3 Types of Paint That Come Off With Water (And 5 That Don’t)

Paint that washes off with water is a problem whenever you try to clean your walls or floors. Some paints resist vigorous rubbing while others aren’t made for any type of cleaning.

Some paints don’t come off even with extreme rubbing and water application.

Most homes are painted with paint that can be washed with a damp cloth multiple times. This type of paint should not come off.

When does water remove paint?

Water can only remove water-based paint. This is achieved quickly by rubbing the paint too much when cleaning or slowly when rain erodes paint. Water can also remove wet water-based paint.

When (latex) water-based paint is exposed to rain – rain tends to erode water-based paints over time. Surfaces exposed to rain are usually also damaged as paints start to peel away.

When the paint is not fully dry – you can accidentally or intentionally remove the paint whenever it isn’t fully dried after painting. Latex paint can be removed soon after application before fully cured.

All types of paint can be removed by water within 30 days of application. Paints need to dry deeply before hardening so that it doesn’t easily get removed by water when cleaning. You should not clean paint sooner than a month after application.

When you rub the wrong type of paint – you can accidentally remove paint when rubbing it in a cleaning effort. Flat paint or matte paint tend to be removed easily even when you only tap them with water and a sponge or a wet cloth.

Can water remove paint on its own?

Paint sufficiently exposed to water or high humidity levels will start to peel in a few years. Standard wall paint does not get removed when cleaned with a damp cloth or with a damp sponge.

Water acts as a solvent for wet water-based paints – water dilutes fresh latex paint to the point of removal. The more water you add, the higher the chances of removing it. Water dilutes water-based paint when you rub or try to clean it vigorously. Only light cleaning is supported by washable paint.

Water cannot remove dry water-based paint – once the paint is dried, it doesn’t get removed by water completely. Some paint comes off but it will not come off entirely before scratching the painted surface such as walls or floors.

3 Types of paint removable with water

The paints with the highest risk of coming off with or without water are flat, acrylic paint, and latex paint.

  1. Flat paint or matte paint

Flat paint only supports mild cleaning efforts. This paint does not block stains and it can be removed with a damp cloth with vigorous cleaning.

  • Acrylic paint

Acrylic paint can only be removed with water while still wet. This paint is made from chemicals that harden into an impermeable surface. Dry acrylic paint cannot be removed with water.

  • Latex paint

Latex paints easily come off with water. Since latex paints are water-based, they can be removed by a constant stream of clean water or by using a damp cloth multiple times until the paint is removed.

Dry latex paint can sometimes be removed with water alone. A mixture of soap and water is used on latex paint that doesn’t come off.

Types of paint that can be washed with water

There are many types of washable paint made today. Latex, acrylic, and oil-based paint can be washable. Chalkboard paint is also washable, even multiple times per week.

1 Latex paint

Latex paint is the most affordable low-VOC paint you can wash. Dust and stains come off easily with water alone.

Latex paint eventually comes off if you use vigorous washing and pressing techniques that take the paint off.

2 Eggshell paint

Eggshell paint is the easiest to clean. You can wipe it clean without taking off the paint. Its durable thick finish is recommended for rooms such as the bathroom or the kitchen given it can be cleaned as often as needed.

3 Satin

Satin finish paint can be wiped clean with modern rubbing force. Wiping the paint too hard will take its sheen away sooner than with eggshell paint.

4 Semi-gloss

Semi-gloss paint is easy to clean with modern rubbing. The paint only comes off when you rub vigorously. Semi-gloss paint supports wiping better than flat paint.

5 Chalkboard paint

Chalkboard paint is very easy to clean. You can wipe chalk off every day without taking paint off walls. Some types of chalk require more vigorous cleaning but the paint resists these efforts.

Types of paint that cannot be removed with water

Oil-based paint and epoxy paint are the most resistant to water and cleaning. These types of paints are damaged by water infiltration but they cannot be removed with water alone.

Types of paintCleaning difficultyDoes it support rubbing?
Flat and matte paint1/5 – paint can come offMinimum cleaning and rubbing
Eggshell4/5 – easy to cleanMedium rubbing force allowed
Satin4/5 – easy to cleanMedium rubbing force allowed
Semi-gloss5/5 – easy to cleanVigorous cleaning allowed
High-gloss5/5 – the easiest paint to cleanVigorous cleaning allowed

Where to read more about paint and water

Benjamin Moore Interior and Exterior Paints and Stains

Wikipedia – Chalkboard paint

Glidden – What Paint Can You Use in High Moisture

Benjamin Moore – Cleaning Painted Walls