How to Make Spray Paint not Sticky – Pro Tips!


Last updated: August 4, 2023

Whether you’re an artist or homeowner, you understand the joys …

How to make spray paint not sticky

Whether you’re an artist or homeowner, you understand the joys and sorrows of working with spray paints. On the one hand, spray paint allows you to demonstrate your creativity by mixing different colors to create a smooth, attractive finish. On the other hand, it can drive you nuts with stickiness. 

You complete a perfect paint job, and when you think your item is completely dry and usable, you realize it is still sticky to the touch. And since no one wants to deal with an annoying stickiness after spray painting their walls, cars, or other household items, it’s about time we discussed how to solve this problem.

We intend to answer this frequently asked question: how to make spray paint not feel sticky after a paint project? We look at some common reasons why it happens,  ways to prevent it, plus tips to solve the problem when it occurs.

How to Make Spray Paint Not Sticky

Work under favorable weather if you want to make spray paint not sticky. Avoid working under excess humidity, or your paint will have problems drying thoroughly. Always use a primer before the initial coat is applied and follow spray painting best practices like good surface preparation to ensure you create a smooth optimal finish. 

Reasons Why Paint Gets Sticky

Several reasons contribute to spray paint becoming sticky.  Let’s take a look at some of them. 

1. Clogged Can Nozzle

A clogged nozzle is the most common problem you’re likely to encounter while spray painting, and it’s also the primary catalyst for stickiness.  If a clogged nozzle is the cause of your paint being sticky, remove it and add some lacquer thinners to fix the blockage. Or, if you have another empty can, swap the nozzles and get on with your work. 

2. Excess Spray Paint

Of course, too much of something can cause more harm than good. Excess spray paint may give you that sticky feel instead of a beautiful smooth finish. Spraying too much paint may make the top layer look distorted and uneven

Other areas around the surface will have pooled paint which may hinder complete drying. 

To avoid spraying excess spray paint, you should shake the can properly to balance the texture of your paint. It shouldn’t be too thin or too thick, but something in between. You should be able to spray evenly over the entire surface after shaking the can. 

3. Spray Paint Didn’t Dry Properly

Optimal drying conditions are essential for spray paints, not just regular paints and varnishes. 

Before you get to work, the room temperature must be within the standard range of 50 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and humidity levels must be lower than 50%. 

Otherwise, you could end up with sticky paint on your hands. 

For example, temperatures below 50°F cannot support timely drying, and the longer your paint stays wet, the more sticky it will be. 

4. High Moisture Levels

Temperatures play a vital role in the outcome of your paintwork. Warmer temperatures help speed up the drying process, while a damp surface will keep the paint wet and stickier. And if the painted surface is exposed to rain, it will not dry faster, and you’ll be stuck with that sticky feeling much longer. 

5. You Didn’t Prep the Surface Properly

One of the basics of spray painting is ensuring the paint is applied on a clean surface. Wiping, cleaning, sanding, and priming the surface you want to paint may seem like a no-brainer, yet it’s often overlooked. 

Try not to skip this crucial step if you want to avoid dealing with stickiness when you’re done spraying. 

You see, a dirty surface, especially one full of grease, wax, and such pollutants, makes it hard for paint to adhere as it should. 

And where adhesion or grip is a problem, the result is stickiness. Just take a few minutes to clean the surface thoroughly if you want to avoid this problem. 

How to Make Spray Paint not Sticky

How Can Spray Paint Not Stick? – Prevention

Taking the necessary preventative measures is essential if you want to avoid the problems associated with spray painting, especially stickiness. Let’s take a look at a few examples: 

1. Preparing the Surface for the Paint Application

You don’t have to deal with sticky paint if you take just a few minutes to clean up the substrate for painting. The first step is to ensure the object is clean and dry. And if the surface is too smooth or slippery, scrubbing it with sandpaper will help improve adhesion and grip.

2. Adding a Primer

Having cleaned the surface, the next step is to ensure its conducive for painting by keeping it clear of moisture. There are several ways to achieve this, depending on the object and weather. You can use a heater, a dehumidifier, or a fan. Also, be keen on the quality of the paint. The higher the quality, the better the results.

