How to Keep Spray Paint from Rubbing Off


Last updated: June 7, 2023

Keep your painted surfaces looking fresh and vibrant for longer with our expert advice.

How to Keep Spray Paint from Rubbing Off

Spray paints can transform any surface into a flawless work of art in a flash. However, careless handling or ignorance of the application instructions can result in paint rubbing off the surface.

When this happens, you must know how to keep spray paint from rubbing off. This article will help you restore the surface’s aesthetic appeal, regardless of the damage.

Read to the end to find out what spray paints are and what causes the rubbing of the paint. Eventually, we’ll discuss how to keep paint from rubbing off wood, metal, plastic, and general surfaces.

How to keep spray paint from rubbing off

First, prep the surface properly by washing and sanding. Next, apply a suitable primer and let it dry fully. Apply the spray paint, layering as many coats as desired once the previous coat dries fully. Avoid touching the wet paint until it dries. Apply protective sealant to keep the paint in place.

What is Spray Paint?

Spray paint refers to the type of paint that’s made up of a pigment, binder, solvent, and additives packaged in an aerosol container. This paint container has a button at the top, which, when pressed down; dispenses paint using a compressed air-pressured gas –propellant.

Spray painting is the fastest and most efficient method of applying paint on the exterior or interior surfaces. The other two forms of painting involve using a paintbrush or roller.

Before handling this paint, ensure enough ventilation and protect yourself with goggles, a respirator mask, and gloves.

Types of Spray Paint

Just like regular paints, spray paints have different formulations that make them suitable for specific surfaces and purposes.

There are ten types of spray paints on the market today. They include; Nitrocellulose lacquer, epoxy, general purpose, high-heat, frosted, enamel, chalkboard, rust preventive, acrylic, and oil-based. They’re available in different sheen levels, from flat, semi-gloss, gloss, high-gloss, satin, and metallic.

These spray paints also come in a wide color variety which makes it easy to replicate that Pinterest idea you saved and paint graffiti or murals. Creativity is limitless.

What Surface Can Spray Paint Can Be Applied?

The advantage of spray paints is that they are universal and apply well to any surface imaginable.

If you’re a DIY enthusiast or a hobbyist painting on canvas, spray paint is the magic. This paint is also fit for professional and industrial use when painting surfaces like wood, metal, concrete, cardboard, ceramic, glass, plastic, drywall, masonry, or even fabrics.

What Causes Spray Paints to Rub Off?

On their own, spray paints aren’t the most durable. Even so, other factors might lead to spray paint rubbing off the surface, exposing the raw material underneath.

The first and obvious cause of spray paint rubbing off is touching the wet painted surface. The paint will transfer to your fingers.

If the grit size of the nozzle is smaller during the spraying process, paint particles will break up more into a fine mist. The result is paint diffusing in the air, landing unevenly on the surface, and wiping off quickly.

Using low-quality spray paint brand with too many fillers is another contributing factor to spray paint rubbing off, even if the paint job was months ago.

Spray paint could also come off the surface if the paint used isn’t designed for the specific material. For instance, using lacquer paint instead of flexible latex acrylic ones. The paint will peel and come off the surface as soon as the weather shifts.

Other factors contributing to spray paint rubbing off include poor ventilation, inadequate surface preparations, and insufficient dry times between paint coats.


Proper ventilation is paramount to the success of a spray paint project. Since spray paints are airborne, you want to always open doors and windows when working on an indoor project. This ensures free air circulation and promotes faster drying times for your project.

On the flip side, poor ventilation will prolong the paint’s dry time, and any contact with the wet surface will rub off the paint.

If you have to spray paint the object outside, ensure the weather isn’t too hot or windy. Windy weather will blow away the paint and lead to uneven surface coverage. A scorching day might dry the paint mid-air and cause it to rub off easily when it lands on the surface.

Inadequate Surface Prep

Lifting is a paint rubbing off caused by inadequate surface prep and failing to allow enough dry time between coats of spray paint.

Spray paint won’t adhere firmly if you paint a surface with mold, previous peeling paint, rust, grease, and other forms of contamination. A durable painted surface undergoes thorough cleaning, sanding, and priming before painting.

Insufficient Dry Time Between Coats

If you prepped the surface but rushed through the painting process, the paint will rub off equally fast. On average, let the sprayed coat dry for about an hour before recoating. However, adjust this dry time depending on the weather conditions and the type of spray paint used.

How to Keep Spray Paint from Rubbing Off

How to Keep Spray Paint From Rubbing Off

Sometimes, the paint will rub off accidentally, especially while it’s wet. When it does, here’s how to fix uneven spray paint without needing to clean and repaint the entire object.

1. Always prepare the surface thoroughly before you begin painting. This step ensures you clean paint flakes, rust deposits, dust, or greasy grime from the surface. Remember also to sand the surface evenly and wash off the debris.

2. Choose the perfect weather for your spray painting project. Warm temperatures and low humidity will ensure the paint dries just right and reduce the chances of wiping off.

3. If the weather pattern is unstable and the temperature keeps fluctuating, consider using spray paints with extra propellants to control the amount of paint expelled.

4. Apply a suitable primer to the target surface to aid with adhesion when applying the paint.

5. You can use water-based spray paint as the base coat and then coat it with an oil-based one. Doing the reverse will have the paint wiping off fast.

