Will Lacquer Thinner Damage Car Paint? (Explained)

Lacquer thinner has many uses, which we will discuss later on. Despite that, when it comes into contact with your car surface, it can remove paint.

The longer lacquer thinner is left on car paint, the more damage it can cause to paint. So, if you must use lacquer thinner to remove paint overspray or tar, ensure that you dab it on the spot and remove it as soon as possible.

Even if you are very swift with the use of lacquer thinner on car paint, it will eat through the clear coat. Though it may not occur right away, it will happen gradually.

will lacquer thinner damage car paint

How Does Lacquer Thinner Damage Paint?

When applied to paint, this solvent dissolves the paint. And even though it restores much of the color once it evaporates, your paint will never be the same.

The ingredients found in lacquer thinner are responsible for dissolving the paint and this is why you should refrain from using it.

And if you must, be very fast and careful not to let the lacquer thinner run or drip to other parts of the paint. You should also know that this solvent can damage rubber and plastic in your car as well.

What is Lacquer Thinner?

Lacquer Thinner

You may have heard of or used lacquer thinner in the past. But, do you know what this product is made of and what are its intended uses?

Judging from the name, this solvent is used to thin resins on lacquer products. However, there is more to it than that.

Lacquer thinner over the years has acquired some DIY uses, especially in the auto industry. These uses include removing over-spray paint from cars and stubborn stains.

Most people who use lacquer thinner on their car paints don’t know the adverse effects of this solvent.

Chemicals Found in Lacquer Thinner

Familiarizing yourself with the chemicals found in lacquer thinner can help you make a more informed decision on whether it is safe on car paint or not.

This solvent comprises the following ingredients; acetone, xylene, toluene, methyl ethyl ketone, light aliphatic hydrocarbon solvent, and butyl acetate.

The content of these ingredients in lacquer thinner differs from the various blends of this product.

From the above list, you should be familiar with some ingredients such as acetone commonly used to remove stains on car paint. As you can see, lacquer thinner comprises many chemicals that if not carefully handled, can damage car paint.

The effects of lacquer thinner are more severe especially when the solvent is used at full strength. Plus it’s toxic to touch. So, you should be careful when handling this product.

What are the Uses of Lacquer Thinner?

The main use of this solvent is to remove sheen on surfaces to make them look more appealing.

The chemicals found in this product make it ideal for dissolving grease, oils, paints, and other materials that bond strongly to surfaces.

As is the rule of using any product, always perform patch tests before using it on a certain material.

Here are the main uses of lacquer thinner;

• It is commonly used to remove paint spots.

When painting, it is normal to drip paint on the surrounding surfaces. Lacquer thinner contains kerosene which is a strong paint solvent.

You can use this to remove paint stains. Remembering how strong this solvent is, you shouldn’t let it sit too long on a surface as it may damage it.

• Very effective at cleaning rust stains.

• You can use lacquer thinner as a degreaser.

Just like mineral spirits, lacquer thinner can also be used to remove tar and grease. A good number of motorists use this solvent to remove tar from their car paint.

And despite this being a common habit, we strongly advise you to use specialized products that offer the same benefits and are less toxic.

• Lacquer thinner is ideal for thinning oil and water-based stains.

Be it grime or grease on your car paint, this solvent will strip it right away. In the process, it will also strip off the wax and the clear coat. Therefore, don’t be very excited about using it to clean your car.

Is Lacquer Thinner the Same as Paint Thinner?

Yes, they are both obtained from the same source, but the varying chemical composition is what makes them different.

Paint thinner is less volatile than lacquer thinner which comprises light molecules that evaporate faster.

This difference comes from the distillation process both thinners go through. Lacquer thinners contain at least two solvents, unlike paint thinners.

Secondly, paint thinners have an oily texture, and lacquer thinners have a cold feeling when touched because they evaporate faster.

What about Mineral Spirits?

These are very similar to paint thinners. The main differences are, that mineral spirits have less odor and are more refined than their counterpart. Mineral spirits and paint thinners are used interchangeably.

Even though they are not the same product, they can be used for the same purposes, including thinning paint. In some areas, mineral spirits are also referred to as denatured alcohol.

What are the Alternatives to Lacquer Thinner?

We have ruled out that lacquer thinner is not safe to use on car paint. So, are there other products you can use to remove paint overspray or tar from your car paint?

Unfortunately, the alternatives commonly used instead of lacquer thinner aren’t very safe on car paint. Some of these alternatives include rubbing alcohol, methylated spirits, acetone, Windex, and kerosene oil.

The good thing about these alternatives is that they are easily available in most homes and are inexpensive. However, the effects they can have on car paint are almost the same.

The likes of acetone and rubbing alcohol will eat through your car’s clear coat.

Wouldn’t it be better to use a specialized cleaning product that will remove paint overspray or grease from your car paint while being very gentle on it?

Should I Use Lacquer Thinner on My Car?

No, you shouldn’t. If you never thought that it would hurt your car paint, now you do. Lacquer thinner can also damage plastic and rubber.

So, don’t let it run over any parts of your car. Though unsafe on car paint, there is a part of your car that can enjoy the benefits of lacquer thinner and that’s on the wood finishes.

You can use it to dissolve the resins on wood finishes and make it look better.

Also, if you feel like you must use lacquer thinner on car paint, dilute it with water and rub it on overspray or tar ensuring that it doesn’t sit for too long or run to other parts of the paint.

Can I Use Lacquer Thinner to Remove Semi-permanent Stains on Car Paint?

There are times when you may get semi-permanent stains on your car. This includes, plant water dripping from hanging pots. Such kind of water often contains strong minerals that make it hard to remove stains on the car paint.

Dealing with such stains is not easy because ordinary car wash shampoos may not be strong enough to remove such stains and lacquer thinner may prove to be very effective in such instances.

There is always an option when it comes to cleaning your car with paint-friendly products. Before cleaning stubborn stains with lacquer thinner why don’t you try claying?

Clay bars do an impressive job of removing bonded contaminants from the car surface. If you have stains that are not coming off when you use car wash shampoo, grab a clay bar and get to scrubbing.

Lacquer thinner may seem like a great choice because the stain-removal process is fast and easy. However, you will be doing that at the expense of your car’s wax, clear coat, and paint.

Is a Repainted Car Surface Very Sensitive to Lacquer Thinner?

The original paint of your car may withstand lacquer thinner, however, freshly painted surfaces will easily be damaged.

Freshly painted surfaces are usually softer and as a result, the lacquer thinner can easily eat through the paint leaving behind a mess. If you have had your car recently painted, please keep off lacquer thinner.

What are the Recommended Ways of Removing Paint Spray?

Most car owners think about lacquer thinner as a quick solution when they find paint overspray on their cars. It’s strong and gets the job done faster than any other product.

But considering the risks, you should opt for other solutions. If you are dealing with overspray paint, here are some car paint-friendly ways you can remove it;

The good old-fashioned soap and water. It may require lots of scrubbing but it is safer.

The second option is claying. This is ideal for paint overspray that has dried on car paint. Paint overspray becomes harder to remove when it has stayed for longer on the car paint. So, deal with it as soon as you see it.

A non-acetone nail polish remover. You already know that acetone can damage car paint. Look for a nail polish remover that doesn’t have acetone. Dab it on a cloth and rub it on the affected area.

A rubbing compound can also help with the removal of paint overspray. Be very careful because this can also remove paint if not used properly.

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