Got Paint on Your Paint?

Paint on BMW Hood

Removing Consumer Paints From Your Car’s Finish

You’ve heard the stories: my car got tagged, the handyman spilled some paint, or maybe you just parked poorly at a Russian grocery store. Nevertheless, in the event that you accidentally get paint on your car’s finish, it’s time to act swiftly before damage occurs. Spray paint and household paints will adhere to the surface and can wind up costing you thousands in repainting costs – unless you’re smart…


You might think something like this will never happen to you, but are you really willing to take that chance? It could happen overnight, while you’re at work, and guess what… Halloween is coming. Regardless of your luck, preventing damage from commercial/consumer paint is as easy as protecting your car. There’s no secret formula or magic solution to keeping paint off of your car’s finish, therefore your best bet is to use a quality paint sealant. A polymer sealant will successfully establish a barrier for your clear coat, shielding it from the environmental effects that constantly come into contact with your car – UV rays, dust, debris, acid rain and yes, even spray paint and silly string. If you’ve waxed before the problem happens, you can laugh away the situation with a quick car wash (+ wax) and a pat-on-the-back for being proactive – but this isn’t always the case. If you’ve let the paint sit on your car, the solvents in the paint will eat through a protective layer (carnauba wax or sealant) with relative ease. In such cases, you’ll need a better solution…


Well at this point it’s too late and you are a victim of a heinous crime, so what now? If you haven’t protected your car recently, there’s a relatively simple process to restoring your finish without damage. Keep in mind that this process has a lot of independent variables such as the age and type of your car’s paint finish, how long the paint has been on the surface and what type of paint was used, but in most cases the solution is the same.

  1. Start by washing your car with warm, soapy water. Focus on the areas effected by the paint and gently massage the soap and warm water over that region of your car. Rinse, dry, and repeat if the spilled or criminally applied paint seems to be receding. If you got to the problem quickly, or have recently applied a paint sealant, this should all be you should have to do.
  2. If car wash soap and warm water doesn’t provide results, it’s time to consider a polishing treatment. This means clay treatment, polish and glaze (by hand or orbital), and wax. This lightly abrasive treatment wont harm your car’s paint, but it will remove the paint that has accidentally found its way onto your car. If hand polishing doesn’t get the job done, the paint has probably adhered to the surface and is eating through any protection… at this point you may need to turn it over to a professional and use a machine to eradicate the problem.
  3. In rare cases, both hand and machine polishing might not work. Maybe the tagger used spray paint designed to adhere to a metal or painted surface, or maybe you let it sit for a week before taking care of it – either way requires stronger action. The absolute worst case scenario is repainting, but some problems can be tackled with a paint thinner and a cloth. Pour a little thinner on a soft cloth and gently wipe the affected area. If you result to taking this action, make sure you wash your car immediately after you’ve removed the paint, and wax thereafter.

If there’s one thing you need to know before you find paint on your car, it’s that preventing the problem is easier than finding a solution. We harp on it all the time, but waxing seasonally will take care of any mischievous pranksters who will inevitably mistake your car for a canvas this Halloween. Not only will you ultimately have a healthier car, but you’ll also save yourself a costly headache if and when this happens to you.

Got a specific question regarding paint on your car? Ask questions in the comments for help!