3. Using Paint Properly 

Spray paints have their pros and cons. They may cause many inconveniences like stickiness, but they’re the best choice for many DIYers, homeowners, and artists. 

Once you know what to do, you can easily and quickly use aerosol paints without mishaps. 

We recommend that you first familiarize yourself with the basics of spray paints, what they’re made of, the benefits, and the techniques used by experts for professional designs and finishes. 

Once you learn to use the paint correctly, you won’t encounter problems like stickiness, and you’ll paint like a pro. 

4. Making the First Coat Ideal

The most sensitive part of spray painting is getting the first coat right. This first coat is always the deal breaker. It determines how the subsequent coats will layer out and the final outcome. 

So, be keen on getting it right the first time, or you’ll encounter so many problems along the way that you may have to redo everything all over again. To help you navigate this delicate step, follow these tips:

  1. Ensure the primer is fully dry before you apply the first coat on the surface.

  2. Evenly spray the first coat, keeping it as thin as possible.

  3. If you notice some areas need to be adequately spayed, don’t over-rectify the problem. Add more layers on the uneven surfaces sparingly until the entire surface is proportionally painted. 

5. Ensuring the Paint Dries Properly 

Always allow adequate drying time between coats to avoid stickiness. Your paint may be sticky because of too many wet coats applied on top of the other before they’re dry. 

Here’s a better way to get around it: Leave the primer to dry out for at least 3 hours before you apply the first coat. Wait for another 10-15 minutes before adding the second coat and so forth. 

You can even wait 30 minutes, depending on which spray paint you’re using and how thick it is. 

Most spray paints have manufacturer guidelines indicating how much drying time should be left between each application, so take your time and read them carefully.

6. Avoiding Harsh Weather 

The higher the humidity levels, the slower the drying time. However, if you carry out your painting project in a warmer and dry climate, you’ll achieve better results. 

If you have to do it where there’s a lot of humidity, do it within the  40-50% humidity range for best results. Otherwise, use a dehumidifier or fan to help accelerate the drying time.

How to Fix Sticky Spray Paint – Tips 

We have looked at ways you can prevent paint from becoming sticky. But sometimes mistakes happen, and you may already have wet sticky paint to deal with. So how do you fix the problem once it happens? Here are a few tips to guide you. 

1. Always Use a Primer

A primer is something like a base coat you apply on the substrate before the first coat of paint. It helps improve adhesion, increase the paint’s durability and provide extra protection to the paint. One example of the best primer is  Rust-Oleum, good for preventing paint stickiness. 

2. Shake the Paint Can Before Use

Shaking your spray paint before use is another essential step to avoid stickiness and uneven layers. You want to ensure you’re working with a well-mixed formula for a smooth application. 

If you have dealt with stickiness before, make it a habit to shake the can vigorously to avoid the problem. 

3. Auto Wax

Auto wax can help solve the stickiness issue to a great extent. To use it, gently rub a layer of auto wax on the sticky area until it is clear.  Let it rest for 10 or 15 minutes until it’s dry, then remove the wax with a buffing cloth.  With that done, the surface should be smooth and clear. 

4. Work with Oil-Based Paints

While oil-based spray paints may not be a good choice when you want to quicken the drying time and avoid stickiness, they provide a smooth, impressive finish which is the ultimate goal of any painting job. 

Oil-based paints may take longer to dry, but good quality ones like Rust-Oleum are more durable and resistant to blocking. 

They can also withstand scratches and stains, making them a great choice if you want to avoid stickiness.

5. Make Good Use of Talcum Powder

Talcum powder can be useful if utilized properly. But first, you should test it on a small area or a different surface to ensure it doesn’t compromise the desired color you want to create. 

The powder helps absorb moisture, thus preventing stickiness. This trick works best on drawers, doors, cabinets, dressers, and surfaces that have friction. 

To use talcum powder, sprinkle it on the affected area and gently rub the sticky area with your hands. If necessary, you can repeat the process until you no longer feel any tackiness when you touch the paint. 

One thing to note is that this method may reduce the shine on your surface, but it’s still well worth it. 

How to Make Dry Spray Paint Not Sticky?

