3 Ways to Remove Acrylic Paint from Wood

How to clean acrylic paint from wood

Have you ever found acrylic paint stains on your coffee table after the kids were painting? Or perhaps you had an accidental spill yourself? Whether it’s our children’s creativity or our own, acrylic paint stains on the wood are not uncommon. 

Luckily, there are several ways for you to restore your furniture or floors back to normal. We have compiled a few methods that will help you get rid of acrylic paint from wood.

Before you begin

For safety reasons and to prevent any further damage, please read our safety tips and tricks before you start cleaning.

  1. When using any type of detergent, make sure to keep it out of the reach of children and pets. 
  2. Air out the room properly: open the window before you begin cleaning, and leave it open for a while after you’re done.
  3. Before attempting to clean the paint stain, perform a safety test. Apply a small amount of the substance/detergent to a hidden part of your furniture. Rub it in and leave it to dry. If it doesn’t stain, you can continue.
  4. Adjust the method based on the type of wood. Alcohol, acetone, and lacquer thinner will work on bare, unvarnished wood. For varnished wood, we recommend hot soapy water. Alcohol may discolor varnished wood or dull the shine, so perform a test before you attempt to use it.

Easy ways to clean acrylic paint from wood

Acrylic paint, when still wet, is quite easy to remove. It might even be as simple as some water, soap, and a clean cloth. But when the paint dries, water often does little to remove it without using some additional substances.

Even if the paint is already dry, don’t worry. Read on to find out what you can do to clean it.

Method #1: Using soap and water

Time: 10 minutes

Required items: clean cloth, water, liquid dish soap

This method will mostly work on fresh paint. You can still attempt it with dry paint, but it may not fully remove the stain.

  1. If the paint is still fresh, wipe the stain with a wet cloth. If the cloth becomes saturated with paint, switch it for a different one.
  2. Grab a fresh cloth and sink it into a bowl filled with hot water and dish soap.
  3. Using the cloth, scrub the paint gently. Keep on scrubbing until it’s is all gone, adding more water and soap as needed. 
  4. Remove the last bits of soap and paint with a damp cloth.
  5. For dry paint: The paint should be a bit softer at this point. If needed, you can now try to scrape away the paint. Using a blunt knife, a putty knife, or a plastic paint scraper, gently attempt to scrape the paint off.
  6. If the stain persists, proceed to our next methods.

Method #2: Using olive oil

Time: Over an hour

Required items: something to scrape the paint with (for example a putty knife, a plastic paint scraper, a kitchen knife), a cloth, olive oil

This method is a good, natural alternative. However, if it doesn’t help, treat it as an intro to the next method.

  1. Soften the paint with a few drops of olive oil.
  2. Cover the stain with a cloth.
  3. Leave it to sit for at least an hour. 
  4. Attempt to scrape the paint using your tool of choice.
  5. If the paint is still hard, you can repeat the first three steps. Alternatively, move on to our next method.

Method #3: Using rubbing alcohol

Time: 15 minutes

Required items: a tool to scrape the paint with (a kitchen knife, a putty knife, a plastic paint scraper), rubbing alcohol, a cloth (preferably more than one). Optional: steel wool pad

This method is recommended for dry acrylic paint and should be successful in most cases.

  1. Begin by scraping the paint with your tool of choice (putty knife, plastic paint scraper, kitchen knife). Be gentle and precise – you don’t want to damage the wood.
  2. Optional for bigger stains: Next, rub what remains of the paint using a steel wool pad. Again, be gentle and make sure you’re only touching the paint. 
  3. Pour some rubbing alcohol on your cloth, and then apply it to the stain.
  4. Rub the acrylic stain using the cloth. You should continue doing this for a few minutes.
  5. Keep on adding rubbing alcohol as needed. Remember to also change the cloth when paint transfers onto it.
  6. Using a moist, clean cloth, wipe the area until there are no more traces of alcohol. You can also add soap.
  7. Wipe everything with a dry cloth and then leave it to dry.
  8. If there are still traces of paint, you can attempt to re-do this once the wood has dried.

What’s next?

Dried acrylic paint can be hard to remove from any surface or fabric. If the stain persists despite using our methods, it’s possible that you will need to use a stronger detergent.

Ideally, when choosing a detergent to use, first read up on what type of paint you’re dealing with. If you are sure that the paint was acrylic, then you can use, as an example, lacquer thinner to soften it. There are also other solvents. However, as they are very potent, they need to be used carefully.

If the stain is really big, you may want to consider sanding it off. The downside of that is that you might damage the wood, so unless you are familiar with the process, we don’t recommend it.

Some paints, especially when left to dry for a longer amount of time, might be really difficult to remove. But don’t worry! In such situations, you don’t necessarily need to get rid of your favorite coffee table.

If the stain won’t come off, consider repainting the whole piece of furniture. You may end up with an even nicer looking table, and a splash of new color will make it look good as new. In the case of smaller stains, painting something on top of it is an alternative to a whole paint job. For tables or chairs, this can truly make them stand out.

Even if it isn’t easy, dried acrylic paint is entirely possible to clean from wood. Don’t be afraid to repeat the steps as needed. If you are patient, you will most likely be successful.