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How to Remove Paintball Paint from a Car (Inside & Outside)

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When it comes to paintball, everything’s fun and games until your car gets caught up in the crossfire, and covered in paint. The good news is that the paint will come off. If you’re wondering how to remove paintball paint from a car (inside & outside), then this article is for you.

Paintball shells and dye are made from non-toxic, bio-degradable, food grade ingredients that are water-soluble. Therefore, these stains left by a paintball splatter can be removed with soap and water and a little elbow grease, provided you’re proactive and don't leave the stain to set for too long.

But just because paintball splatter washes off easy doesn’t mean it’s going to be simple. The longer you take to remove the paintball splatter, the harder the task will get.

How to Get Paintball Stains Off Your Car

Paintball projectiles travel at a fairly high velocity and can pack quite a punch even from a small distance. At such speeds, the paintball dye has a high chance of penetrating the car’s surface. First, the gelatin shell may cause dents and cracks to appear on the car, damaging the paint in the process.

Just keep in mind that the stains require an extremely thorough clean-up process. In the case of excessive damage to the paint job, you will need a fresh coat of paint. In worse case scenarios, you may have to call for professional help. Alternatively, you can take your car to a commercial car wash for the best care possible.

To completely remove all traces of paint from your car, you will need to follow the three steps outlined below:

  • Clean the car’s exterior and interior like you would normally (this should clear out most paintball stains)
  • Remove the more stubborn paintball stains that survived the first phase
  • Restore your car’s original paint job (worst case scenario)

Wash As Soon As You See Paint

It is best to wash the paintball splatter quickly because they cause serious long-term damage to the vehicle’s surface if they are allowed to persist. In some cases, the paintball may even bond to the surface and start destroying the clear coat of the car if it is not removed properly. A weakened coating on the car makes your vehicle susceptible to discoloration and corrosion.

Tools Needed to Wash the Car

Do not wash your car under direct sunlight. Choose a location that shades you and your car from sunlight. Second, choose tools that are gentle on your car’s paint, yet effective at removing paintball splatter. As a general rule of thumb, you can get away with mitts and sponges that have a deep nap or have a plush area because these are always better than dense sponges and weave towels.

It is not advisable to use a regular towel with lots of weaves because the dust and debris can accumulate in those areas. If you are using a sponge, make sure to use its softer side for washing. If you are using a new sea sponge, make sure to rinse it thoroughly before use to clear out any leftover sand or shell fragments.

Another great tool is a sheepskin wash mitt. Sheepskin is naturally plush and soft. The fibers themselves are gentle on the surface and wear out the existing coats of paint. You could use the much cheaper wool which is natural but not as durable.

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If nothing else, just buy a large microfiber towel because it can scrub the paint without swirling or scratching. A microfiber cloth is a combination of polyamide and polyester, which is a durable combo that will last you several years. Just make sure to rinse the microfiber towel to release any trapped particles.

1. Wash the Tires and Wheels

Depending on how close your car was to the paintball field, it’s likely that some of the paint made its way into the tires and wheels. 

Just to be safe, wash your tires and wheels in case they got stained by paintball dye. Make sure to use a solution that is safe for your tires and wheels. Use a solution that is water-based and doesn’t have corrosive chemicals that could degrade the coating on your wheels and rubber.

Use a wheel cleaning brush with soft bristles to clean the paintball from the wheels without agitating the surface. Wash each tire and wheel one at a time, making sure to rinse them thoroughly before tending to the next wheel.

Once the wheels have been cleared of the paintball splatter, make sure to thoroughly rinse your cleaning materials (including the wash bucket).

2. Washing the Car’s Body

Now you’re ready to move on to the next phase: the car. Start with a clean container, clean water, and a clean microfiber towel. This combo removes most paintball stains without scratching the car’s original paint job in the process. Use a car wash solution that has lots of lubricants so that it slides off the vehicle’s surface without causing further damage to the paint job.  

Normal household dish detergents are not ideal to be used in a car wash since they can degrade the car’s protective coatings. Use a car wash that doesn’t remove the wax, provides plenty of lubrication, and easily removes the paintball splatter.

