How to Remove Paint Stains from Car Body [Plus a Detailing Guide]

Want to learn how to remove paint stains from your car body? You are on the right page!

It’s next to impossible to own a family car without acquiring a fair number of scuffs, smudges, and marks of unknown origin on it.

If washing doesn’t remove the marks, and if you don’t intend to buff it out yourself (or have it detailed), you can probably remove some — or even all — of these using household cleaning supplies you already own.

If you are a beginner and this is your first time of doing this, don’t be afraid because the process is quite straight forward.

As long as you follow along with rapt attention, you’ll get everything down.


How to Remove Paint Stains from Car Body

Here are the important things you’ll need to successfully remove paint, rubber marks, stains, ink, or gun from your car surface:

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

Best used sparingly and on white areas, Magic Erasers can clean grease stains, watermarks, and some colored marks both in your kitchen and your car.

I used this to remove an orange strip of rubber left on the back of my car after a neighbor’s ball game (thank goodness).

Note: Use them very sparingly as they are slightly abrasive, and be aware that they can remove dyes from colored areas.

Happily, there’s even a Magic Eraser specifically formulated for cleaning rims, called the “Outdoor Pro.” Here’s what the official website says about it: “It’s specially formulated to clean tough outdoor messes like grills, car rims, and tools. Just wet it under the faucet and swipe, or clean…”


This home maintenance staple also cleans crayon, stuck-on chewing gum, paintball paint, and certain other ink stains. It also works on scuff marks from shoes, such as those from rubber soles.

Note that stains that have been left in the sun or have become set-in may be very difficult to remove.

I live in Florida, where, twice yearly, love bugs splatter the grills of cars throughout the state.

Our go-to splat-remover of choice is WD-40, since it’s best to remove dead bugs as soon as possible or they will break down, destroying your paint.

Rubbing Alcohol

A few years ago, a shopping cart blown by a strong wind tipped off a curb and left a mark on my bumper. While I couldn’t remove the dent, I was able to completely “erase” the mark left by the plastic shopping cart bumper, a four-inch white streak.

Two or three passes with a soft washcloth moistened with rubbing alcohol removed it.

Additionally, rubbing alcohol is known to remove graffiti and drawings left by markers, and may sometimes even remove permanent marker on seats. Test a small area first. Moisten a cotton swab and gently rub the inked area to remove the stain.

Most recently, I’ve used it to remove stubborn remnants from chalk marker writing on the windshield.

After trying unsuccessfully to clean the window, I wiped it down with a paper towel moistened with rubbing alcohol. It removed streaks in a flash!

Bug Tar Remover

It doesn’t just clean off dead bug mess; bug tar remover safely removes gum, whether it comes from someone’s shoe or is thrown from someone’s car (I hate when that happens!). Move your car to a shady location so the gum cools.

Wrap an ice cube in a soft washcloth and hold it against the gum until it becomes brittle, and very gently chip it away with your fingernail or the edge of a credit card.

While not every stain is so easily removed, it’s good to know you can quickly and affordably clean some of the most common and tricky marks on your car using products you already own.

Do it Yourself Automotive Detailing on a Budget

Do you know that:

Automotive detailing is an interesting do it yourself project which can you help maintain a reasonable resale value on your automotive investment.

Way back in the good old days you had to pay a professional plenty of dough in order to get a decent detailing job done on your car, but now with professional grade tools, and chemicals available at local stores, even us amateurs can get a fairly nice looking detail job done on our cars in just an afternoon.


There are plenty of good reasons for wanting to hire a professional to do the detail work on your car or truck periodically.

To my way of thinking, the most important reason is to maintain the resale value on the car, that is if you ever plan to sell it.

Detailing your car is also important if you intend to return it after your lease expires. I have seen people pay big bucks to have a leased car detailed before turning it in so they could avoid extra charges.

In this specific situation, you should weigh out the cost of hiring a professional versus the possible charges from your leasing company.

What to look for when done detailing your car

The following are the key areas which help make that all important “first impression” when someone is checking out your car.

First, they will take in the visual effect of the overall shine and finish of the paint on the body, next they usually look at the tires and wheels, and then they will go all around the interior and dashboard, followed by an under the hood and inside the trunk inspection.

There are some simple mistakes which people make are when they detail their own car because we tend to overlook the finer points.

This could be exactly why the process is called auto “detailing.” The areas you need to watch for are inside the door jambs and the door edges all around, including hatches, sliding doors, and around rear entry doors and windows.

Next would be the undercarriage, and wheel wells, then the carpet on the floor and the mats, lastly the hidden nooks and crannies of the interior, like the ashtray, the glove box, and any console storage compartments.

