How to Remove Oil Paint Off Skin: Helpful Tips

Oil-based paints are a great choice for artists because they can be applied thickly, layer after layer with no problems. This property also makes them difficult to remove from the skin after it has dried.

You might find yourself scrubbing the spot for hours, only to have it still visible on your hand or arm. There are many ways to tackle this problem but some are better than others. In this article, we will cover several great tips for removing oil paint off skin in a way that is easy and won’t leave behind any residue.

What Is Oil Paint?

Oil paint is a popular medium for artists because of its thickness and ability to cover surfaces. It can be applied multiple times, allowing the artist to build up layers or textures quickly.

Oil-based paints typically take a longer drying time than acrylics because of their thicker viscosity when applied onto surfaces which you can read more about here.

Most commonly used by artists to create beautiful works of art, oil paint is a type of paint that uses pigments with an aliphatic resin binder. Most often mixed with solvents such as turpentine or mineral spirits, it can easily transfer onto clothing and skin when accidentally splashed during the mixing process.

Oil Paint Ingredients

Oil-based paints are composed primarily of mineral spirits (solvents), resins, and pigments. The binder is a natural or synthetic polymer that holds the other components together to form paint.

Mineral spirits are colorless petroleum-based solvents distilled from crude oil. Solvents have different evaporation rates which cause them to dry at various speeds depending on what they evaporate faster than others (i.e., hexanes vs mineral spirits).

Pigment refers to any finely ground substance used as a coloring material. Examples of pigment include powder colors such as titanium dioxide, iron oxides/hydroxide, carbon black. In paints, the most common types of pigment are Titanium Oxide, Lead Carbon Black, Chromium, Iron Oxide.

Oil paint ingredients vary in different formulations by brand, so knowing the type of paint you are working with is important to choose an effective solvent.

Is Oil Paint Toxic?

An artist’s hands are a common place where oil paint can gather, especially when it is wet and not completely dry yet. If you accidentally touch your skin with the brush while working on a painting project, it may also transfer onto your hand or arm depending on how thickly you applied the color to the canvas.

Oil paint is not toxic to the skin, but it may cause irritation if left on for long periods of time. The binder in oil-based paints contains aromatic hydrocarbons that when inhaled over a period of time can lead to chronic respiratory disease and cancer.

Using protective gear such as gloves and masks will mitigate these risks and prolong your healthy lifespan!

Does Oil Paint Come off Skin Easily?

Oil-based paints are difficult to remove from the skin because they dry and become hardened. Once it dries, you will find yourself scrubbing furiously trying to get it off without harming your skin in any way.

Unfortunately, this is not a very effective method and only damages the top layer of cells on your hand or arm which can lead to discoloration, scarring, or even an infection if left untreated for too long!

Can You Wash Oil Paint with Water?

Washing oil paint with water is not effective because the binder in this type of paint forms a film when it dries, allowing for very little absorption by water alone.

Mineral spirits or any other solvent will do a much better job at dissolving the pigment and completely cleaning your skin.

How to Get Oil Based Paint off Skin?

There are several household items that work effectively to remove dried/cured oil paint from your hands or arms: vegetable oils, mineral spirits (solvents), and even dish soap! We will discuss each option in detail so you can decide which one works best for your needs.

You can use one of the methods below depending upon how much time you have available.

Chemical Solvents

Soak with Mineral Spirits or Paint Thinner

Mineral spirits are solvents that work by breaking down organic compounds such as paints into smaller parts so they can be easily dissolved when mixed with wet towels or rags.

This method works best for large surfaces like arms or legs because applying thin layers of solvent takes too much time using this technique.


  • Pour enough liquid into the bowl.
  • Soak a rag in the liquid and lay it over the paint until it starts to dissolve/dissipate from your skin.
  • Once you see that the oil has been removed, wipe it away with a paper towel or clean cloths.
  • Repeat as necessary until all of the oil-based paint is gone from your skin!

Apply Baby Wipes

Baby wipes work similarly to mineral spirits but are easier to use because they can be wrapped around fingers for precise application onto particularly stubborn areas of dried-up paint on hands or arms.

Plus, baby wipes smell better than mineral spirits so there’s no need to worry about smelling like toxic chemicals!


Make sure not to rinse off any residue left behind by using soap and water after removing the oil paint.

Rub with Dish Soap

Dish soap is a household item that can be used to break down oils, fats, and grease. The addition of alkaline agents in dish soaps helps emulsify the oil paint residue on your skin for easier removal.

This method is the quickest way to remove oil-based paints from the skin because it can be done without drying time or waiting for oils to dissolve.


  • Simply apply a generous amount of liquid soap over your hands and fingers where the paint has settled, lather up for 30 seconds then rinse away!
  • Repeat this process as needed until all of the color remains removed from your skin.
  • Make sure not to leave any residue behind by using warm water after washing off the soap.

It’s important that you don’t touch surfaces throughout this process as you will transfer oily substances onto other objects/surfaces accidentally.

Use Paint-Removing Wipes

There are specialized products available in stores that remove paint from the skin for you! These towelettes were developed with industrial-strength solvents like mineral spirits, xylene, and butyl cellulose (which is also found in nail polish remover) that easily break down even stubborn oil paints.


To use, simply wipe the affected area until all residue remains has been removed then rinse away with soap and water afterward.

Natural Solvents

Some experts recommend avoiding certain chemical solvents in favor of non-toxic natural alternatives but these methods are much more time-consuming considering they require multiple steps before being able to remove oil paint from skin.

Dissolve with Baby Oil

If you do not have access to dish soap or would prefer an alternative solution, consider using baby oil!

Baby oils are blends of penetrating oils that will allow the solvent to sit atop the oily substance without evaporating away quickly like water-based products such as lotions would. They also contain several types of emollients or moisturizers that help smooth rough skin by filling in the cracks between cells.


  • Apply generous amounts over the affected area until the paint starts to dissolve then wipe off using rags or paper towels making sure no residue remains behind once dried up.
  • Warm water can be used afterward for best results!

This process may take longer than dish soap but works just as effectively to remove oil paint from your hands.

Apply Cooking Oil

Vegetable oils such as olive or corn oil act like solvents since they contain fatty acids that break down the binder component in oil-based paint, making them easy to wash off. The potential downside is that these products do not dissolve in water so they cannot be easily removed with warm/soapy water.


After applying vegetable oils for several minutes, use a clean rag soaked in hot water to rub against the affected area in circular motions until all of the oil is removed and only dirt remains on top of your skin.

Apply Vinegar

If you do not have access to mineral spirits or would prefer an alternative solution, consider using vinegar instead! Vinegar contains acetic acid which acts as a mild solvent perfect for breaking through even thick layers of oil paint without damaging your skin cells.


  • To remove dried/cured colors using vinegar soak cotton balls in vinegar and apply directly to the affected area.
  • Let it sit for several minutes before scrubbing off with warm water.

Tips to Keep Paint Spatters off Your Skin

Paint spatter is a common problem when using oil-based paints since the material does not dry immediately but instead needs to be left alone for several hours or days before becoming stable.

  • Wear protective clothing such as latex gloves and old clothes that will not be missed if they get stained.
  • Make sure surfaces have been properly prepared with a coat of primer before applying a color coat.
  • Maintain proper ventilation by opening windows during application and leaving rooms immediately after painting has dried for at least two hours.
  • If necessary, use a plastic drop sheet or tarp to protect your floors and surfaces from spills, splatters, scrapes, etc.
  • If you accidentally got paint on your hands, use a dry shampoo to absorb the oil-based paints off the skin.
  • Protect surfaces from accidentally being stained by removing spilled colors as soon as possible using paper towels or rags.
  • It may seem counterintuitive but do NOT rub too hard when trying to remove dried/cured oils since rubbing causes more colors to get stuck in pores which can be difficult if not impossible for soap & water alone without scrubbing vigorously enough to damage delicate facial tissue underneath.
  • Use a dry rag to remove colors from your skin before moistening it with warm water.
  • Don’t forget that after washing hands thoroughly with soap then rinsing away all residue leftover, rubbing olive oil over affected areas can keep them looking smooth longer without leaving any greasy marks on bedsheets/clothes throughout the night.

Cleaning Brushes

After using oil-based pigment, it is a good idea to rinse paint brushes with mineral spirits or turpentine.

Once clean, remove excess moisture by squeezing bristles between fingers until they stop dripping then set them upright on an old rag/paper towels for several hours before putting them back to their original storage container.

Do NOT allow wet brush hairs dry since the residual pigments will harden which makes removing dried-up colors near impossible without ripping out entire tufts of hair!

Letting brushes sit overnight allows any leftover solvent time enough evaporate away while retaining softness and pliability after drying to be used again at a later time.

Cleaning Fabric

Oil-based paints will leave behind pigment stains on clothing, especially if they are allowed to dry before washing them. The best way to prevent this problem is by preventing spills and splashes during the mixing and painting process!

If you do happen to get any splashes of oil paints on your clothing, it is best to wash them immediately after removing them from the body before they have a chance to dry and leave stubborn stains behind!

Water-based acrylic or latex paints can be removed easily when wet because water emulsifies these types of pigments into smaller particles that are more easily washed away in the laundry machine.

Oil-based paints take a much longer time for this process because water does not dissolve well with the binder used in oil paint (mineral spirits).

It will require using an organic solvent such as mineral spirits or turpentine along with dish soap containing surfactants which help clean up tough pigment stains by cutting through their thick outer shell.

For more useful tips read our How to Erase Pen from Paper guide.

The Bottom Line

There’s no universal solvent that works equally across all types of oils so be sure you know what kind of paint was used beforehand and check out other helpful tips given above on how to get oil based paint off skin easy while being gentle at the same time.

We recommend cleaning your hands regularly when working with art materials to prevent any accidents, especially if you work frequently with solvent-based products like mineral spirits and paint thinners which can be hazardous if inhaled at high doses over a long period of time. If you have an accident with these products or any other type of art material, consult your physician immediately.

Leave a Comment