Common Spray Painting Questions, Problems and Their Fixes
Tips & Tricks

Common Spray Painting Questions, Problems, and Their Fixes

Whether you’re using an aerosol can or a sprayer, the spray painting technique is one of the fastest and easiest ways to paint over any surface and item. Two of the best things about spray painting is that it gives a very smooth finish without brush strokes, and the paint quickly reaches small nooks and crannies on the surface. However, you will always run into a few problems here and there.

Our article will not teach you how to spray paint, as you can learn that better over video tutorials. Instead, we have compiled some of the most common spray painting questions and offered the best possible solutions.

These tips and tricks will assist you in getting the most out of your spray painting project with excellent results.

How long does spray paint take to dry?

Typically, the brand of spray paint you choose will tell you the estimated drying time. However, how fast spray paint takes to dry depends on a few other variables.

  1. The surface of the material: Smooth surfaces take less time to dry compared to rough surfaces.
  2. Type of material: Metal surfaces also dry faster than wood because metal doesn’t seep as much of the paint like wood. On the other hand, rubber is highly porous and will take at least 24 hours to dry.
  3. Type of spray paint: The formula of the paint affects its drying procedure.
    • Enamel paint takes about 10 to 30 minutes for a dry surface and about eight hours for complete dryness.
    • Lacquer paint takes about three to five minutes for a dry surface and three hours to fully dry.
    • Epoxy or Polyurethane paint is the fastest drying spray paint of five minutes for a dry surface and about an hour to dry completely.
  4. Environmental factors: Humidity and temperature are crucial factors in the overall drying time of any paint job. Low humidity and warmer temperatures encourage faster drying. Conversely, spray painting below freezing temperatures will affect paint consistency and take up to a few days to dry completely.

How to make spray paint dry faster

Although several factors affect the drying time of your spray paint job, there are a few tips you can use to shorten the drying process.

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1. Apply a thin coat of spray paint for each layer.

Thin coats take a lesser amount of time to dry. Also, do not apply a coat over wet paint in case you do not get enough coverage. Instead, allow the previous coat to semi-dry or touch-dry to recoat it. If it’s not dry enough, the paint will remain wet for too long, wrinkle, and start peeling.

2. Increase ventilation

Run a fan near your work area to increase air circulation after the touch-dry stage of drying. Air circulation increases the rate of evaporation, thus speeding up the spray paint’s drying process.

3. Lower humidity

High humidity slows the spray paint drying process and ruins the paint job to cause wrinkling, paint drips, or dust contamination. The ideal humidity levels for proper spray paint drying are between 40% and 70%. If you’re in a humid location, reduce humidity by running a dehumidifier near your workstation.

It is best to spray paint when the weather is dry and warm. Try opening the doors and windows if the room you’re in is humid. However, keep the windows, and doors shut when the paint is drying if it is humid outside and run a dehumidifier. Never paint during cold or rainy days.

4. Place a heater near the work area.

The warmer your work area is, the faster your spray paint will dry. If you’re working indoors, you can increase the heat on the thermostat or run a small heater near the spray-painted area. You can also use a hairdryer to dry smaller patches or smaller objects.

It’s important to note that increasing the heat does not speed up drying drastically, but it reduces the drying time from 24 hours to a few hours. 

5. Use wax-based furniture polish with spray paint.

Wax-based furniture polish can make spray paint dry almost instantly because it works like a matte sealant. Apply your spray paint on the surface as usual, then coat the paint with furniture polish.

You might need several thin layers of polish for better results. Allow it to dry for five minutes between coats. Then, wipe off the excess polish with a clean, dry, lint-free rag without applying too much pressure.

How to unclog a spray paint can?

Spray paint nozzle clogging is quite a common issue, especially when re-using old paint. Before unclogging, wear a pair of safety goggles and a respirator to protect your eyes and airway, respectively.


