How to Remove Spray Paint from Rims?

Do you want to learn how to remove spray paint from rims? Keep reading this article for the step-by-step guide.

Spray paint can get onto car rims in several ways. The rims could get stained by overspray, or you could deliberately paint them to give them a unique look.

You may also have bought a second-hand car with spray paint on the rims. Either way, the paint can sometimes look unsightly, prompting you to remove it.

However, spray paint bonds tightly to surfaces; removing it takes a lot of work. Moreover, the bond increases with time; therefore, older spray paint poses a greater challenge.

Luckily, you can quickly restore your rims’ original look with the right tools and products. So, let me show you how to remove spray paint from rims.

  • Start by Detaching the rubber tire from the rims.
  • Wash the rims and allow them to dry.
  • Apply the selected paint remover ( I recommend Goof Off) and let it sit for the duration recommended on the label.
  • Wipe off the loose paint with clean rags and use a plastic scraper to remove paint from stubborn areas.
  • Finally, rinse the rims, then buff them back to a sleek shine.

This is just a highlight of the proper steps for removing spray paint from rims. I’ll discuss them in depth, including all the products to use and the best practices for each step.

I will also discuss alternative methods of removing spray paint from rims, but first, let’s learn a few things about spray paint.

What Is Spray Paint?

Spray Paint. Do You Know How to Paint Galvanized Metal?
Image of a Spray Paint

Spray paint, aka Aerosol paint, is a colored surface coating that comes in a sealed container with pressurized gas.

At the top of the container, there’s a valve button with a tiny opening to let out the paint.

When you press the valve button, the pressurized gas forces the paint out in an even mist that covers the surface quickly.

Spray painting is the most modern alternative to the traditional brushing and rolling methods of painting a surface.

It is quicker and guarantees a uniform, professional-looking finish for your surface. In addition, it comes in lightweight containers that are portable and easy to store.

Spray painting did not exist until 1949. But don’t get me wrong.

The aerosol technology has been around since 1931 when Eric Rotheim, a Norwegian engineer, invented the first aerosol cans.

However, in 1949, Edward H Seymour piggybacked on aerosol technology and used it to dispense paint.

He demonstrated the dispersal method with a new aluminum paint designed for finishing radiators quickly.

The purpose of the demo was to show that the new technology will allow painters to finish large-scale tasks more quickly and efficiently.

The demonstration was successful, and the paint manufacturing industry saw the benefits of spray paint.

As a result, spray paint became a full-blown industrial gift and has remained that way to this day.

As paint manufacturers kept making spray paint, they devised ways to improve the product. They added ingredients that boosted paint features like sheen, dry time, durability, etc.

Today, spray paint comes in colors and sheens like flat, matte, satin, gloss, and eggshell.

Moreover, the manufacturers have designed different product variations to work on all surfaces, including metal, wood, glass, plastic, and masonry.

What Are the Paint Removal Options 

There are many ways of removing spray paint from surfaces. I’ll discuss all of them, starting with the most popular, down to the manual methods.

  • Using Paint Strippers

The most popular way to remove paint is using a chemical remover/paint stripper – a product designed to remove surface coatings like paint and varnish.

It is the most popular paint removal method because it is fast and more gentle on the surface. In addition, it is the most effective way to remove paint from large surfaces.

There are two primary types of paint strippers: caustic paint strippers and solvent-based strippers.

Manufacturers make them using different ingredients; hence, they work differently to remove paint.

You must understand how each works to select the correct one for a particular task. So, let me break them down for you.

  • A Caustic Paint Stripper usually contains Sodium Hydroxide, giving it an extremely high pH.

It works by breaking down the components that promote adhesion in the paint. Consequently, the dried paint becomes easy to remove.

The high pH of a caustic stripper makes it strong enough to remove thick paint layers quickly.

However, it also makes the product corrosive and potentially harmful to the substrate. If you leave it on for too long, it can eat through the surface.

Before removing spray paint with a caustic stripper, read the product’s usage instructions thoroughly.

Ensure that you leave it on the surface for the time recommended by the manufacturer and no more.

Moreover, you must neutralize the surface after using a caustic stripper to halt its reactions. This way, your surface is safe, and there’s nothing to ruin the next finish you apply.

  • On the other hand, Solvent-based strippers are milder than the caustic variety and, therefore, more surface-friendly.

Their main active ingredient is dichloromethane, aka Methylene Chloride.

