Will Nail Polish Remover Take Paint Off A Car? Let’s Find Out




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Whether this topic interests you out of curiosity or you urgently need a paint-removing alternative, this article is for you. The big question is can nail polish remover really strip the paint off a car?

It really depends on the type of nail polish remover, but ones containing acetone can strip paint off of a car. It actually has the potential to dissolve the paint down to the base. Whether others can is questionable and depends on the compounds it is made of.

In this article, I will explore the different kinds of nail polish removers. I will then discuss the likelihood of each stripping the paint off a car. I will also cover some methods that can be used when using paint polish 

Does Nail Polish Remover Remove Paint?

We all have those moments where paint accidentally spills on a surface. Removing it as fast as possible is the best way to ensure the paint does not set. It is also best to use a method that does not cause damage to the surface.

Nail polish remover can remove paint. It has the potential to dissolve paint on various surfaces such as wood, plastic, clothes, the floor, etc. As I mentioned earlier, it can also remove paint off a car.

Let’s examine some of the types of paint that can be removed with nail polish remover and the surfaces that nail varnish remover can remove paint from.

Can Nail Polish Remover Remove Any Paint?

Acetone is a powerful solvent and can remove oil-based paints, enamels, and acrylic paint. Let’s discuss these in detail.

Oil-based Paints

Trying to remove oil-based paint can be frustrating. Especially since it repels water. Whether a surface needs to be cleaned or a brush that was used to paint a surface, acetone can do the job. 

It easily dissolves the oil-based paint and can also be used to thin paint that is too clumpy. 


This type of paint is often used for its ability to make things look amazing. From model airplanes to exterior furniture, acetone is a solvent that is powerful enough to remove enamel paint. 

It can also be used in moderate amounts to remove the upper layer of enamel when it starts discoloring. 

Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paint is water-based and so it is usually easy to remove wet acrylic paint with water. However, dried acrylic paint is another story. Acetone can effectively remove acrylic paint from various surfaces. 

Can Nail Polish Remover Remove Paint Off Any Surface?

It is interesting to know which surfaces acetone can remove paint from. We know that it is a strong solvent, but how strong is it? Let’s take a look at the surfaces it can be used to effectively remove paint from.

Wooden Surfaces

Acetone-based nail polish removers can easily remove paint off wooden surfaces. I will discuss some of these here.

Types of Wooden Surfaces

It is important to note that there are three types of wood, namely softwoods, hardwoods, and engineered wood. Acetone can remove paint from all three types. It is most commonly used to remove paint and varnish from wooden furniture. 

It can be used to thin the paint or remove it entirely. It has also been used to strip paint off of wooden floors. In fact, acetone is regularly used within the woodworking industry. 

How To Use Acetone To Strip Paint Off Wood

To remove acetone from wooden surfaces, follow these steps. Either pour acetone onto a cloth directly or dip the cloth into the solution. Use the cloth with acetone and apply pressure to rub the paint off the surface. 

Remember to work quickly since acetone evaporates and won’t be effective when it dries.

Does Acetone Damage Wood Surfaces?

Acetone is safe to use on raw, untouched wood. It is not unsafe on other wood, the only factor to keep in mind is that it will completely strip the paint so it may not be a good option if you do not want to strip the wood surface bare.

Metal Surfaces

There are so many types of metal and many different objects that are made up of metal. Many times, these are painted. A car is a good example. In some instances, one might want to remove paint from a metal surface. Acetone is a good option to do this.

Let’s look at the different types of metals that acetone can strip paint off of. 

Types of Metal Surfaces

There are many different types of metals available. I will discuss the five materials that are commonly used to make furniture found at home. I will then discuss whether nail polish remover can be used to remove paint from these.


Acetone-based nail polish removers can possibly help to remove paint from aluminum surfaces. However, pure acetone needs to be used because standard nail polish remover will not be strong enough. This is because it’ll evaporate before it has an effect.

Additionally, using pure acetone is not likely to damage the aluminum. It is also effective for cleaning aluminum surfaces.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is a tough metal and it is resistant to damage from acetone exposure. Just as is the case with aluminum, pure acetone is needed if you want to strip the paint off a stainless steel object.


As it turns out, acetone is a great option for removing paint from brass surfaces. One needs pure acetone for this method to be effective. Additionally, pure acetone will not cause any harm to the brass surface.


Acetone can be used to effectively remove paint from copper surfaces. Pure acetone is needed. It is important to note when cleaning copper materials that contain some plastic, to remove the plastic if possible or use masking tape to cover the plastic. This is because it can be corrosive to certain types of plastic.


It happens more often than not where we get a paint spill on our clothing, upholstery, or furniture. When it comes to oil-based and acrylic paint, acting fast to remove it is important. An important question is: does nail polish remover remove paint from materials?


Acetone is very effective at removing paint from clothing. Doing so involves soaking the paint spill with acetone until the paint softens. Then, using a paper towel or cotton ball, wipe the paint off. 

To avoid damage, it’s important to make sure that the fabric of the clothing doesn’t contain acetate or triacetate. In this case, acetone can be corrosive to the material.


Perhaps paint has been spilled on your favorite carpet? No need to panic, acetone is also great at removing paint from upholstery. To do this, simply dab an old cloth into a bowl of acetone or pour the acetone directly onto the cloth. 

Rub the paint off the carpet using the acetone on the old towel or cloth. As the acetone softens the paint, it should easily start coming off.


There are many different types of furniture items that are covered in material. These materials can vary. Nevertheless, if some paint needs to be removed from material furniture, acetone is a great option.