3. How to Prevent Swirl Marks Due to Cleaning?

You can remove paintball splatter from your car during a car wash, but the one side effect is the appearance of those annoying swirl marks. They detract from the car’s original appearance. A good solution is to use two separate buckets.

Fill one bucket with clean water and the other with soapy water. Make sure to dip the towel or sponge in soapy water. This will clear out any paintball splatter or grit that you just removed from your car. Now you can safely dip the sponge or towel in soapy water and wash your car as usual without the risk of creating swirl marks.

Install a grit guard at the bottom of your wash bucket to prevent the dirt particles from swimming back to the surface. This way the particles and contamination from the mitt gravitate towards the bucket’s bottom and stays there, the clean water stays at the top.

If clean water is a concern for you, use a water de-ionizer canister to soften and clean the water before it reaches your car.  

4. Rinse Your Car Thoroughly

It’s crucial to thoroughly rinse your vehicle before you start washing it to loosen the paintball debris. Then you can start cleaning the upper regions of the car. Gradually make your way down to the vehicle. Rinse your microfiber towel to prevent contamination with the loosened paintball debris.

For stubborn paintball splatter that just won’t go away, use a scrub bug to gently clear out the paintball stains without harming the surface.

Drying the Car

Thoroughly washing your car should easily get rid of most of the paintball splatter. The next step is to dry out your vehicle to prevent water spots. Water is not pure and contains mineral deposits that remain on the surface of your car even after the water has long evaporated. This results in water spots.

The quickest way to remove water is to use a high powered blower to dry out the car and leave the surface spotless and water-less in just a few minutes. The dryer removes water from your vehicle’s glass, paint, wheels, the grille, and even around the car’s emblems.

How to Dry the Car Properly

1. Make your way to the mirrors and windows first.  Use a large microfiber towel to absorb the majority of the water that remains on your vehicle. Use smaller towels to absorb any leftover water droplets that the large towel may have missed. This is a quick process that should leave your car free of paintball contamination and water droplets.

2. Once the outer side is dry, you can make your way to the door jambs. Open the hood and trunk to wipe the jambs with a dry microfiber towel.

3. Finally, use a spray sealant or spray wax to restore the original shine of your car’s wax. (You can skip this step if you plan on applying a fresh coat of paint to your car).

If you think the water bucket method is too tedious, you can use a foam gun to loosen paintball debris. You can watch this YouTube video by a Dallas detailing company to learn how to use a foam gun.

Removing Paintball Paint from the Car’s Interior

If the paint got into your car’s interior, such as the dashboard or on the upholstery, you’ll have to immediately start cleaning. Removing paintball paint from the interiors requires an understanding of the materials used in.

Make sure to not use abrasive towels or solvents with strong chemicals because they will degrade the quality of the leather upholstery. Use the least abrasive treatment to see if they work before making your way to more rougher towels.

Things You’ll Need

You will need a few tools to properly clean paintball stains from your car’s interior. Think towels, rags, brushes, sponges, and cleaning products.

i) Chemical cleaner: Although you may already have chemical cleaning products in your garage, it is important to match the right cleaning agent with the material type. Take a quick look at your interior’s many surfaces and choose the most appropriate cleaning products.

ii) Vacuum cleaner: A vacuum cleaner with multiple extension hoses and attachments helps clear out dirt and dust from those hard to reach areas.

iii) Towels and Rags: Use microfiber towels to clean paintball stains from the dashboard, grills, buttons, and other areas without scratching them. You can use harsher rags to clean the floor mat and carpets that you’re not worried about getting scratched.

iv) Brushes: You will need bushes of varying sizes to clean paintball stain from the dashboard and other hard to reach areas. The instructions on the label of the cleaning product should give you more information.

1. Removing Wet Water Based Paintball Splatter

Act as soon as you spot the paint. If the paint dries, it will adsorb onto the surface and become more difficult to remove. If it dries, you may need to use a sharp, flat tool such as a knife to aid in the removal of the debris.