  • Small sewing needle
  • Paint thinner
  • Warm water


  • First, try cleaning the nozzle with some warm water and test the spray can. If the nozzle is still clogged, continue with the steps below.
  • Remove the nozzle from the can by prying it out using the sewing needle.
  • Wear protective gloves with handling paint thinner.
  • Pour some paint thinner into a container and soak the nozzle overnight. The thinner should loosen any hardened paint in the nozzle.
  • Carefully remove the paint particles by inserting the tiny needle into the nozzle. Make sure you do not widen the nozzle holes as it will affect the spray pattern.
  • Rinse the nozzle under warm water.
  • Remove the nozzle from an aerosol lubricant can and replace it with the clogged spray paint nozzle. Press the nozzle to force the lubricant through the nozzle hole.
  • Then return the spray paint nozzle onto the spray paint can.
  • Dampen a rag with some paint thinner and clean off any paint residue on the outside of the nozzle.
  • To prevent the spray paint nozzle from clogging in the future, clear the paint from the nozzle after each use; turn the can upside down and press the nozzle until it releases a clear mist.

How old do you have to be to buy spray paint?

It is illegal for anyone under 18 years to purchase an aerosol paint container in the USA and Canada. There is no US federal law on the age limit for buying spray paint, but it can vary between states.

Chicago, Illinois, has a ban on spray paint sales within city limits to curb graffiti. However, adults 18 years and older can purchase spray paints in the suburbs.

In New York state, it is illegal to buy spray paint for anyone under 21 years.

It is also against local laws to sell spray paint to minors. This law aims to reduce the use of paint to deface property and spray paint inhalation abuse. Anyone caught selling spray paint to a minor is subject to a fine of $5000 under most state and local laws.

In Canada, it’s a criminal offence to buy spray paint as a minor. However, in Winnipeg and Manitoba, retailers can sell spray paint to a minor if accompanied by a parent or guardian who approves the purchase.

In England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland buying spray paint or selling it to anyone under 16 is a criminal offence. The police can charge both the retailer as well as the underaged if caught.

How to dispose of spray paint cans

The laws on aerosol can disposal vary depending on location. However, the universal rule is if the aerosol can is not empty, you must dispose of it through your household hazardous waste program. On the other hand, if the spray paint can is empty, you can dispose of it either in the trash, recycling, or household hazardous waste program.

It is important to always confirm with your local laws on the proper spray paint can disposal—some places fine people for disposing of spray paint cans with your regular trash.

Although there are no federal laws against disposing of aerosol cans with regular waste, here are some tips on how you can ensure your disposal is safe, encourages recycling and prevents releasing hazardous materials to the environment.

  • Place several sheets of newspaper on the ground in an open area.
  • Point the spray nozzle at the newspaper sheets and press it. If there is no paint flowing out and no hissing sound, the can is empty and safe for disposal.
  • If there is paint in the can, spray it onto the newspaper until it’s empty.
  • Shake the can and listen for a liquid sound.
  • Once it is empty, dispose of it in your regular trash.
  • If you can’t empty the can, dispose of it in your hazardous garbage or according to your community guidelines.

How to fix spray paint drips

Paint drips are quite a common spray paint problem, even for professionals. Paint runs and drips are primarily due to poor spraying techniques. You could either be spraying too much paint in one area or spraying too close to the surface. If you already have drips, you have two solutions to fix the issue.

  • Let the paint dry completely, lightly sand down the run-off with a fine-grit sanding block and then repaint the area.
  • Alternatively, you can smooth out the drips with a camel-hair paintbrush when the paint is still wet.

To prevent dripping, you should apply thin coats and allow every layer to surface dry before adding another. Also, keep the nozzle of the can constantly to avoid over-saturation of paint in one area.

Why does spray paint wrinkle?

A smooth spray-on paint finish requires careful preparation, the correct application technique and patience. The following are the causes of a wrinkled finish and what you should and shouldn’t do to prevent it from happening.

1. One thick coating

Cutting down on time by painting one very thick coat of spray paint will inevitably cause wrinkling. This is because the outermost surface of the paint will dry first while the paint underneath remains wet. Thus, the two surfaces do not contract and expand uniformly over time, forming a wrinkles web.

To avoid this issue, you need to apply several thin layers of spray paint while constantly moving the nozzle over the surface for uniform application. Then, wait for the recommended drying time between each layer.

2. Extremely high heat

Although paint requires heat to dry appropriately, extremely high temperatures can cause wrinkling. The ideal temperature for spray painting is between 65° and 85°F (18° – 30°C), and 75°F (24°C) with no humidity.

