Spray paints are a modern convenience that simplifies a lot of projects. There are no messy paintbrushes to wash, and the result of a quick shake and spray can of paint are often much smoother than when you use a paintbrush.
The downside is that the spray paint can is not always as accurate as we would like, and some unintended overspray onto nearby items can occasionally happen. Fortunately, spray paint can be removed from smooth surfaces like mirrors.
There are many ways to remove spray paint from mirror. Start by trying warm soapy water. Solvents such as acetone, lacquer thinner, or specifically designed paint removers are effective for tougher paints. Some oven cleaners will even get the job done.
Although spray paint is usually easy to remove from a mirror, it is important first to identify what type of mirror it is and the type of spray paint. The combination of these variables will determine the perfect solution to your spray paint overspray dilemma.
Common Types of Spray Paint
Spray paints are available in many different brands and types. Knowing what kind of paint you’re dealing with will make the spray paint removal process much easier.
Below are eight common types of spray paint, along with the solvents required to remove the paint.
- General-purpose – Lacquer thinner
- Lacquer – Denatured alcohol or Lacquer thinner
- Epoxy – Acetone or lacquer thinner
- Chalkboard – Acetone, mineral spirits, denatured alcohol
- Frosted – Acetone, lacquer thinner, or vinegar
- Enamel – Lacquer thinner
- Acrylic – Warm water, acetone, or lacquer thinner
- Oil-based – Turpentine
Lacquer thinner and acetone are common paint removal solvents and would be the first choice when removing spray paint from a mirror.
How to Remove Spray Paint from Glass Mirrors
Spray paint is easy to remove from a mirror using either warm soapy water. For stubborn paints, use a solvent to dissolve the paint.
Make sure that the mirror is made from glass when using solvents, as some chemicals can damage the mirror’s finish.
When using solvents in a framed mirror, it is good practice to tape or mask up the frame. This is to protect its finish from possibly being damaged by coming into contact with the solvent.
When rubbing on a mirror, be careful not to press too hard as it can crack or break if excessive force is applied.
What you will need:
- A bucket of warm soapy water
- Soft clean cloth or paper towel or cotton wool swabs (for small jobs)
- Painters tape (masking tape)
- Paint scraper
Spray paint can be removed from glass mirrors in the following five ways.
Acetone is formulated to remove dry nail polish from fingernails very effectively.
Apply a little acetone onto a paper towel, cloth, or cotton wool. Lightly rub a small portion of the affected area with the acetone. The cloth should very quickly start picking up the paint from the mirror.
It may be necessary to repeat the process a few times until all the paint is removed from the mirror. Apply fresh acetone to a clean part of the cloth with each application to avoid spreading removed paint back onto the mirror.
Once clean, wash the mirror with warm soapy water and a lint-free rag for a sparkly clean finish.
Using Lacquer Thinner
Lacquer thinner is highly efficient at thinning and removing most types of paint. Thinner should be one of your first choices when you need to remove spray paint from a mirror.
When the spray paint is still wet, it can easily be wiped off the mirror using a clean cloth or paper towel. When the paint has already dried, a solvent will be required to remove the paint in most cases.
Apply lacquer thinner sparingly to a cloth or paper towel. Dab the thinner onto the paint and allow a few seconds to soak. Don’t pour thinner onto the mirror, as the excess will run off the mirror into the frame and possibly damage the frame’s finish.
Next, carefully wipe the paint off the mirror using the area of the cloth soaked in thinner. The paint should come off the mirror onto the cloth fairly quickly. For stubborn spots, you may need to repeat this step a few times to work the paint off one layer at a time.
Once all the spray paint is removed, use a cloth soaked in warm soapy water to clean the mirror.
Lacquer thinner has a strong smell, so it should only be used in a well-ventilated area. The thinner evaporates quickly, so work fast enough to avoid the softened paint from drying again before you’re finished.
Using Distilled White Vinegar
White distilled vinegar can be used to remove paint from glass. Mirrors are made from glass, so this will work.
Take one cup of distilled white vinegar and heat it to just under boiling point, wearing gloves to protect you from the heat. Apply the vinegar onto the paint using a sponge or absorbent cloth. Allow the mixture to stand for 15 minutes.
Using a cloth, give the paint a rub. Most of the color should pop right off. Repeat the process for stubborn paint spots.
For the final clean-up, use a cloth soaked in warm soapy water to give the mirror a final wipe down.
Using Soapy Water and a Paint Scraper
For stubborn paint spots, apply a mixture of warm soapy water. After the paint has soaked for a few minutes, use a sharp paint scraper blade to remove the paint from the mirror.
Start on the lighter painted areas to get a feel for the process before tackling the larger paint areas.
Don’t press too hard on the blade, as this could damage the mirror. Work slowly and methodically.
The blade should be held at forty-five degrees and only be pushed in one direction to reduce the risk of scratching the glass. The soapy mixture reduces the chance of scratching the mirror while the water assists in softening up the paint.