Use the knife to gently remove the paint from the leather and dashboard. Work on the outside of the paint debris to prevent spreading it to its surroundings. Now use a microfiber towel to remove any leftover paint.

2. Removing Oil Based Paint

Some paintballs use higher-end paint that is based on vegetable oil, they are harder to remove with just water. Use any oil-based solvent (such as palm olive) since they will creep into the surface of the paint splatter. You can then rub the leather using a soapy towel or leather cleaner to clean the paint. Now give it enough time to dry.

I have found that PINK Solution can be great for removing some stubborn stains. You can check Amazon for the pricing.

Removing Paintball Paint from Car Windows

If the car wash didn’t remove the paintball stains from the windows, it’s time to take some drastic steps. Use a razor blade and hold it an angle to gently scrape the dried paintball splatter from the window, take your time and be patient with this process, you don’t want to leave scratch marks on the glass.

Use a glass cleaner and microfiber towel to clean the window surface. If your car’s windows are tinted, you will need to be careful. In some cases, the tinting is a separate sheet attached to the inside of the glass, while in other cases, the tinting is part of the window itself. Window tinting may get damaged if you use strong cleaning solvents (especially if they contain ammonia).

If you’re not sure, get in touch with the window’s vendor to know about the tinting.

When cleaning the window, spray the cleaner solution on the microfiber cloth (rather than the window) to minimize streaking. This is a good way of preventing other parts of your car from getting damaged by harsher chemicals.

Now roll down your windows halfway. Wipe what remains of the paintball splatter along the top quarter-inch (if it somehow got in).

Make sure to wipe the exterior sheets of the glass vertically and the interior glass sheets horizontally, this will help you keep track of the streaks on either side of the glass.

Cleaning the Dashboard

The dashboard is the area that we see and use the most. Unfortunately, it is also the hardest to clear out thanks to all the switches, knobs, vents, and nooks and crannies. Removing paintball stains from your dashboard can be tricky unless you use the right tools.

First, determine what material your dashboard consists of: is it vinyl, leather, or some other material? Before you start cleaning the dashboard, vacuum the area before applying the cleaning solvent. Once the dashboard is properly cleaned, apply an interior dressing product that is ideal for the material to keep it from cracking or fading due to exposure from the sunlight. 

This is a precaution just in case you ended up cleaning out the interior dressing that was already applied on the dashboard.

i) Console

The consoles on most modern cars are a nightmare to clean. All those buttons and controls might make your driving life much easier, but the trade-off comes with all the complicated cleaning. And if paintball splatter gets inside, then all hell breaks loose.

You will have to ‘improvise’ if you want to clean those hard to reach areas. A good idea is to wrap a cloth over a flat head screwdriver. Make sure to use a thin cloth to prevent the head of the screwdriver from becoming too bulky for the job. If you feel that the screwdriver could harm your console, use something much softer such as cotton swabs or plastic knives instead.

ii) Vent Grills

Vent grills are easy to clean but they can take a significant portion of your time since there are so many of them in your dashboard. Using the proper cleaning tool can speed up the job. A good idea is to use long, soft bristle brushes to clean the paintball splatter from those dirt vents. Wipe the vent grills as thoroughly as possible.

Door Panels

Most door panels are made of a combination of materials. It is important to clean them using appropriate cleaners. Whatever methods you use, be wary of open compartments and cup holders on the door panels. They tend to be some of the dirtiest areas of your car. Most chemical products should remove the paintball splatter.

Floor Mats and Carpets

Got some paintball splatter on the floor mats and carpets? Now is a good excuse to wash them since they attract a ton of dirt, dust, grime, and other bad stuff. Make sure to remove anything you can such as papers, coins, plastic wrappers, or other objects that have accumulated.