When it is too hot, like in the summer, the uppermost surface of the paint will dry much faster before the inner layers have a chance to dry.

The solution is to apply thin coats as they dry more evenly. Also, wait for about 24 to 48 hours after the second coat to repaint.

3. High humidity

High humidity will prevent proper drying and curing of your spray paint. If moisture gets in contact with the spray-painted surface before it cures, it may react with the spray paint solvents and cause the paint to wrinkle as it dries.

In this case, if the work area is outside, you should wait for painting until the weather gets drier. For moveable work areas, you can add heat or increase the indoor temperatures.

4. Incompatible products

Spray paint brands have different formulations. These formulations have different properties, including drying time. Therefore, you can only use manufacturer-recommended products such as primers, thinners, base coats, and topcoats. Using incompatible products will cause wrinkling.

5. Surface contamination

Wax, solvents, grease, and other contaminants on the spray-painted surface can prevent the spray paint from adhering to it. Therefore, before spray painting any surface, it’s crucial to ensure it is clean even before applying the primer.

Clean the surface with some detergent and water to remove water-soluble dirt. You can use wax and grease remover for oily contaminants. Then wipe the surface with isopropyl alcohol to remove any residual contaminants remaining on the surface.

6. Uncured primer

Spray painting over uncured primer and base coat will cause the subsequent layers to wrinkle. Give it about four hours to dry and cure, but you can always confirm with the instructions on the product.

How long does spray paint last?

How durable spray paint typically depends on the type of spray paint you use. Oil-based spray paints are highly resistant to chipping and corrosion. Therefore they last longer than water-based spray paint. Oil-based spray paints also do not require a primer. Also, enamel spray paints are highly durable and great for outdoor surfaces since they hold up well against harsh weather.

Depending on the type of spray paint you use, you might need to apply a primer which also helps with durability. Most manufacturers give a warranty that guarantees how long the spray paint job will last. However, the proper application will majorly help you achieve its full durability potential.

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How to keep spray paint from chipping off metal

Metal surfaces are one of the most surfaces to spray paint without experiencing some chipping. The trick to preventing spray paint on metal from chipping is proper surface preparation and application and the type of spray paint you use. Below are tips and tricks to avoid spray paint from chipping metal.

1. Get the right products.

Choose products that are compatible with metal surfaces and resistant to rusting. Oil-based spray paint is the most adhesive option for metals. Although these products are not mandatory, ensure the primer and topcoat are compatible with the spray paint. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations.

2. Prepare the surface.

Remove dirt, debris, oils, old paint, and grease from the metal. Clean the surface with mild detergent and warm water. Use wire brushes, sandpaper, or steel wool to prepare the surface and allow the spray paint to adhere. Wipe the area with acetone or denatured alcohol to remove oils and grease.

3. Prepare the working location.

Ideally, your workstation should be outdoors, away from wind and direct sunlight. Wind will blow dust and dirt onto the undried paint and ruin the painting process. If you’re working indoors, it should be a well-ventilated room. Cover the floors and walls with tape and polythene paper. Use masking tape to cover an area of the metal piece that you do not want to spray paint.

4. Protect yourself.

Wear an aerator, gloves, and goggles. Then test the spray paint to ensure it has the right pressure. Shake the can for about one to two minutes and then spray it onto a cardboard box. If the spray pattern is split or uneven, you need to get a replacement.

5. Prime the surface

Use a metal spray primer on the surface to get a smooth and even finish and increase service life. Hold the primer 6 to 8 inches away from the surface and spray over the entire surface. Allow it to try for about about10 to 20 minutes before proceeding with another layer of primer. Once the coat is even, let it cure for about one to two hours.

6. Apply thin layers of spray paint

Shake the spray paint vigorously for at least two minutes. Hold the can approximately 10-12 inches away from the metal surface, and then press. Move the can lightly in a sweeping motion over the surface with consistent speed to avoid causing drips and runs. Remember to shake the can now and again throughout the spray painting process.

Apply several coats of thin paint while allowing every layer to dry completely for at least an hour before adding another coat.

