Are Acrylic Paints Washable?

Acrylic paint is widely used because of its versatility and durability. This paint can be used on different surfaces such as arts, wood surfaces, and other forms of decoration. But what if you want to remove them from a surface? Are acrylic paints washable?

From time to time, you might have a change of mind after applying paint on a surface and consider replacing them, acrylic paints are no exception.

Acrylic paints have plenty of versatile qualities and are known for their low washability. Hence, they have become the favorite paint of many artists and other users. 

However, the low washability of acrylic paints becomes a problem when they come into contact with other surfaces such as skin, clothes, furniture, walls, and the floor.   

If you are a regular painter, you already know how hard it can be to get rid of paint from different surfaces, especially if the paints are oil-based. 

For this reason, many people opt for washable paints for painting activities. Washable paints require less struggle when removing them from surfaces making them a favorite of many, especially for interior uses.

Yes, acrylic paints are washable. However, it is a lot easier to wash them when they are still wet Dried acrylic paint is harder to remove from a surface. The explanation is, that dried acrylic paint is not as water-soluble as other paint types. It, therefore, becomes very hard and calls for use of solvents to clean up dried acrylic paint.

In this post, I’ll discuss more regarding the use of acrylic paints, how to wash them from the surface if need be, and a lot more.

So keep reading for more insight regarding the subject:

Does Acrylic Paint Become Waterproof After It Dries?

Image of Acrylic Paints. Are Acrylic Paints Washable?You can easily wash acrylic paints when they are still fresh and wet. Once you rinse with warm water, the paint dissolves and can come off effortlessly. 

It becomes difficult to wash them off when they dry. Therefore, many people get the misconception that acrylic paint is waterproof after it dries. Well, this is not true at all.

After drying, acrylic paints become water-resistant, not waterproof or permanent. With the right tools, you can wash acrylic paint even after drying.

How to Wash Off Acrylic Paint From Different Sources

No matter how experienced you are at using acrylic paint, it will likely get into your skin, clothes, floor, walls, and furniture. 

Removing dry acrylic paints from these surfaces can be tricky and costs you some of your time and effort. 

If the paint is wet, use warm water and rinse. If the paint has become dried, you need to do more than simple rinsing.

Here’s how to remove acrylic paints from different surfaces:

Human Skin

For you to remove acrylic paint from your skin, Rinse the area with acrylic paint with warm water. Then, apply soap gently to create a lather. Afterward, wash the area and pat dry. 

Next, pour some baby oil or rubbing alcohol on the paint residues and massage with the tip of your fingers. After massaging for some time, you will see the paints become loose. 

Now wipe the area or wash with water.

Fabrics And Clothes

Some people use vinegar to remove acrylic paint from fabrics and clothes. Well, I do not recommend using vinegar as it can discolor or fade your cloth. 

Instead, mix denatured alcohol or rubbing alcohol with detergent in a ratio of 1:1, and add some water. Now directly pour some of the mixtures into the paint of your clothes or other fabric. 

Gently rub the acrylic paint area in a circular motion. It may take a while, but be patient and continue rubbing until the paint comes off entirely.

Wooden Furniture

It is considerably easier to wash acrylic paint from a wooden surface than any other surface. Here, mix some warm water and mild detergent.

Dampen a clean cloth on the soapy water and rub the paint-stained area. Once the paint becomes soft, scrape it off with a wood scraper. 

Now damp another piece of cloth in alcohol and again start rubbing. Do not be too harsh while rubbing, lest you should damage the wood.

Walls and Floors

Removing acrylic paint from the floors is easy, but removing it from the walls is a little tricky. Use a hand sander or sandpaper to sand the paint on the floor. 

You can also sand acrylic paint on the walls, but there is a risk of damaging the surface. Start sanding the stains and stop when the paint becomes thin. 