These strippers penetrate the paint layers and break their bond with the surface. As a result, air pockets form between the surface and the paint, making the pain easy to scrape off. 

On the downside, Methylene Chloride has severe health risks that could be fatal if exposed in large quantities.

So, to be safe, you must use solvent-based strippers in well-ventilated areas and wear protective gear like a respiratory mask, gloves, and goggles.

Note: If you have reservations about using these chemical paint removers, worry not.

Some manufacturers have formulated less toxic varieties using natural ingredients; therefore, they aren’t a health risk and won’t corrode the surface.

A few good examples of non-toxic paint removers are soy-based gel paint removers and citrus-based paint removers.

On the downside, these organic removers work slower than the other standard paint strippers.

Nevertheless, the slower work pace is a small price to maintain your safety and the environment.

Other Chemicals You Can Use for Paint Removal

  • Acetone

Acetone is a petroleum distillate that is highly reactive; thus, most people use it as a general solvent.

It’s the main component of nail polish remover and is frequently used in paint thinners.

Like caustic strippers, acetone dissolves paint, starting with the topmost layer and going down toward the surface.

It softens the finish, allowing you to scrape it off easily with a putty knife.

On the downside, acetone can be pretty corrosive in its pure form; therefore, it may damage the surface if left on for too long.

Moreover, it produces vapors that can sting the eyes and nose, causing discomfort.

For this reason, you must always wear protective gear and work in a well-ventilated space whenever you use acetone.

On the bright side, the vapors of acetone are not toxic. This, however, does not mean that you should use it recklessly – too much exposure can make you light-headed.

  • Adhesive Remover

You can also use your standard home adhesive remover to remove spray paint from surfaces. If you look at it lightly, paint is just a form of colored glue, only stronger.

For those who don’t know, an adhesive remover is a product designed to soften and remove glue from surfaces.

They are often based on organic solvents that can soften or dissolve adhesive polymers that don’t dissolve in water. Some good examples of such solvents are acetone and D-Limonene.

You can find adhesive removers that eliminate a broad range of adhesives; however, some are designed to address a specific bond.

I recommend going for the broad range variety because they often use strong solvents that can soften the paint.

An excellent example of such a product is “Goof Off,” popular among professionals and DIYers.

Manual Paint Removal Option

You can remove the paint manually if you don’t have access to any of the chemicals mentioned above. Manual methods are more aggressive and require a lot of elbow grease.

Moreover, they are slower than the chemical methods and only work best for smaller paint removal tasks.

Nevertheless, manual paint removal will be efficient if you use it correctly. So, here is the best manual method for removing paint from rims.

  • Using a Heat Gun

Heat guns produce streams of hot air. When you direct the air over a painted surface, the layers of old paint will bubble and come off the surface. 

This method is cleaner than using chemical paint removers. But on the downside, the high heat can burn the paint and create harmful fumes or cause heat damage to your rims.

To strip paint with this method:

  • Turn on the heat gun and let it heat up. Afterward, hold it at least two inches away from the painted rims.
  • Move the gun from side to side over a small area until the finish creases. Don’t hold it over one place for too long to prevent the paint from burning or your rims from overheating.
  • After the finish loosens up, Use a plastic scraper to remove the paint. You can heat the paint with one hand and scrape with the other to develop a natural heating and scraping flow.
  • Once you’ve removed all the paint, soak a soft cloth in mineral spirits or paint thinner, then use it to wipe the rims.
  • Finally, wash the rims and let them dry.

Note: Always keep a metal tray nearby to give you a safe place to put the heat gun when you’re not using it. This way, you won’t burn anything around the workspace.

Also, wear proper safety gear such as gloves, safety goggles, and a respirator mask to avoid inhaling harmful fumes.

How to Remove Spray Paint from Rims

The steps are:

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

Removing spray paint from rims is challenging and requires specific tools and products to get it right. So here’s everything you’ll need to have before you begin.

  • Paint stripper to loosen the paint’s grip on the surface, making it easy to wipe off.
  • Several microfiber cloths or old cotton rags to wipe loose paint. You will need a few rags if you’re only removing paint from a small section of the rims.

However, there’s no limit to the number of rags you’ll need if the whole rim is covered in spray paint.

  • A small brush or an old toothbrush to scrub the paint off hard-to-reach areas.
  • Plastic scrapers as an alternative to brushes.
  • Sandpaper is the last alternative if all the other methods won’t remove the paint. However, you must be very careful when using sandpaper because it is too abrasive and could damage your rims.