7. Magnets

When working with smaller objects, you can use magnets to hold the object and adjust its position to avoid touching the surface when spray painting.

8. Correct the mistakes

Check for mistakes and correct them as soon as possible. If you see drips and spots, but the paint is wet, you can remove them using a clean, dry, lint-free cloth. If the paint has dried, use a fine-grit sanding block to remove the marks. Then apply another last coat to cover any patches or texture from the sanding.

Where to dispose of spray paint cans

The best way to dispose of spray paint cans is in your Household Hazardous Waste program to avoid polluting the environment. You should confirm with your local environmental, health and solid waste agency for more information on proper hazardous waste disposal.

Usually, they have regular pickups of Household Hazardous Waste. If your locality doesn’t have a permanent collection program for household hazardous waste, utilize the local recycling businesses for proper disposal.

How to keep spray paint from rubbing off

Typically, spray paint does not rub off, provided you use the right products and the correct application. Also, the grit size of the nozzle can cause the spray paint to rub off. The finer the spray tip, the smoother the finish will be. Below are suggestions of how you can fix the issue.

  • Use a finer spray tip for a smoother finish. The bigger grit size is likely to cause the paint particle to break up and become airborne when spraying. However, a smaller grit size reduces the number of paint particles coming out of the can and reduce rubbing against other surfaces.
  • If your workstation has temperature fluctuations, an easy fix is using spray cans with higher levels of propellants that have less overspray.
  • Store the spray paints at room temperature instead of refrigeration because cold temperatures cause the lacquer inside the paint to contract and dry up, leading to clumpy and grainy paint. Lumpy paint has a less consistent spraying pattern and causes rubbing off.
  • If your spray paint has any one of these types of finishes, you will have to sand and prime the surface before painting:
    • Thick and waxy finish
    • Laminate
    • Shiny and glossy finish
    • Polyurethaned finish.
  • Paint spray your surfaces in the morning or evening during summer. Painting in the hot sun will cause the paint to dry before it reaches the surface, preventing it from levelling due to high evaporation.
  • Apply several thin coats while allowing each layer to dry completely before repainting.
  • Apply a good top coat to seal the spray paint and protect it from scratches, rubbing off and water damage.
  • Allow the paint and top coat to cure over a couple of weeks before touching it or placing something on the surface.

Why is my spray paint cracking?

Cracking usually happens due to extreme temperatures and applying a thick layer of spray paint at once. Spray painting when the weather is too hot causes the solvent in the paint to evaporate too quickly, and the paint shrinks and cracks.

When the temperature is too cold, it prevents the paint from adhering firmly to the surface, regardless of applying over primer. If you spray paint a thick coat, the surface dries first while the inner paint remains wet. As a result, the surface layer will start to contract and crack as the paint underneath moves.

Other factors such as poor preparation can also lead to cracking. You need to use spray paint that is compatible with the surface. Some spray paints crack over surfaces such as plastic and metal. You should also use products that are compatible with each other.

Another culprit is applying spray paint on a dirty surface. You need to get rid of dust, dirt and grease from the surface and then sand it before spray painting to ensure it sticks properly to the surface.

How long should you wait between coats of spray paint?

The rule of thumb is to apply subsequent coats of paint after the previous one is dry to the touch. Unfortunately, all spray paints have different drying times.  Confirm with the application instructions on the product to find the exact recoat time.

Other factors such as heat, ventilation, humidity, and application affect the drying time of each coat. If you’re spray painting in ideal conditions and thin coats, 1-4 hours is enough time for each coat to dry.

How many coats of spray paint do I need?

You need at least three lights coats to achieve the best coverage when spray painting is at least three light coats. However, make sure you get all the coats on the surface within an hour. Note that more light coats give better and long-lasting results compared to one heavy coat.

Different shades of color also apply differently. Very bright spray paint colors such as yellow and orange may require five or more coats. Most neutral or deep tones will need 2-3 coats to be opaque.

Why is my spray paint bubbling?

Bubbles or blisters on a spray-painted surface occur when you apply a thick layer of paint or spray painting in adverse conditions. The uppermost layer of the paint dries before the solvents underneath can evaporate.