Now wet a cloth with alcohol and rub on the paint. Alcohol can successfully remove acrylic paint. The only drawback is that it will remove the wall’s original color. Once the acrylic paint is gone, touch up the wall’s initial color.  

Acrylic Paint Removal a Few Days Later

It is important that you know how to dispose of acrylic paint to avoid cases of spills and messing unintended surfaces. Sometimes you may fail to notice acrylic paint spills until days later. So what should you do to make this right?

Well, these stains will only respond to aggressive solvents such as turpentine, kerosene, acetone, gasoline, and Stoddard solvent.

Apply a generous amount of one of these solvents to the acrylic paint and wait for 30-40 minutes. 

After about 60 minutes to be safe, you will see the polymer film of acrylic paint begin to delaminate. Now use a stiff brush or rag and remove the paint.

You can also use a hairdryer or steam generator, or steaming iron to wash off old acrylic paint. Moisten the stain with soapy water or an aggressive solvent if it’s too stubborn. 

Now blow heat from a hairdryer on the pigment until the dyes melt. After that, wipe the paint with a wet cloth.

Is Acrylic Paint Waterproof When Dry?

Image of Acrylic Paint. But, Is Acrylic Paint Permanent?Acrylic paint is water-based paint, meaning water is one of its constituents, along with acrylic resin and pigment. To wit, water serves as the paint’s solvent vehicle. Mindful of the above, is acrylic paint waterproof when dry?

It’s not! Waterproof is a term that means totally impervious to water. The word water-resistant fits dried acrylic paint better; it means disinclined/reluctant to accept water penetration.

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Over time, the interchangeable use of the terms waterproof and water-resistant has blurred the lines between their actual differences.

Water-resistant is not wholly impervious to water; it permits trace quantities to seep through or soak it after some time.

Waterproof means watertight, meaning it keeps out water perpetually or never soaks up water.

I presume the above response is concise enough and that you now understand what waterproof and water-resistant mean. I thought it necessary to distinguish the two terms to avoid confusion and misinterpretation of the paint’s physical properties.

So acrylic paint is not waterproof when dry. It’s water-resistant!

Make no mistake, the water-resistant attribute is beneficial; it enables you to clean up spilled acrylic paint, and it allows easy removal during makeovers. These management practices are much more difficult for waterproof paint.

How Do You Keep Acrylic Paint from Washing Off?

The one downside of water-based paint like acrylic is it can wash off. As I’d earlier explained, the water resistance of paint does not equate to total impermeability.

With time, or under unfavorable conditions, the paint yields to water, allows penetration to the substrate, becomes chipped, or washes off. So how do you keep acrylic paint from washing off?

The best method to keep acrylic paint from washing off is sealing it properly using an isolation coat followed by varnishing. It’s fundamental to give the paint ample drying time before the sealing to avoid trapping unevaporated moisture.

The standard drying time before sealing is 24 hours! This time varies depending on the thickness of your acrylic paint coat, the material of your workpiece, the weather conditions, etc. Considering all these, the drying time before sealing can be as long as three days or even a week.

Before I get to the procedural part, I advise you to protect the painted surface from any contact with water, especially during the first 24 hours after painting. It’s because water easily dissolves and washes off fresh acrylic paint.

The sealing procedure is as below:

Applying the isolation coat

An isolation coat is a shielding layer that you apply to paint before varnishing. It’s made of acrylic gel and forms a barrier between the incoming varnish and the paint underneath. Without this coat, the varnish dries to a rough finish.

Do not use an isolation coat on oil paints! It’s for acrylic paints only.

It’s also crucial to know that an isolation coat binds permanently, so I advise you to first test it out on a similar but scrap piece of wood ahead of the main application. 

My go-to isolation coat is the Golden Soft Gel Gloss. It is a high-end product that augments your paint color, protects it, and forms a transparent layer that improves the sheen and clarity of the paint.

The gel has a silky feel that lets you apply only one coat without leaving brush strokes. It’s also quite affordable.