I recommend that you use silicon carbide sandpaper to be on the safe side.

  • Plenty of water to wash the rims before and after removing the paint.
  • Car soap
  • Tire lube
  • A car toolbox.

Step 2: Remove the Tire From The Rim

You will work more efficiently with the tire off the metal rim. This way, you will have easy access to every inch of the rim.

Moreover, the chemicals you use won’t destroy the rubber, forcing you to replace them.

To remove the tires:

  • Pour some tire lube where the tire and the rim meet to lubricate it. You can also use liquid dish soap or cooking oil for this part.
  • Lift the tire off the rim using a pry bar and a screwdriver. Ensure that the tools are flat and wide to avoid scratching the rims.

Note: If you do not know how to detach the rims and tires, ask a neighbor or a professional for help. 

Step 3: Wash the Rims

Some people tend to skip this step when removing paint. However, washing rims before removing paint is as important as washing them before painting. 

In this case, washing will remove road debris that may scratch the metal as you wipe off loose paint.

Additionally, it will ensure complete contact between the stripper and the paint, ensuring it works efficiently.

  • Wet the rims a little, then apply car soap or a wheel cleaner.
  • Use a brush to scrub the rims, and ensure you scrub the nooks and crannies.
  • When satisfied, rinse the rims with a hose and allow them to dry.
  • You can also use a pressure washer for this step if you want to work faster. However, you must ensure you know how to use it properly to avoid ruining your rims.

Note: You must allow the rims to dry before applying the chemical stripper. If you apply the stripper on wet rims, the water will neutralize the chemicals, making it inefficient.

Step 4: Remove the Paint

All the steps up to this point are universal, meaning they will work for all rims. However, what you do next will be determined by the material of your rims.

The two primary types of rims are alloy and steel rims. They have slightly different requirements for paint removal, so let’s look at each individually.

How to Remove Spray Paint From Alloy Rims

More than 50% of all cars have alloy rims. Alloy rims are made of a combination of aluminum and nickel; therefore. They are lightweight and beautiful.

However, they are also prone to ruin if you do not handle them with care. So, here’s how to get spray paint off of them:

  • Spray or brush on the paint remover generously over the painted rims.
  • Leave it on for 15 minutes, or the duration stated on the instruction label.
  • Wipe off as much paint as possible with the rags, then switch to a brush to remove tough stains. Also, use the brush to remove paint in hard-to-reach areas.
  • If the brush does not work, reapply the stripper over the stubborn stains and wait the appropriate time. Afterward, repeat wiping and brushing like before.
  • Once all the paint comes off, rinse the rims to remove all traces of the stripper.

Note: You can also use a paint scraper if the brush is not abrasive enough. Just make sure that it’s made of plastic.

Also, do not use sandpaper or other highly abrasive tools on aluminum rims because they will scratch and scuff the surface.

How to Remove Spray Paint From Steel Rims

Steel rims are stronger and much heavier than alloy ones. They are more durable; therefore, you don’t have to worry about damaging the surface while you remove the spray paint. 

  • Apply the paint stripper and let it sit for the duration recommended on the label.
  • Wipe off as much paint as possible with a cloth, then switch to a brush to remove tough stains.
  • If the brushes don’t work, you can use abrasives like sandpaper or a wire brush drill attachment. You can also use metal scraping tools because it is hard to dent steel rims.
  • After removing all the paint, rinse the rims to remove traces of the paint stripper, then allow them to dry.


  • You can use more aggressive options like sandblasting and pressure washing to remove spray paint from steel rims because they are strong.
  • Remember to test the paint stripper on a small hidden portion of the rim to ensure it is effective and won’t ruin the surface.

You may have to test several paint strippers to find the perfect one.

Here’s a Video On Removing Spray Paint from Rims:

How Do You Get Spray Paint off Of Chrome Rims?

Chrome rims are simply steel or alloy rims coated in a chromium plate. Car owners usually add the coating as a beauty enhancement and protection against oxidation.

It takes time and money to add the chrome plating. Therefore, if you get spray paint on the rims, you must remove the stains without damaging the chrome.

So, let me show you the correct way to do it:

If the spray paint covers a large portion of the chrome rims, you will need a paint remover or some acetone.

If you’re using paint remover

  • Apply the product over the painted area and allow it to sit for the recommended duration.
  • Next, wipe and brush off the loose paint, just like you do with steel or alloy rims. 
  • If the paint won’t come off, apply more paint stripper, then cover the rims with plastic wrap for a few hours. Afterward, use a nylon scrubber to remove the paint.

