Spray painting offers a fun and simple way to update just about any project piece around the home without having to deal with messy paintbrush cleanup. Not every spray-paint project goes off without a hitch, however. Overspray can get on your skin on a windy day or when the can's spray nozzle partially clogs, leaving your fingers covered in a new color. While simple soap and water may work for a water-based spray paint, it's not effective for washing away most spray paints, which generally use oil-based solvents. No need to worry, though. In such a situation, a simple trip to the pantry cabinet may offer the perfect skin cleaner.
Removing Water-Based Spray Paint
Even though most spray paints are oil-based, a few brands offer acrylic, water-based versions instead. The sure way to know is to check the labels to see is the words "water-based" somewhere on the label. If you're lucky enough to notice the paint on your hands while it's still wet, head for the sink and use regular hand soap and warm water. If the paint is already dry or partially dry, it's a bit harder to remove. In this case, use a nylon dish-scrubbing pad to rub your hands or other skin areas while washing with soap and water. If a scrub pad isn't handy, try a light dusting of an abrasive cleanser, or even table salt.
Grab a Cooking Oil
If you've already tried soap and water or skipped ahead because you know from experience that it doesn't work on your favorite spray paint, head for the kitchen. Most oils used for cooking can also double as a spray-paint remover, as the cooking oil softens the oils in the paint. Grab that bottle of olive oil, vegetable oil or even coconut oil and pour a teaspoon or so into one hand. Rub the oil into the affected skin, wait a minute or two, then wash the skin with soap and water. If coconut oil is hard due to cool weather, scoop a bit out into your hands and let body heat warm it into a liquid as you rub it over the affected area. If you don't have access to cooking oil or spray, try butter, margarine or mineral oil, as these work just as well.
Pouring a bit of your chosen oil onto a folded paper towel or cotton swab is a great option for dealing with paint in one or two small areas of your skin. Blot and rub the oil over the paint, then rinse and wash your skin afterward.
Add a Citrus Oil
If the cooking oil alone didn't remove all of the paint, add to it a drop or two of a citrus-based essential oil, such as grapefruit, lemon, lime or orange. These oils contain limonene, a key component used in many household products for its excellent cleaning and degreasing properties. Rub the affected area of the skin until the paint comes off. However, do not use essential oils if they irritate your skin, or if you have a cut near the painted area, as the oil may burn.
Use a Specialty Cleanup Wipe
Much the way antibacterial wipes offer convenience for messes around the home, a heavy-duty, citrus-based wipe designed for cleaning greasy messes will remove spray paints from hands. This type of wipe is formulated to loosen and dissolve dirt, grease and proteins, as well as spray paint, from surfaces such as shop floors, plastic patio furniture and even your fingers. The wipes also contain aloe and lanolin to soften skin. To remove paint, simply wipe your skin with it, using the wipe's texture to help loosen the paint. Use a second wipe, if necessary, to remove a large amount of paint.
- Paint Sprayer Magazine: 6 Ways to Successfully Get Rid of Spray Paint on Your Skin and Nails
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- Liquitex: Spray Paint Features
- Bell Chem: The Many Things That Can be Cleaned with D-limonene
- Karma Oils: Essential Oils Containing D-Limonene
Kathy Adams is an award-winning writer. She is an avid DIYer that is equally at home repurposing random objects into new, useful creations as she is at supporting community gardening efforts and writing about healthy alternatives to household chemicals. She's written numerous DIY articles for paint and decor companies, as well as for Black + Decker, Hunker, SFGate, Landlordology and others.