Open the Golden Soft Gel gloss and mix with water in a separate container. Mix them gently as over-agitation introduces bubbles into the mixture; the best mixing technique is swirling and then blending gently with a paintbrush. The mixing ratio is 2:1 of isolation coat to water.

A broad flat brush with short soft bristles is the most suitable for this project; using a substandard or the wrong brush increases the risk for bubbles and brush strokes.

Load the brush with paint halfway up the bristles on all sides.

Apply paint from the center, moving towards the edges of your workpiece. If the wood is porous, apply a second coat of the isolation compound.

Let the above coat dry for at least 24 hours.


Varnish creates a removable surface that protects your acrylic paint from water, dust, UV rays, and scratches. All these maintain the color and integrity of your paint. Varnish comes in gloss, matte and satin sheens.

The gloss luster shows a richer and more shiny color; the matte varnish appears subdued and softened. Satin lies between the two mentioned sheens.

Image of paint brushes. So, How Do You Clean Oil Paint Brushes Without Paint Thinner?Requirements

  • Varnish: Sargent Art Acrylic Gloss
  • A shallow mixing container
  • Clean water
  • Safety gear (respirator, a pair of gloves, and safety goggles)
  • Synthetic-bristle Paintbrush: Winsor & Newton Cotman wash brush


Choose a varnish sheen of your liking; I’ll use a gloss sheen for demonstrative purposes, and the Sargent Art Acrylic Gloss is one the best I know out there.

Ventilate your working station and put on all the safety gear

Open up the varnish and pour it into a portable mixing container.

Add water to dilute the Sargent Art varnish. The standard ratio of varnish to water is 4:1. Ensure you follow the instructions on the varnish label for the mixing ratio.

I advise you to use a shallow mixing container so that only the lower half portion of the bristles will load up the varnish.

Dip the paintbrush into the varnish and ensure it loads up on both sides; I recommend the Winsor & Newton Cotman wash brush because it’s not too wide, so it doesn’t soak up excess varnish.

Start painting from the center of your workpiece towards the edges to avoid varnish dripping down its sides.

Don’t use copious amounts of varnish! Apply only in thin coats to enable it to function well and to keep the paint underneath visible.

If you are working on a large workpiece, do the painting systematically in sections.

Go over painted surfaces to level out any brush marks before the varnish starts drying.

Let the varnish dry for 4 to 6 hours before applying a second coat using the same procedure above.

Let the second coat dry, and then apply a 3rd coat on an as-needed basis.

The more varnish coats, the better the UV protection.

Don’t go beyond two coats if you’re using a matte or satin gloss. 

If your working environment is dusty or with pet dander or fur, cover the workpiece with something like a box while drying.

Let the entire artwork dry for a week undisturbed. While it may feel dry to the touch in 24 hours, the underlying layers of paint, isolation coat, and varnish need enough time for proper drying.

Your acrylic paint is now well sealed and waterproof.

Does Acrylic Paint Need to Be Sealed?

Acrylic paint dries on surfaces to form a hard, water-resistant layer. But is painting alone good enough? If not, does acrylic paint need to be sealed?

Acrylic paint, just like most other paints, needs sealing. There are several sealant agents, but my opined best (which I predictably recommend) is the Sargent Art Acrylic Gloss. It’s a varnish, and I’ll outline its features under the ‘How to protect acrylic paint’ subheading in the immediate next.

Before that, take a look at this justification for sealing acrylic paint with varnish:

  • The sealant prevents the paint from washing off in the water
  • It shields acrylic paint from scratching
  • Varnish preserves the color of the paint underneath
  • Some varnishes improve the sheen level of your paint
  • Varnish is dust-resistant and easy to clean

How do you protect acrylic paint?

As I’ve cited in the preceding texts, acrylic paint is waterborne; therefore, it needs extra protection to prevent wash-off and abraded damages. That said, how do you protect acrylic paint?

