How to Use Denatured Alcohol for Latex Paint Removal

Written by samantha volz
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How to Use Denatured Alcohol for Latex Paint Removal
Denatured alcohol can help remove old paint. (Martin Poole/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Many paints on the market for housing projects and artistic endeavours are latex based. Latex paints are safer than older lead-based paints, and they are sturdy and long lasting. If it comes time to change the look of your rooms or to clean up spilt or spattered latex paint, that resilience can work against you. Paint removers can only go so far, and some will not be effective at all once the paint has cured or dried completely. Denatured alcohol (also known as rubbing alcohol) is a solvent that can be extremely effective in removing latex paint, even when it has cured.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Denatured alcohol
  • Rag or paint brush
  • Plastic scraper
  • Rubbish bin
  • Water

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  1. 1

    Spot test the denatured alcohol on a small, inconspicuous area of the surface you need to clean. This will ensure there is no damage or discolouration to the surface from the strong solvent.

  2. 2

    Dampen a rag or the bristles of a paint brush in undiluted denatured alcohol. Apply the alcohol to the surface and allow five to 10 minutes for the alcohol to dissolve the paint.

  3. 3

    Scrape loosened paint from the surface. Dispose of paint scrapings in a trash can.

  4. 4

    Repeat application and scraping as necessary until all of the paint is removed. You may need multiple attempts for old and cured paint, or for multiple layers of paint.

  5. 5

    Soak a clean rag in cool water and rinse the surface completely to remove residual denatured alcohol. Rinse the old rag or paintbrush thoroughly in cool water as well. Allow all tools to dry in a cool, dry place. Do not expose any of the tools or surfaces to extreme heat (hair dryer, mechanical drying machine) until you are sure all of the alcohol is gone.

Tips and warnings

  • Depending on the climate, latex paint can take up to three weeks to cure completely. Try to remove the paint as close to the application time as possible; alcohol can remove cured latex paint, but it will take multiple applications and scraping efforts.
  • Denatured alcohol is a strong solvent. It is extremely flammable, and will damage some sensitive surfaces, such as acrylics or plastics. Use this alcohol carefully.

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