It’s as simple as dabbing a cloth into acetone solution and rubbing the painted area with the cloth. The acetone is a solvent so it will start softening the paint. The paint should start easily coming off.

Avoid Using Acetone on These Materials

While using acetone to remove paint from the sturdier kinds of material is fine, there are some that you should avoid using it on. I will discuss some of these here.


Suede is a very sensitive material so using acetone on it may cause damage. To remove paint from suede, one should stick to warm soapy water rather than harsh chemicals like acetone or nail polish remover.

Acetate Fabrics

Acetone is harmful to fabrics that contain acetate. This is because acetate fabrics are made with spun filaments of cellulose taken from wood pulp. Acetone is a solvent that is likely to be corrosive to these cellulose fibers.

Plastic Surfaces

So many objects in our environments are made up of plastic. There are many instances where acetone can come in handy to remove paint from these surfaces. However, certain plastics may not do too well after being exposed to acetone.

Acetone can be a harsh chemical. I will look at the plastics that can tolerate nail polish remover or acetone to remove paint. I will also discuss those that should not be exposed to acetone.

Plastics That Are Safe to Use Acetone On

There are certain plastics that have been designed to be hardy. They are usually able to withstand environmental insults. These are also resistant to acetone-induced corrosion. 

Let’s look at the plastics that are safe when using acetone to remove paint.  

Low-Density Polyethylene

This is the kind of plastic that plastic bags are made of. Other objects made of low-density Polyethylene include containers, bottles, and tubing. Acetone can be used to remove paint off of objects made with this plastic.

It is completely resistant to corrosion or will not dissolve when it is exposed to the nail polish remover.

Polypropylene (PP)

This is the material used for many plastic parts in the automotive industry and other industries. It is also used in the healthcare sector. It is a strong plastic that will not be dissolved when it is exposed to acetone.

Therefore, acetone can be used to effectively remove paint from polypropylene surfaces.

High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

It is a plastic that is commonly used to make objects like toys, piping, milk bottles, bottles that contain cleaning products, and more. In the event that an object made of high-density polyethylene needs to have paint removed, acetone will work.

It is also not going to dissolve the plastic or cause any damage.

Plastics That Are Not Safe to Use Acetone On

Acetone can easily remove paint from plastic surfaces. However, some plastics will also dissolve during the process, namely PVC and polystyrene. Let’s look at these two in more detail.

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)

PVC is a versatile plastic that is used in almost every industry. These include building and construction, health care, electronics, automobile, in products ranging from piping and siding to wire and cable insulation, windshield system components, and more.

It is also prone to dissolving when it is exposed to acetone. Therefore, acetone can remove paint from PVC surfaces but is likely to damage the plastic too. Alternatives should be considered.


Just like PVC, polystyrene will dissolve when it is exposed to pure acetone. It is not advised to use nail polish remover to remove paint from these plastics.

Glass Surfaces

Glass is such a versatile material and it is likely that there is a glass object in almost every environment. Glass is quite resistant to harsh chemicals. It is also relatively easy to remove paint from glass surfaces.

Acetone is a great solvent to use when you want to remove paint from any glass surface. All you need to do is dab an old towel or cloth into some acetone. Rub the area where the paint is and it will start loosening the paint. Proceed to wipe it off the surface.

How to Use Nail Polish Remover to Remove Paint Off a Car

Now it’s time for the grand finale. Can nail polish remover remove paint off a car? We have already established that it certainly can. It is the strength of the acetone used that influences its removal strength.

Nail polish removers that contain acetone may only contain a percentage. Pure acetone, on the other hand, has much more paint stripping power compared to standard nail polish remover. This is usually used in nail salons to remove manicured nails. 

Pure Acetone Vs Nail Polish Remover

Just to clarify, both of these products are used to remove nail polish. The former is much stronger, however. So which one should I choose? This depends on the type of paint you want to remove. 

If your car ended up with paint splattered on it, then nail polish remover may be the safer option. However, if the paint has dried and been on there for a longer period, or the paint is stubborn then pure acetone is advised.

More about nail polish remover and the way it´s not working you can reed here: Why Your Nail Polish Remover is Not Working

Steps to Remove Paint Off a Car With Acetone

Here are the steps you can follow to safely remove paint off of your car with nail polish remover or acetone. 

Using Nail Polish Remover

First, make sure to wash your car with car shampoo. After you have washed it, dry it well. You are going to need an old cloth or a rag, preferably a soft one. Dab the cloth into the nail varnish solution or pour some of the solution onto the cloth.

The nail varnish remover must contain acetone. Next, start buffing the area that is covered in paint lightly until the paint starts coming off. Avoid buffing any longer than what is necessary. 

Make sure you have a bucket of water or a hose so that you can immediately wash the residue nail varnish remover off the surface.

Using Pure Acetone

This is recommended for more stubborn paint stains or to remove paint from a larger area. Again, you want to wash your car with car shampoo and warm water. When you are done, make sure to dry it well.

Next, prepare a bucket of clean water, pure acetone, and ear swabs. Start by dipping one end of the ear swab into the pure acetone. Then, rub it on the paint that your want to remove. Start by applying light pressure.

The harder you press and the longer the acetone stays on the car, the more the car’s paint is at risk for dissolving. As soon as you have removed the paint, use clean water to wash off the acetone residue.

The Bottom Line

Removing paint off a car or any other surface is possible with nail polish remover that contains acetone. More stubborn paint may require pure acetone. Just make sure to avoid exposing your car’s paint to pure acetone for longer than is required. 

Finally, always double-check that the surface you are using acetone to remove paint from will not dissolve.


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