Is there a secret to getting that paint to really shine?

You can go to extremes and do things like polishing the surface with compounds using motorized polishing pads, but the easier path is reached by using a simple tool called Clay!

Yes, that is right. It is based on just plain old simple clay. Don’t get me wrong, it is not exactly the same type of clay we messed with as children, this is really high technology stuff.

The purpose of this clay is to get right down onto the paint surface and remove all the tiny bits of debris that our car collects over time. So it turns out that clay is one of the simplest auto detailing secrets we can use to obtain a super finish on your car’s paint!


Turtle Wax makes a nifty “all in one” super paint finish cleaning kit which is called the “ICE Clay Kit.” This kit can be found at many auto parts stores, online, or at some superstores which have large automotive departments. You can also go for just the clay and it’s matching lubricant from a company called “Pinnacle Wax.”

This company offers auto paint detailing clay which removes embedded impurities including dirt and old wax. This creates a very clean starting point for buffing, polishing and or simply waxing the car.

When this multiple step process is done properly the paint surface can look like it did when you first saw her on the showroom floor. This is a professional level activity, but the average Do It Yourself car person can easily learn this simple process.

Finally getting started!

There are some basic preparations required before you can even use this clay, and it’s required lubricant to deep clean the finish on your car.

First off you need to have the car washed, rinsed, and dried really well. You can do a deep preliminary cleaning at the coin-operated car wash, which helps get the bulk of the dirt and road grime off the car before you even start the real process of detailing your car or truck.

Don’t forget to spray down the floor mats by laying them on the concrete in the coin-op wash and pressure spraying them thoroughly, followed by a good rinse.

Also, plan to use the vacuum system to clean the interior and in the trunk if required. Even if you run it through the coin-operated or automatic car wash, it would not hurt to wash it once more by hand using a car wash soap which removes old wax as well. This is an important preparation step for deep cleaning the paint on your car.

Time to really get the crud out

Now it is time to start the clay-based crud removal process on your paint. After you allow the car to dry very thoroughly, you take the putty-like clay, and with its lubricant, you apply it to small areas at a time.

When working with the clay you simply press the clay onto the surface and then pull away from the crud. The clay is then rolled by hand until new fresh clay is exposed and repeat the process.

One manufacturer suggests you do areas of around two square feet at a time. At this pace you would be working on this process for about 2 hours on an average sized car.

The clay is reusable, and can last for multiple uses, and has no shelf life if you keep it moist with the lubricant.

Going deep inside

Cleaning the interior can be done with mild soap and a shine restorer like any of the “Armor All” car interior cleaning products. Wash the leather and plastic with a small cloth wet with a dilute soap solution and rinse with a second towel and dry with a third.

Lastly, apply the shining material of your choice. Don’t forget to use a q-tip in the edges of the dash and your air vents. Next wash the windows inside and out using paper towels with a non-streaking glass cleaner.

Vacuum carpets really well, and dab in some carpet freshener powder to make the car smell nice and clean inside. Make sure the spare tire is in good condition, and check for the jack and any other tools that came with the car.

Tires and wheels

As for deep cleaning the tires I typically go for the completely low tech approach of using an old school steel wool pad with a grease removing soap.

This is dunked into warm water, and with some elbow grease, I will scrub the tires until all the discoloration and dirt are easily rinsed away.

Once the tires are dry, I apply a polymer-based protector like “Meguire’s Hot Shine” tire dressing spray. The wheels need special care, and you don’t want to scratch the clear coat finish on most modern wheels.

Abrasives are a poor choice on alloy wheels. So you need to use either a spray on rinse off style wheel cleaner, or you can use some car wash soap in warm water and more elbow grease.

Putting on the finishing touches.

I prefer to use liquid car polishes for their ease of use, and the “ICE polish” from Turtle Wax can be applied in sun or shade!

For best results, you may want to polish the car a few times over as this will add luster to the finish and your reward will be a super deep shine on your ride! Once your car’s finish is looking good, keep the car out of harm’s way by parking it under cover if at all possible.

Most of the tools which could be required:

  • Pocket full of quarters for coin-op car wash
  • Clean wash bucket
  • Clean wash mitt
  • A good quality car wash soap
  • Package of microfiber towels
  • Clay-based finish cleaning kit
  • High-quality car polish
  • Strong vacuum for floors and mats
  • Q-tips
  • Old toothbrush
  • Medium sized soft scrub brush
  • 4-5 soft towels
  • Streak free window cleaner
  • Paper towels

Final Words on How to Remove Paint Stains from Car Body

This is a very basic process listing for getting your car to look like new without spending a lot of cash.

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