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How to Remove Dried Touch Up Paint from a Car

If you’re reading this, we know you love your car. And you’re also likely in a position where you’ve got some dried touch up paint that you want gone ASAP. We have good news! Removing dried touch up paint from a car is fairly simple in most cases. Your car’s paint job isn’t ruined, and in a few simple steps, you’ll see that getting rid of dried, clumpy touch up paint is a breeze. In this article, we walk you through several methods that will help you remove dried touch up paint from your car so it looks as good as new.

Scrape Off Excess Touch Up Paint

Our first method for removing dried touch up paint from your car costs nothing and requires zero automotive tools—the best-case scenario if you find yourself in this position! If your car has a spot of touch up paint that’s dried in a lumpy, clumpy, or unappealing way, you might be able to scrape it off.

The first step in removing dried touch up paint is picking it off with your fingernail. In some cases of a bad touch up job, the dried paint will easily peel or flake away. If this happens, you’ve saved a lot of time and money and can move on to touching up that spot again!

In some cases, picking or peeling dried paint with your fingernail might not cut it. If this is true for your car, a toothpick is a fantastic—and free—option to try. You might try to help the peeling process by applying a very small amount of solvent to remove the dried paint.

The important thing to remember when scraping off dried touch up paint is to do so gently. If you try the scraping method but the paint isn’t flaking or peeling off well, you run the risk of causing even more damage to your car’s paint. Below, we’ve listed other methods that will effectively remove stubborn dried touch up paint.

Use Mineral Spirits

Mineral spirits are solvents that remove paint from many surfaces including your car. Many at-home DIYers use mineral spirits to remove dried paint from a touch up job that didn’t go as planned. Mineral spirits effectively thin and remove paint and work well on your car when used carefully.

Before you begin, you should put on safety gear, like a mask and gloves, to protect yourself from being injured by the mineral spirits. Inhaling these chemicals can damage your lungs, and if it’s left on your skin, you could incur painful burns. Once you’ve donned your safety equipment, you’re ready to start.

In order to remove dried on touch up paint from your car, you need to begin with washing and drying the problem area. Then apply a small amount of the mineral spirits to a cotton swab. Carefully rub the swab over the dried touch up paint, being careful not to get the spirits on other areas of your car where there’s no issue with the paint. As you rub the swab over the target area, you’ll see that the dried paint will slowly come off and smooth out.

Try a Lacquer Thinner

Depending on the way your touch up paint was applied, you might find that mineral spirits don’t quite get the job done. In that case, move on to a more powerful solvent, like a lacquer thinner. Repeat the process above using your lacquer thinner to remove dried touch up paint that’s more difficult to remove. Again, clean and dry the problem area, apply a small amount of the thinner with a cotton swab, and slowly rub the glob of paint away.

After you’re done, thoroughly clean the area where you used the lacquer thinner. The solvent will erode plastic trim, so be careful when using this method to remove dried touch up paint.  

Sand Off the Dried Paint

The last method we suggest for a DIY paint removal is sanding it away. Even the most stubborn sections of dried touch up paint are no match for sandpaper and elbow grease. But be careful, because the same is true for all areas of your car. When using sandpaper to get rid of dried on touch up paint, go slowly and pay close attention to the area at all times. 

As in the methods above, begin by washing and drying the target area. Then section off the dried, clumpy paint with car masking tape. At this point, sanding can commence!

We recommend sanding initially with a wet/dry 300-grit sandpaper. Then, finish the task with a wet/dry 1200-grit sandpaper. When you’re done, clean off the sanded area to ensure you’ve removed all dried paint and haven’t missed anything.

The Best Way to Remove Dried Touch Up Paint from Your Car

No one wants to drive around with lumps of dried touch up paint on their car. But sometimes, it’s difficult to remove the paint on your own. Our team agrees that the best way to remove dried touch up paint from your car body is to bring it in to a professional. These experts have taken care of dozens, hundreds, and even thousands of dried paint removal jobs just like yours. They have the resources and tools backed by experience to get the job done right the first time around.

When you bring your car in to the pros, you won’t have to worry if you’re using too much solvent or sanding too aggressively. Simply drop off your car, and when you pick it up, it’s as good as new. There’s no more effective method to removing dried touch up paint than that!

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