We have looked at some of the most practical tips and preventative measures to ensure spray paint doesn’t become sticky. But what if you’re dealing with paint that looks dry yet still sticky to the touch and not as smooth and dry as you’d want it to be? 

Having dry paint that feels sticky to the touch is yet another common problem you might have to deal with when working with spray paints.  

And it can occur after several weeks from the day you applied the paint. When this happens, using talcum powder, as explained above, is preferable to help absorb any remaining moisture from the dried paint. Again, check the instructions from the manufacturer on the maximum waiting time before your paint can be completely dry. 

Alternatively, you can add baking soda to the affected area and rub it in a circular motion like you would with talcum powder. Repeat the process if necessary until the stickiness is gone. 

Next, use a paper towel to dab off the excess powder, then apply a fresh coat of paint on the exact area to complete the finish. Allow to dry.

Precautions When Handling Sticky Spray Paint

Spray paint is a chemical solution that should be handled carefully before, during, and after use. Having sticky spray paint means it’s not completely dry and could still be emitting toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. 

Until the paint dries, these substances can harm your health, so you should follow the right precautions to ensure you’re safe. Here are a few dos and don’ts when handling sticky spray paint. 

  1. Do protect yourself: When working with spray paints, whether toxic or not, safety should be your priority. Wear gloves and a protective mask, and if possible, wear painter’s protective clothing to prevent bodily contact with the formula. 

  2. Don’t rush it: Don’t rush the application process. Instead, slowly but surely apply several thin coats allowing enough time for drying until you achieve even, optimal coverage. Patience should be a virtue here.

  3. DO Allow the paint to cure fully: With favorable weather conditions, your spray paint will take less time to dry. But it’s best to give it a maximum of 24 hours under warm and dry weather. Resist the urge to use the item you’ve painted or to move it to a different location, like inside the house, until the drying time indicated on the can has lapsed. Otherwise, a scratch or a fingerprint on the neatly painted surface will be hard to fix. 

  4. DO Use a sweeping motion:  Some problems are caused by improper paint application. If you wave the can randomly, the result may not be desirable. But if you want optional finishes, hold the can about eight inches from the surface and move it in a sweeping motion from left to right, creating horizontal strokes. Move it again from right to left, taking care not to pause in a single spot, or the paint will drip

FAQS: How To Make Spray Paint Not Sticky 

Why is My Spray Paint Still Sticky?

The temperatures may be unfavorable, or the surface may be polluted, hindering the adhesion and grip of spray paint. You may have rushed the process or not used a primer. You may also have worked with the wrong type of paint not recommended for that particular surface, or you’re just impatient and need to give it time. 

How Do You Make Sticky Paint Not Sticky?

Follow the basic rules of spray painting. Clean and set up the substrate carefully. Use a primer, work with good quality paints, allow sufficient drying time between coats, and work within the recommended temperature ranges of 50-90 degrees Fahrenheit. 

How Do You Harden Spray Paint Quickly?

Spray painting in warmer weather enables it to dry faster naturally. You can take your painted item outside and allow it to dry in the sun, but if the weather is humid, you could use a dehumidifier, a fan, or a heater to make it harden and dry quickly. 

What is the Best Way To Know if Spray Paint is Cured?

If the surface is completely dry and smooth to the touch without any stickiness or dampness, you’ll know that your paint is dry and cured. Also, if the toxic smell is gone completely, it means all the harmful VOCs have been emitted during the drying process, and that’s another proof of a fully cured paint. 

Will Tacky Spray Paint Eventually Dry?

Yes. Sometimes it could be a case of impatience on your part. Some spray paints are indicated to take as long as several days or weeks before they’re completely dry. If your paint is drying slower than you’d expect, recheck the label for the maximum drying time recommended by the manufacturer. Or you could use baking soda or talcum powder to quicken the process. 

In Summary: How To Make Spray Paint Not Sticky

If you’ve used aerosol paint before and encountered stickiness, you may wonder how to make spray paint not feel sticky. 

Several reasons contribute to this setback, for example, excessive application, not preparing the substrate adequately, improper application of paint, poor weather, and working with the wrong products for the wrong surfaces. 

This guide explains why you end up with that annoying tackiness instead of a beautiful finish. We’ve shared enough tips to help you solve that problem should you encounter it next time. 

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