Once the paint is removed, a small amount of acetone or thinner can be applied to a cloth and wiped over the affected area. This will remove any leftover paint specs or residue.
The final step will be to wipe down the mirror with a damp cloth soaked in soapy water to clean the mirror.
Turpentine is a volatile essential oil that is extracted from pine trees. It is great to use for cleaning paint brushes and also as a paint thinner. Turpentine is well suited to remove dried paint as it doesn’t evaporate as quickly as lacquer thinner.
Apply some turpentine onto a cloth and wipe it onto the affected area. Leave the turpentine to soak for a few minutes, then wipe off with a cloth.
For stubborn paints, repeat this process a few times intermittently using a paint scraper to assist the paint lifting process.
Once all the spray paint has been removed, wipe the mirror with a clean cloth and soapy water to remove any residues.
How to Remove Spray Paint From a Plastic Mirror
Not all mirrors are made from glass. Some mirrors are made of plastic, making them more susceptible to damage from certain strong solvents.
Both lacquer thinner and turpentine are great for removing spray paint but are not recommended for use on all types of plastic mirrors.
What will you need:
- A bucket for warm soapy water
- A soft cloth or paper towel
- Paint scraper
Using Soapy Water
When stripping spray paint from a plastic mirror, your first choice should be to try good old warm soapy water and a soft cloth. Wet the spray-painted area with soapy water and allow it to soak.
Many paint types will absorb the water while the soap assists in breaking the bond between the plastic surface and the paint.
Using your fingernail or the paint scraper, attempt to pry the paint off the mirror’s surface gently. Be careful not to scratch the mirror.
When the paint is removed, wipe down the mirror with a clean cloth.
Using Rubbing Alcohol
Rubbing alcohol, also known as isopropyl alcohol, is not as harsh as lacquer thinner or turpentine. This makes it an excellent solvent to use on plastic surfaces.
Be careful not to leave the rubbing alcohol on the mirror too long. If the quality of the plastic is poor, it is prone to damage.
Apply a little rubbing alcohol onto the corner of a soft cloth. Rub it onto a tiny inconspicuous area to test that the alcohol does not react with the plastic. You can also use a Q-tip. It is unlikely that any damage will result, but rather safe than sorry.
If all looks good, continue applying the alcohol sparingly onto the painted area and rub with the cloth. The paint will start lifting from the mirror and transfer onto the cloth. For stubborn paint, the process will have to be repeated.
Don’t apply too much rubbing alcohol at a time. You don’t want it to run across the mirror or into the seams of the frame unnecessarily.
Once the spray paint is removed, use a cloth moistened with soapy water to clean the mirror. This will remove any remaining residues.
Using Oven Cleaner
Many off-the-shelf oven cleaners are safe to use on plastic. Make sure by checking the instructions and cautions that are printed on the label.
Using a clean rag, spray some oven cleaner onto the cloth rather than onto the mirror. This will avoid over-spraying and coating areas that don’t need cleaning.
Rub the oven cleaner onto the affected spray-painted area using the cloth. Allow the oven cleaner to soak into the paint for a few minutes.
Using a cloth, lightly rub the spray-painted area to remove the spray paint. The paint will have started to lift from the mirror but may need a little extra lifting or scraping with your fingernail to list it off completely.
For stubborn paints, repeat the process. An old toothbrush can be used to gently rub the painted surface if you’re not up to using your fingernail. This will help to loosen the paint.
Once the spray paint has been removed, use a water-dampened cloth to wipe the mirror surface.
Using Vegetable Oil
Oil-based spray paints can be removed from mirror surfaces by using household vegetable oil.
You’ll need a soft cloth, a bit of vegetable oil and a scraper. Apply the vegetable oil onto a cloth, not too much, and dab this onto the spray-painted area. Coat well, but don’t let the oil run all over.
Leave the oil to soak into the paint until the paint has started to soften. Use your fingernail or scraper to lift the paint carefully. Now use the cloth to wipe the area. If any paint remains, repeat the process.
Once the paint has been removed, wash the mirror using soapy water and dry.
Using DIY Products
Several off-the-shelf products designed for use by DIY enthusiasts are available. Many of these products remove paint well and claim to be safe for use on plastic surfaces.
DIY surface cleaning products are available either in aerosol cans or squeeze bottles. Most work more or less in the same way, but always check the instructions on the pack to be sure.
Popular products designed to remove paint that can be used on plastic mirrors are Graffiti Off, Goof off, Krud cutter, and Goo Gone.
Apply the product directly to the affected area on the mirror or apply it to a soft cloth. Then rub the solution onto the spray-painted area.
Allow the paint remover to soak into the spray paint for a few minutes. Then use a clean cloth to wipe the paint off and finish by rinsing the mirror with clean water.
Removing spray paint from plastic or glass mirrors can be achieved using solvents such as acetone, lacquer thinner, turpentine, or even soapy water. Commercially available products designed specifically for removing spray paints are readily available and make the task pretty easy.