Allowing the chemicals to sit on the dried paint for longer should break down the paint.

Moreover, chrome is tough; therefore, you do not have to worry about the paint remover corroding it.

If you’re using acetone:

  • Pour some acetone on a cloth, then place the cloth over the painted area.
  • Hold the cloth in one place until the paint starts breaking down, then wipe it off carefully.
  • Add more acetone and wipe as necessary until all the paint comes off. This method is effective but takes longer than if you use paint remover.

Does WD-40 Remove Spray Paint?

WD-40 can remove spray paint thanks to its lubricating properties that help break down the paint.

For those who don’t know, WD-40 is a popular degreaser, lubricant, and rust remover that comes in an aerosol container.

It is a staple in many homes because of the range of tasks it can perform.

Here’s how to remove spray paint with WD-40:

  • Wash the spray-painted area with mild soap and some water.
  • Rinse the area and allow it to dry properly.
  • Spray a liberal amount of WD-40 directly on the spray paint, then allow it to sit for 10 minutes.
  • Now, spray a little more product on a clean rag and rub the affected area gently until the paint starts to lift. It may require a lot of elbow grease, but all the paint will eventually come off.
  • Finally, rewash the area with mild soap and water to remove traces of the WD-40, then allow it to dry.

Does Vinegar Remove Spray Paint?

Vinegar will not remove spray paint completely. However, it will soften the coat enough to make it easy to scrape off.

We classify vinegar as a paint remover because it contains traces of ethanol, a vital ingredient in making paint-removing solvents. 

Nevertheless, vinegar is acidic and potentially corrosive to sensitive materials like metal and rubber.

So, it is best to always dilute the vinegar before using it to remove spray paint from such surfaces.

Depending on the type of paint, it takes vinegar between 10-30 minutes to remove spray paint from surfaces.

Vinegar will remove water-based spray paint quicker than it would remove oil-based paint.

The reason is that water-based paints have no oils and fewer chemicals, making them easier to soften and dissolve.

On average, the vinegar will take 10 minutes to remove water-based spray paint.

On the other hand, it will take vinegar up to 20 minutes to remove oil-based spray paint. The high oil and chemical concentration make it harder for the vinegar to work.

You can use a more concentrated vinegar solution to shorten the time. However, you must be careful not to let it erode the surface.

Now that you know vinegar can remove spray paint, let me show you how to use it correctly.

You Will Need the Following:

  • One bottle of distilled vinegar
  • Some warm water
  • Clean rags
  • A paint scraper or a putty knife
  • A pair of gloves
  • A timer or clock.

Step 1: Mix equal parts of vinegar and water to make a strong enough solution to remove oil-based paint.

If you’re removing water-based paint, mix one part vinegar with three parts water to make a milder solution.

Step 2: Dip a clean towel into the solution and let it soak a little. Next, dab the mixture generously over the painted area and wait 10-15 minutes.

If the paint isn’t soft in 15 minutes, dab some more vinegar until it does.

Step 3: Once the paint softens, use a scraper to lift it gently off the surface. I recommend using a plastic scraper for this part to avoid ruining the surface.

Step 4: Once all the paint comes off, wipe off traces of vinegar with a damp towel, then allow the surface to dry.


It is pretty common for car rims to get spray paint on them. And if you’ve worked with spray paint before, you know how firmly it bonds to surfaces.

Whether you painted them for aesthetics or accidentally got overspray on them, it’s essential to know…

How to Remove Spray Paint From Rims

The quickest way to remove spray paint from rims is to apply a paint stripper and then wait a few minutes for the paint to soften.

Afterward, you wipe or scrape off the loose paint to reveal clean rims. You can also use solvents such as acetone or regular adhesive removers to get rid of the spray paint on rims.

If you dread using chemicals, opt for a homemade solution like vinegar or use a heat gun to remove the spray paint manually.

Either way, you must never let paint stripper or solvent sit on the surface for too long. Otherwise, the chemicals will corrode the surface.

Remember, car rims aren’t created equally. An alloy rim will require you to be gentle as you remove the spray paint to avoid ruining the surface.

On the other hand, steel and chrome rims and more resilient and can stand up to more abrasive methods of removing spray paint.

Thank you for reading this far, and I hope that the information helps you in your efforts to remove spray paint from rims. If you need me to clarify anything, feel free to reach out in the comments.