Over time air bubbles from under the dried coat of paint. Also, heat or moisture or a combination of both reduce adhesion between the paint layer and surface to form bubbling.

The best way to fix bubbling is:

  • First, allow the spray paint to dry completely.
  • Next, lightly sand the surface to remove the air pockets and reduce the thickness of the paint in the affected area.
  • Repaint using thin coats.
  • Apply a sealant to protect the paint from moisture(optional).

Additionally, applying spray paint when the weather conditions are ideal will help prevent bubbling underneath the paint.

How to get rid of spray paint smell

Spray paint fumes can linger for days or even weeks, mainly if the room is not ventilated adequately after spray painting. Since spray paint contains hazardous chemicals, you should limit your exposure to those fumes as soon as possible.

Scented objects such as candles, air fresheners or essential oils will mask the smell but not remove it. Here are several inexpensive hacks that you can use to eliminate spray paint smell naturally.

1. Use spray paint with low VOC

An excellent way to prevent spray paint smell is to buy one with low-VOC content. The Volatile Organic Compounds(VOC) in spray paints are the ones responsible for the foul odor. Although spray paints with low VOC content have less odor, the fumes will still be detectable.

So it’s essential also to use some of the tips below to remove the fumes and minimize related health risks.

2. Ventilation

Increase ventilation where the sprayed object or surface is. If it is moveable, place it outside away from direct sun and the wind. If it’s not moveable, open the doors and windows and add a fan in the room. Sufficient ventilation allows fresh air to enter the room and dilute the spray paint fumes. In addition, the fan will promote air circulation and push those fumes out.

3. Baking soda

Baking soda acts as a desiccant that absorbs odor and vapors. When spray painting in a room, pour some baking powder into shallow bowls and place them around the room and near the spray-painted area.

When done with spraypainting, pour out the baking soda in the garbage and set another batch while the paint dries. If the odor lingers, leave the baking powder out overnight.

4. Activated charcoal

Activated charcoal is equally an excellent odor remover. It is essential to use activated charcoal as it is more porous; therefore, it will absorb more odors and vapors around it. Pour the activated charcoal into bowls and place them around the room.

You can also get desiccant bags with activated charcoal in local fish stores and hang them strategically around the room.

5. Lemon water

Place a few slices of lemon in bowls of water and place the bowls strategically around the spray-painted surface or object and leave them overnight. The lemon water will absorb the VOCs and also deodorize the room with a citrus scent.

6. Coffee grounds

Coffee grounds and coffee beans are natural air freshener and odor absorbing. Place the dry coffee grounds around the room, and they will also mask the smell of spray paint. Dispose of the coffee grounds once you’re done with them as they won’t be fit for consumption.

7. Onions

If you do not mind the smell of onions, you can cut a few into halves and place them around a well-ventilated room. Throw away the onions after using them, as they may have absorbed some VOCs.

For quick spray paint odor removal, we advise implementing several of the above options simultaneously over a couple of days.

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What happens if you inhale spray paint?

You are likely to experience some side effects after being exposed to spray paint fumes. These effects vary from person to person and the extent of the exposure. For example, people with existing respiratory issues may have more severe side effects.

That’s why it’s essential always to wear protective gear, even when doing small spray paint projects and working in a well-ventilated area like a garage with exhaust fans and a big door wide open.

Short term health effects from inhaling spray paint fumes include:

  • Contact dermatitis
  • Irritation in the nose, throat and lungs
  • Burns to the skin and eyes
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Fatigue

On the other hand, there are possible long term health effects such as:

  • Asthma
  • Painter’s syndrome
  • Allergic contact dermatitis
  • Damage to the liver, lungs, kidney and nervous system

Don’t spray paint in a place you won’t be comfortable grilling in.

Wrapping it up

Hopefully, this article has provided you with answers to some of your questions regarding spray painting. With careful preparation, thin coats of paint, patience, and the ideal weather conditions, you will get the perfect spray paint finish.

Caution is also crucial when dealing with spray paint. Always have your safety gear on as minimal or extended exposure to spray paint fumes can cause health side effects.

Once you complete your spray painting project, dispose of the cans through a Household Hazardous Waste program to avoid polluting the environment.