I’ve highlighted the procedural part of protecting acrylic paint in the “How do you keep acrylic paint from washing off?” segment up there. Here, I’ll only mention the general method of protecting the paint and a few other ways.

You protect acrylic paint by top coating with a varnish; this method has worked ever since, and the best agent to use here is the Sargent Art Acrylic Gloss varnish. It has the following distinguishing features and advantages:

  • It dries quickly
  • The varnish is non-toxic and therefore safe
  • It’s easy to apply and store
  • The varnish is easy to clean up
  • This agent is non-yellowing
  • It augments the paint color underneath

Other ways of protecting acrylic paint are:

  • Ensuring minimal contact with water before it dries
  • Applying more than one coat of the paint and varnish
  • Avoid exposure to harsh external environment conditions like excess UV rays

How Long Does an Acrylic Painting Last?

One of the core determinants of paint quality is its longevity index! The longer a painting can last, the higher the ranking. So how long does an acrylic painting last?

Acrylic paintings have disparate lifespans hinged on the type of substrate, prepping quality, presence or absence of a topcoat, the brand or quality of the acrylic paint itself, etc.

Here is the prognosis for the different situations:

Type/Material of Substrate

Wood: Acrylic paint and wood gel quite well! If you meet all the painting standards, it can last 50 years or more. It’s also imperative to know that this time varies based on the environmental surrounding of the wood. For instance, acrylic paint lasts longer on interior wood surfaces (like pinewood; a knotted softwood) than on exterior wood surfaces (like teak wood; a hardwood).

Exterior furniture pieces are often exposed to harsh environmental conditions & intensive physical stress, and the acrylic paint could last ten years or less.

Canvas: Acrylic paint is the most used painting on canvas, followed closely by oil paints. That already is quite telling about its longevity on the said substrate. Acrylic paint was discovered 80 odd years ago; it has shown excellent durability performance on canvas since then.

So far, under optimal conditions, the paint has lasted over 60 years on canvas; it’s only 50 years because acrylic hasn’t been around for long. It might as well last forever; who knows?

If the conditions are suboptimal or downright unfavorable, the paint won’t make it past ten years on the canvas. These conditions include poor-quality canvas, unprimed canvas, failing to topcoat the acrylic paint artwork, poor storage of the painted piece, exposure to environmental damage, etc.

Still, on canvas, there are two types: linen canvas (made from flax) and cotton duck canvas (made from cotton fibers). Linen canvas is more durable, expensive, and less available than its cotton-made counterpart. If you want your painting to look more professional and last longer, I recommend the linen canvas; cotton duck is perfect for beginners and practicing campus students.

Regardless of the canvas type, I advise you to prime the surface accordingly by purchasing and applying White Gesso Acrylic Paint Base for canvas! The white gesso sets up the canvas surface to receive acrylic paint. Lay down 2 or 3 coats, and remember to allow drying between these coats. Then you can apply the acrylic paint with no worries.

After painting the canvas, apply an isolation compound like Golden Artist Colors Isolation Coat, then topcoat with Liquitex Basics Gloss Varnish.

If you use the right products, your acrylic paint will last several generations on the canvas; that’s the whole point!

Metal: Under ideal conditions, the lifetime of acrylic paint on metals is similar to that of the two preceding substrates. It can go as long as 50 years looking as good as new.

But metals are often used for high-energy tasks, or they are regularly taking knocks and experiencing a lot of friction. These considerably reduce the lifespan of acrylic, and other paints, by extension, on the metal.

Also, metals are made of different elements, i.e., copper, steel, iron, aluminum, etc. It also impacts acrylic adhesion and the ultimate lifespan on the surface.

From the above pattern, you may have noticed that many things come into play to determine how long the paint can last on surfaces. They are so many that I can’t discuss them all.