You may want to leave the floor mats and carpets for last.

i) Floor Mats

The floor mats have probably trapped a lot of dirt caked between their deep grooves, and the paintball splatter just made them worse. Start by giving the floor mats a good shake to lose all the grime. Chances are, the paintball debris will also come off (since it’s mixed in with the grime anyway). If a good shake doesn’t do the job, then wash the floor mats with a chemical solution. Just make sure you don’t leave the mats slippery and unsafe for driving.

ii) Carpet

Use a vacuum cleaner to get rid of all loose dirt, debris, and grime. Use nozzles and brush attachments of appropriate sizes and shapes to reach the crevices and areas around the seats. Your best bet is to use a hand-held steam cleaning machine. Use a specialized cleaning solution to not only wipe the paintball off your carpet but also leave them smelling fresh.

Simply add a drop of the solution on the carpet and wipe it with the help of a stiff brush. Apply some elbow grease to paintball debris that just won’t go away. Just make sure not to soak the carpet in water since this increases the growth of mildew or mold.

If the carpet becomes too wet, use an absorbent towel to soak up all the liquids. If this still doesn’t clear the paintball splatter, you may need a stronger cleaning agent. Pry it loose with a medium-stiff brush.

Seats

Car seats are made of three main types of materials: vinyl, cloth, and leather upholstery. Each of these materials requires a different cleaning method. Before you can wipe out the paintball splatter, you should thoroughly vacuum the seats and areas around them to get rid of the dirt and debris. You can now apply any cleaning solution of your choice.  

i) Leather

Although leather feels luxurious, it does have one major drawback: your skin isn’t the only thing that finds it comforting. All that paintball splatter will become embedded into the surface, possibly changing the color of the leather to a different shade. The trick is to find a good leather cleaning product to clean the leather.

For the leather cleaning product to do its job, you will have to spray or apply it directly to the seat. Now use a towel to smear the leather product across the seat, making sure to reach the areas affected by paintball splatter. Flip the towel often to make sure you use the clean side. Once the leather seats are clean, dry them using a microfiber cloth.

Leave the leather seat for a couple of hours to dry. Use a leather conditioner to keep the seats looking fresh and supple. Some leather products let you wash and condition them at the same time.

ii) Cloth

To clean cloth upholstery on car seats, you must assess the extent of paintball damage. A general upholstery cleaner can get rid of fresh paintball stains, but if they are proving to be too stubborn, you may want to use a specialized cleaner to clean the stains without damaging the fabric.

Just make sure to use the cleaner in moderation, you don’t want to soak the fabrics too much. This will prevent them from drying completely and your car will start to smell, leaving you with a completely different problem that you first had.

iii) Vinyl

Vinyl seats are easier to take care of, whether you got paintball splatter on them or just want to clean them as you would normally. Most of your existing cleaning products will work just fine, including specialized glass cleaners.

That being said, you need to find a product that is compatible with vinyl. Spray the cleaner on your vinyl cloth and wipe it with a towel. Just make sure the cleaner doesn’t get into the vinyl clothing. Wipe the paintball splatter on the seats with the towel, using a second towel to soak up any moisture. Your vinyl car seats should be dry in an hour or so.

Restoring the Car’s Original Paint Due to Damage from Paintball Dues

In the worst-case scenarios, the paintball pellet may damage the original paint job of the car. The severity of the damage done to your car depends on the velocity of the projectiles. Either way, you will either have to send the car to a professional to restore its paint or do it yourself. Here’s how:

Polishing the Paint

You need to polish the paint on your car with cutting polish and then finishing polish. The cutting polish will remove the top layer of damaged paint without affecting the finish. The idea is to remove as little surrounding paint as possible.

Next, use a good finishing polish that can burrow deep into the paint’s pores to bring out the car’s lost shine due to paintball damage.

Finally, use a paint sealant. Apply multiple coats of paint sealants for more thorough protection and deeper shine. For the most part, you can get away with using two to three coats.

Depending on how bad the paintball damage is, you may have to sand the affected area to remove all layers of paint down to the bare metal. Next, combine your thinner and primer as instructed on the paint can. When you’re done, the primer will have a powdery finish, which you can smoothen out with dry sandpaper.

You’re now ready to re-paint the affected area. Start by mixing the paint with thinners based on the recommended ratios mentioned on the paint instructions. It should take about 20 minutes for the new paint to cure. You may need three to four coats to finish the paint job.

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