6. Where possible, use latex or acrylic spray paint instead of the lacquers.

7. Always let the spray paint dry for 24-48 hours before handling. This period helps keep the paint intact.

8. Ensure there’s proper ventilation surrounding the sprayed object to ensure it dries within the expected time range.

9. Use spray cans with fine nozzle tips of about 220-mesh. Finer spray tips help distribute and stick the paint better across the surface you’re painting.

10. Too thin or little paint will easily rub off a surface. Instead, ensure to layer paints that are thick enough to stick to the surface.

11. If you notice any spray paint mistakes or accidentally wipe the paint from a section of the surface, wait for it to dry completely before attempting to repair it. Trying to fix the painted surface while wet will easily lead to more ugly smudges.

12. It also helps to seal the spray-painted surface with a clear top coat. Of course, only apply a clear coat once the paint is completely dry.

13.  Avoid storing paint cans in the refrigerator instead of in the garage. This will prevent the formation of a lacquer coating in the aerosol can, resulting in a grain-like or clumpy paint.

How to Keep Spray Paint From Rubbing Off Plastic?

Plastic is another non-porous surface that you can alter its appearance using spray paints. However, its impenetrable surface can have the spray paint wiping off quickly.

Follow these simple practices to help you keep spray paint from rubbing off plastic surfaces.

1.      Lightly scuff the plastic with fine-grit sandpaper to create a surface for the paint to bite. Clean the plastic chippings.

2.      Apply a suitable primer to the plastic surface and let it dry completely. The primer will aid with the spray paint’s adhesion.

3.      Apply the paint, dry it, and cure it in a well-ventilated space.

4.      Apply a clear coat to seal the paint and prolong its lifespan.

How to Keep Spray Paint From Rubbing Off Wood?

Spray paint can also chip off a wooden surface if the conditions discussed before aren’t met. Luckily, wood is porous, and the paint can adhere much better without scratching off.

1.      Always clean and sand the wood object to even out bumps.

2.      Apply a water-based primer and let it penetrate the wood. Ensure it’s completely dry before you begin painting.

3.      Spray paint the wood, coating every corner and crevice. Layer about 2-3 coats of paint and let it dry undisturbed.

4.      Apply a clear coat sealant to keep the paint from rubbing off.

How to Keep Spray Paint from Chipping off Metal?

Metal surfaces with spray paints aren’t exempt from chipping. Paint can chip off metal with poor surface prep. Lack of primer, sealer, and using non-metallic paint can also contribute to paint chipping off.

Fortunately, here’s how to keep spray paint from chipping off metal.

1.      Begin with prepping the surface well

2.      Apply primer and let it dry completely.

3.      Paint your metal surface using high-quality spray paint meant for metal surfaces. Keep the paint coats light and even across the metal surface.

4.      Finish by sealing the spray paint using a durable top coat sealer.

How to Stop Spray Paint From Rubbing Off

If the paint is rubbing off the painted surface, there’s something you can do to stop the damage from spreading further. These remedies will help you stop paint from rubbing off, whether it smudges on wet paint or lifting or peeling dried paint.

Ensure the damaged paint is dry before wet sanding the imperfection. Clean the paint and sandpaper debris using a microfiber cloth. Prime the surface and then spray a fresh coat of paint. Allow the coated surface to dry completely, and apply a durable sealer.

FAQs – How to Keep Spray Paint From Rubbing Off

Why Does My Spray Paint Keep Coming Off?

If adhesion challenges exist between the primer, main paint, and clear coat, spray paint may keep coming off. These challenges often result from poor surface preparations before painting. Insufficient dry times between coats also contribute to the adhesion problems that keep paint coming off.

How Do You Seal Spray Paint?

Use polyurethane or a polycrylic spray varnish to seal your spray-painted surface. Apply this clear coat once the painted surface is completely dry. Angle the sprayer nozzle at 90 degrees with the surface and spray the varnish while maintaining a distance of 8-12 inches from the object.

Will Clear Coat Stop Paint From Rubbing Off?

A clear coat will help stop the paint from rubbing off, but only if applied before any significant damage begins. A clear coat will protect the paint against scratches, water damage, and other forms of abuse that deteriorates the paint coat and its adhesion to the surface.

How Do You Stop Spray Paint From Lifting?

Spray paint can lift from a surface due to insufficient drying time between coats. Lifting occurs in the form of paint shrinkage or wrinkles. To stop spray paint from lifting, remove the wrinkled paint, wet-sand the area, prime, and repaint. This time adhere to the recommended paint drying times.

How Do You Make Spray Paint Harder?

Spray paints are not designed to create durable coatings. The only way to guarantee the spray paint lasts longer on a surface is by using a catalyzed clear coat finish. These finishes cover the painted object, making the paint harder and longer lasting.

Do You Need to Put Anything Over Spray Paint?

You will need to apply a top coat sealer over spray paint, particularly on surfaces with regular contact. The clear coat protects the paint from rubbing, lifting, or chipping off the surface. However, if the painted object won’t experience frequent handling, it can do without putting anything over it.

Summary- How to Keep Spray Paint From Rubbing Off

Careless contact with the wet paint, poor surface prep, skipping out on primer, and ignoring paint dry times will cause spray paint to rub off.

To keep spray paints from rubbing off, ensure the paint dries sufficiently between coats and avoid touching the wet surface. Also, prep the surface religiously to aid with paint adhesion.

We hope you enjoyed our article, and the practical tips we shared help you keep paint stuck to the intended surface.

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