Clothes/Fabrics: Acrylic paint will last permanently on clothes and other fabrics if you follow the correct procedures when painting and follow good management practices like machine-washing without water and on occasions.

In most cases, however, the paint doesn’t last as long as it does on wood and other surfaces because of regular and forceful washing with water. The clothing fabric’s strength also determines the acrylic’s adhesiveness as weaker fabric tends to hold loosely to the paint.

If you don’t wash and scrub constantly, the paint will last several years but fade a little bit.

Is Acrylic Paint Permanent On Clothes?

As we’ve seen with other materials like wood and metal, acrylic paint lasts for an eternity. In line with that paradigm, is acrylic paint permanent on clothes?

Acrylic paint sticks permanently to clothes, but you have to meet a few critical conditions to make this a surety. As mentioned earlier, you need to follow all the painting protocols for clothes and handle the clothing items well afterward.

But in all honesty, it’s almost impossible to achieve perfection with this. All clothes fade and get old after all. The focus now is on maintaining the paint color and consistency on the clothes for the longest time possible. The paint can only stay on clothes permanently if you don’t wear it altogether.

To preserve the acrylic painting on your clothes, you need to mix the acrylic paint using a fabric medium like DecoArt Americana Fabric Painting Medium before applying it to clothing.

The medium improves the paint’s flexibility so that it folds and bends along with the clothing fabric without chipping or breaking off.

Another effective practice that preempts acrylic paint chipping on clothing is heat setting. You need to do this using a medium to high heat setting on your iron box and iron the painted clothing item from the unpainted side.

If ironing from the unpainted side is impossible, lay another fabric on the painted fabric and iron. 

Heat setting seals in acrylic paint on the fabric to prevent it from loosening and coming off.

Is Acrylic Paint Washable On Glass?

The washability of acrylic paint on different surfaces varies. It comes off easily on some and less so on others. It even sticks permanently under certain conditions. So, where does a glass surface lie? Is acrylic paint washable on glass?

Absolutely! Acrylic paint is washable on glass. Washing the paint off a glass surface is relatively easy as glass usually has a smooth surface.

The process involves the initial softening of the paint with warm soapy water for a few minutes and then scraping the paint off gently using a glass scraper. That’s all it takes, and it works most of the time.

However, acrylic paint is designed to stick to glass permanently; this is not washable in water. You have to remove it using special thinning agents and solutions and the glass scraper.

Another instance is when you’ve top coated the acrylic paint on the glass surface using sealants. This is not easily washable in water; it calls for prior removal of the sealer coat before washing off with water.

Is Acrylic Paint Washable On Plastic?

Acrylic paint easily comes off of plastic surfaces, whether washed using water or not. It’s for the simple reason that acrylic paint is not meant to be applied directly to plastics.

Acrylic paint only sticks to plastic after applying a base paint coat of enamel or oil paints. You can also use special primers like Krylon glass surface primers to aid the acrylic paint in adhering to plastic.

The paint won’t be easily washable when you prime a plastic surface and cover the final acrylic paint using a water-resistant topcoat.

Will Acrylic Paint Wash Off in Rain?

Acrylic paint is water-soluble, so does it wash off in the rain?

For the umpteenth time, I emphasize that acrylic paint washes off in rain when it’s still wet, when the substrate is not properly primed before its application, and when you don’t topcoat it.

It won’t wash off in rain if the acrylic gets enough drying time, a well-primed surface, and a varnished topcoat.

Closing Thought

Acrylic paint spills are common instances whenever you paint. You can cover the floors and furniture with old cloth or paper to protect them from acrylic paint spills. Even then, the chance of acrylic paint spilling on your skin and clothes remains. So…

Are Acrylic Paints Washable?

Although acrylic paint becomes water-resistant when dry, it is still washable. The washability of acrylic paint depends on the quality of paint, the surface, and the duration of the paint on the surface. No matter what, you can still wash off the acrylic paint just by following our guide.