Does Acetone Damage Car Paint: Explained

Most of the time when acetone is mentioned, it is in reference to nail polish remover. In instances where a mark or stain just won’t come off, some car owners choose acetone as their trump card, but will it damage the paint?

Acetone can sometimes be used on car paint, but preparation and conservative use are key if you want to avoid causing serious damage to your car’s paint job. The longer the acetone is left on the paint, the more likely it is to cause irreversible damage to the paint, as such, we advise caution when using acetone to clean a car’s exterior. 

If you’ve found yourself with a stubborn scrape or stain on your car, you might still be tempted to use it. If so, you need to be sure that you are doing it the right way to avoid damage, and this post will tell you just that! Read on below for more information on acetone and car paint!

Table of Contents

What Is Acetone?

Acetone is a clear and colorless liquid solvent used to break down paint, grease, and various other materials. Acetone is commonly found as the primary active ingredient in nail polish remover. Acetone is also used in household settings as a heavy-duty cleaning agent. 

Some of the things that acetone can be removed from a surface include:

  • Nail polish 
  • Adhesives
  • Paint 
  • Resin
  • Oil 
  • Permanent marker 
  • Grease

Is It Safe To Use Acetone On Car Paint?

If used improperly, acetone can completely ruin your car’s paint job. First, it will strip your car’s waxing away, and then eventually cause bubbling and tears on the paint, eventually, the paint may even be totally removed from the car. Still, if used the right way, acetone becomes a sort of magic eraser capable even of taking out the peskiest of marks. 

That being said, it’s accurate to characterize acetone as safe only if it is used very lightly, and with plenty of attention. This means not just using a very small amount of the acetone, but also keeping in mind to only leave the paint exposed to it for a very short period. If this part is messed up, the consequences are severe. 

Why Use Acetone On A Car?

With some of the risks that come with using it, why would someone still go ahead and use acetone on their car? Well despite the risks, even experts may turn to use acetone to touch up a paint job, or remove mistakes. Acetone is also used for getting problematic marks off of the car’s paint job to ensure a fully fresh and clean look. 

Acetone may be particularly useful for instances where paint from another car is transferred through friction, like what happens when a car slowly scrapes another while parking and leaves a mark the color of the offender’s paint. Soap and water won’t clean that off, but some well-applied acetone may do the trick. 

Being that acetone is such a strong solvent, it should not be your first option when looking to get a stubborn stain off of your vehicle. But it can be highly effective when used with caution, and for the right application. 

How To Use Acetone On Car Paint Safely

If you think acetone is necessary to get whatever is plaguing your car’s exterior gone for good, you want to be sure you know how to use it correctly. As we continue to warn, and for good reason, acetone will strip your paint if left on for too long or if too much is applied. For that reason, we have included some tips below!

Get The Acetone Off ASAP

One of the most important steps to protecting your car’s paint while using acetone is to limit the amount of time it is on your car as much as possible. That means you will need to act quickly while the acetone is applied if you want to make sure it was worth it. 

It also means that you need to make sure all of the acetone is wiped clean off of your car right after you are done wiping it. Acetone evaporates quickly so you may not think it is still there, but it definitely is! And it will still destroy your paint if it is not wiped away.

We recommend washing the spot you are working on with a hose or spray bottle, and then thoroughly wiping it with a cloth. If you can, it is also worth considering going to a car wash, just to be completely sure your paint job is safe. 

Apply The Acetone Sparingly

The more you put on, frankly the more likely you are to harm your car’s paint job. And besides, you will not need a lot of acetone for it to work effectively. Considering that, we recommend using only a very small amount. 

Also, don’t even think about applying the acetone directly to the paint! Try mixing a small amount of acetone with water to dilute it. This will make the application easier to apply because it will stay wet longer, and most importantly, drastically reduces the likelihood of the acetone causing damage. 

If your diluted mixture does not work, add more acetone to the water in very small increments. Remember to be patient, it takes a lot more time and money to repair a paint job than it does to be careful while doing this step. 

Wash Your Car Before Applying Acetone

This tip is less critical than the others for ensuring you do this process safely, but it is still important nonetheless! You might be surprised to hear that it is beneficial to wash your car free of any dirt or grime before you begin spot treatment with acetone.

Doing so will minimize the possibility of the acetone reacting with any dirt or grime, and will also help you to have a clearer vision on the spots that need to be treated. With dirt and grime in the way, it is possible you may be less accurate with the application. 

Aftercare: Apply Fresh Wax

Once you are sure the acetone is gone and are happy with the results, you’ll probably want to put a fresh coat of wax on the area you have treated with the acetone. This is because even if the area looks unaffected, acetone is a very powerful degreaser, so much so that it is likely to have stripped away the leftover wax present at the site. 

So be sure to apply a fresh waxing to the spot to ensure that it is well protected! 


Improper usage of acetone can completely ruin a perfectly fine paint job. But when applied the correct way, acetone can be a great way to clear off a stubborn stop that could not otherwise be removed through soap and water.  

That’s why it is important to remember to be careful when using acetone on your car, and to keep in mind that this should not be the first fix you try when faced with an unsightly spot on your vehicle. We always recommend starting with lighter cleaners, and then working your way up to the heavy hitters, like acetone, only when completely necessary! 

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *