Paints & Coatings Resource Center

Ask the Expert Question-and-Answer Archive

by Ron Joseph

April, 2003

Removing Exterior Latex Paint From Wall

Q. I recently bought a house in which the original owner, an artist, had painted murals directly onto the walls. Prior to my purchase, they were all painted over with acrylic latex. I believe all the artwork was done with oil based paint. I would very much like to recover one of the paintings. What can I do to remove the acrylic latex and recover the oil based mural?

A. This is a situation that may best be left for an art recovery expert depending on the value of the art work, however we could give it a try. As you may or may not be aware, removing paint from any service can be a very difficult endeavor, paint is designed to stay put once it has been applied and depending on the prep work that has or has not been performed it may be near impossible to remove one layer of paint from another.

The latex paint will only adhere well to an oil base paint providing the proper prep work such as a scuff sand and or a primer has been applied prior to the latex application. Hopefully none of these steps have been taken.

You may try a very strong solution of dishwasher powder soap in water to try to loosen the latex from the surface, a concentration of one cup detergent to one half gallon of warm water may be enough to loosen the bond of the latex only after repeated applications and taking care as to not allow the surface to dry up, keeping the surface wet. You may need to scrub the latex paint away with a stiff scrubbing brush, but be careful as this might damage the painted surface that you are trying to recover. Be careful not to saturate the dry wall too much underneath the coatings and cause damage.

I would suggest that you find one of the other paintings on another wall that you can experiment with in hopes of a successful recovery.

If you are successful in removing the latex paint, you should then rinse the surface with water to clean and neutralize the detergent so as not to affect the oil painting any further.

Please bear in mind that I cannot guarantee success of this process, nor can I guarantee that the oil painting below will not be damaged. That is why I suggest that you try the procedure on another area where an oil painting is under the latex.

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