosing the right paint for the right job, it can sometimes be a bit baffling.

Walk into any art or paint store and you’re sure to be confronted with dozens of different products. Which paint is the right paint for your project? 

The answer comes down to answering a few important questions, such as whether the finished product is intended for the indoors or outdoors, what material it will be painted on, and how much wear and tear it will see.

Is acrylic paint washable? Acrylic paint is water based, so it is washable…to an extent. While still wet, acrylics can be washed off with soap and water. For dried acrylic paint, use ammonia, rubbing alcohol, denatured alcohol, acetone, or lacquer thinner, depending on the type of acrylic and the material you’re cleaning.

If you’re looking to learn more about how washable acrylic paint actually is as well as how to remove it from various materials such as fabric, skin, and wood, then this article is for you. 

How Washable Is Acrylic Paint?

While acrylic paint is washable, there are a few factors that come into play, such as what material the paint is being applied to, how much time has passed since the paint was applied, and the type of acrylic paint you are using.

When Wet

Acrylic paint is much more simple to remove when it is wet. The quicker you clean up acrylic paint, the easier the job.

For most acrylic paint spills or stains, you can use warm, soapy, water and an old rag to remove the paint.

When Dry

Acrylic paint can be a little more complicated to remove once it is dry.

Due to the fact that acrylic paint is water based, it can sometimes be more easily washed from a surface that has been exposed to a lot of moisture or to harsh elements. 

There are a few solutions you can try when working to remove dried acrylic paint, including ammonia solution, rubbing alcohol, denatured alcohol, acetone, and lacquer thinner.

Ammonia Solution

An ammonia solution can be used to clean acrylic paint from surfaces, such as some metals (excluding brass), glass, and plastic.

Ammonia is a hazardous chemical that can be toxic to your health and the environment. 

Ammonia tends to give off heavy fumes, so you will want to make sure that you are using it in a well-ventilated area.

It can also cause chemical burns and eye damage, so it’s a good idea to wear heavy-duty cleaning gloves and safety goggles when cleaning with ammonia solution.

Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is a less-corrosive paint-removing alternative to ammonia solution. While it also can give off fumes, it is not as toxic as ammonia.

Be sure to work in a well-ventilated area when using rubbing alcohol to remove dried acrylic paint.

Rubbing alcohol can be used to remove dried paint from a variety of surfaces, including plastic, wood, and fabric. 

Denatured Alcohol

Denatured alcohol is a type of clean-burning fuel that is typically used for small camping stoves.

However, it has a versatile nature and has been used for multiple purposes, including cleaning, pest control, and printmaking. 

When using it to remove dried acrylic paint, it’s important to know that it is a hazardous chemical that requires the use of PPE as well as a well-ventilated cleaning area.

Denatured alcohol can be used to remove paint from surfaces such as wood or plastic.

Acetone

Acetone is a flammable solvent that can also be used as an antiseptic. If you’ve ever used an acetone nail polish remover, then you know that the fumes can be quite intense.

Acetone can be used on glass or metal, but is a very strong solvent that can damage plastic or fabric.

Lacquer Thinner

Acrylic paint is a non-yellowing form of lacquer, making lacquer thinner an effective product for removing unwanted spills.

Lacquer thinner is much stronger than paint thinner and should not be used on plastic or rubber. 

While paint thinner can be effective at removing acrylic paint that is still damp, lacquer thinner is a much better choice for removing dried paint.

Lacquer thinner can be used to remove dried paint from wood, glass, or metal. Lacquer thinner is considered a hazardous waste material and should be properly disposed of after use. 

Tips for Cleaning Acrylic Paint on Fabric

To remove dried acrylic paint from fabric, first soak the stain in rubbing alcohol. Let the stain soak for 10-15 minutes, then use a scrub brush to rub the paint from the fabric.

You may need to repeat this process several times until the paint has been completely removed. 

Tips for Cleaning Acrylic Paint on Skin

Use soap and water to gently scrub the paint from your skin. If paint still remains, you can apply rubbing alcohol to the stain and gently scrape it from your skin using your fingers or a soft scrub brush. 

Did you know that you should not intentionally apply acrylic paint to your skin or face? It’s true. I explain why it’s not a good idea and what you should use instead in my article here.

Tips for Cleaning Acrylic Paint on Wood

Acetone, alcohol, and lacquer thinner can be used to remove dried paint from wood, as long as the wood is unvarnished.

If the wood has been varnished, get ready for a long night of scrubbing with soapy water. 

Related Questions:

Is Acrylic Paint Safe for Kids?

Acrylic paint is water-based and generally less toxic than solvent-based paints, making it a good choice for kids.
Acrylic paint can still contain harsh chemicals, so it’s a good idea to check labels and work in a well-ventilated area when painting with kids. 
Make sure to always supervise children when they’re painting with acrylics. When it comes to painting with kids, a popular, easily washable, and less-toxic alternative to acrylic paints is tempera paint.
Discover the similarities, differences, and best applications of acrylics and tempera paints here.

What Are Acrylic Paint Disadvantages?

One of the main disadvantages of acrylic paints is that they are water based, which means that they’re not always the best choice for exterior projects or projects that will see a lot of use.
You can purchase acrylic paints specifically designed for use on outdoor projects, and these paints will have more durability and will be able to better handle exposure to the elements.
You can also use varnish (I use and recommend Liquitex – find it here) or sealant to increase the durability of acrylic paints. 

Conclusion 

Acrylic paint is a versatile paint that can be used on a variety of surfaces, including wood, metal, plastics, and fabric.

Its washability depends on how wet the paint is when you go to clean it, and stronger products may need to be used if the paint has already dried.

When removing dried acrylic paint, be sure to wear proper protective gear and to work in a well-ventilated space, and always check that the cleaning product that you are using is suitable for removing paint from the surface you are cleaning.

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