How to Remove Paint from Succulents/Cactus?

Have you ever heard about or come across a painted succulent? Nowadays, companies specializing in the distribution of houseplants have developed a new and attractive sales strategy.

On popular Gen-Z demand, they are selling painted succulents.

Is it a good thing?

While the idea of a succulent or cactus painted in your favorite color is undoubtedly appealing, the consequences for the plant are not pretty.

A spray-painted succulent cannot carry out photosynthesis. It won’t produce any energy, which will slow down its growth. This situation can be fatal for the succulent.

The plant would only survive if it produced new leaves and absorbed sunlight.

Even then, the plant will be weak, and chances are high that the leaves will grow misshapen. It will take years for the succulent to recover, and some might not.

Local greenhouses are not too worried about this. People are more interested in buying colorful succulents that add an aesthetic appeal to the interior.

They don’t care if the succulent lives or dies. In the latter’s case, they simply toss the plant and buy a new one.

While it’s not hard to distinguish between a natural and spray-painted succulent, if you accidentally bought the latter, you have your work cut out for you.

Painted succulents might be the new home accessory, but they are promoting the trend that it’s alright to discard plants.

Is Paint Dangerous for Succulents?

We have established that paint hinders a succulent’s photosynthesis process. Let’s say that your painted succulent no longer holds the appeal it once had.

You now want to remove the paint. This can be a little difficult because the chemicals in paint bind to the leaves, and removing it could harm the plant.

Your intervention might cause more harm than good.

Paint on hands can be removed easily using a non-corrosive solvent. You can then wash it off using soap.

As for succulents, they expel oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide through the tiny pores on the top and underside of the leaf.

Any solvent used to clean the plant can clog these pores and suffocate the plant.

Removing Paint from Succulents

Removal of paint from a succulent depends on the paint used. It is important to use a non-toxic solvent that cleans the paint without harming the succulent.

The most common solution that can help you with this is a mixture of rubbing alcohol and water.

Dyed Houseplants

Succulents come in various colors. From vibrant purple to sparkling blue, they mesmerize you and give your house a beautiful look.

However, not all these colors are natural. You have probably seen a flower in various colors in a flower shop.

You will see a wide variety of colorful plants at Christmas. If you are a horticulturist, you probably see painted succulents as sacrilegious.

However, not everyone has the same perspective. In schools, primary students often do a typical experiment:

Dividing a flower’s stem and dipping it in jars filled with colored water. The colored water would travel up the stem and stain the petals.

How Succulents React to Painted Leaves

Painted succulents are under a lot of stress. They don’t have much energy to photosynthesize. The succulent may or may not survive, depending on how thick the paint is on the leaves.

Usually, when a leaf develops some fungal infection, the succulent shed it, and a new leaf grows in its place.

However, if the damage is too much and the paint has been left on for too long, the succulent might not be able to come up with the energy to grow a new leaf. Eventually, the succulent will die.

Removing Paint from a Cactus

The paint removal process for a cactus is similar to the method used on other plants.

Cactuses such as the Jumping Cactus, Cholla Cactus, Barrel Cactus, and San Pedro Cactus have a prickly layer and should be cleaned carefully.

In a spray bottle, mix olive oil and water. Spray the plant with this solution heavily and let the paint run off.

It’s possible that the first spray might not be effective but don’t give up. Keep spraying the cactus for a couple of minutes until it is completely soaked.

For cactuses with smooth surfaces, uses a soft cloth to wipe the stem and leaves.

Chemistry says, “Like dissolves like.”

Meaning: You can wash water-based chemicals with water and inorganic compounds with inorganic solvents.

Plants are living entities, just like us. Any artificial treatment will harm them.

A coat of spray paint will stay on a succulent for a month if the plant is healthy. Sunlight, watering, and appropriate drainage play a huge role in this.

If the succulent was already struggling before it was spray painted, chances are high that it won’t survive the artificial color.

Let’s take a detailed look into removing different paints from succulents:

Removing Water-Based Paint

As the name says, this paint’s part composition is water, which means you can easily clean it off your succulent using a wet cloth.

Gently rub the leaves with the cloth, and that’s it. If the succulent has too many leaves, use a hose to wash it. Make sure the pressure is low, or you might harm the plants.

Before washing the leaves, cover the soil with plastic to prevent water from getting absorbed in it. Your succulent is already suffering.

You don’t need to give it more stress by wetting the soil and causing fungus to grow on it.

Removing Oil-Based Paint

To remove oil-based paint from succulent leaves, you need an organic solvent.

Rubbing alcohol happens to be the least corrosive one. It breaks the paint bonds and leaves the color vulnerable to removal.

Since you will be working with alcohol, which is mild in nature, we still recommend that you wear gloves. Dip a cloth in rubbing alcohol and squeeze out the access.

Swipe the leaf in a single motion and see the magic happen.

If your succulent leaves are glossy, you are in luck. The oily layer on it is no match for a solvent like rubbing alcohol.

Moreover, since the paint contains oil, there’s no bond between the leaves and the paint. As a result, you don’t need to put in much effort when wiping the paint.

Removing Latex Paint

The composition of latex paint is quite different. It contains water and acrylic compounds that give the pain a plastic or rubber feel.

You are in luck if your succulent has been sprayed with latex paint. If the plant was recently painted, it can be cleaned using water and rubbing alcohol.

You will see it coming off on its own if it has been a while.

The paint will simply peel off on its own, sort of like a chemical mask. You might be tempted to use your fingernails to scrape it off, but we don’t recommend this.

If you scratch the leaf’s surface, you risk exposing the sap, which will attract insects. Your actions will leave the succulent vulnerable to mealybugs, aphids, thrips, and whiteflies.

Types of Paints

Paints come in different names, but some have similar compositions. The name variation is usually because of the compounds used in manufacturing.

It’s important to identify what kind of paint you are dealing with to find the right solution.

As we said, painted succulents are already under a lot of stress. Using the wrong cleaning method will diminish any energy the succulent has left.

Following are two charts that outline water-based and solvent-based paints with their properties, uses, and removal methods.

Water-Based Paints

Paint TypePropertiesUsesRemoval
Latex Water-based paint made with acrylic polymers (High ratio).For exterior and interior walls.Wash with water and wipe with a cloth.
Water-BasedMade with water.For external walls.Wash with water and wipe with a cloth.
PrimersContains polyethylene (plastic), synthetic resins, and other additives.Used when preparing walls for the final coat.Wash with water and wipe with a cloth.
AcrylicWater-based paint made with acrylic polymers (Low ratio).For exterior and interior walls.Wash with water and wipe with a cloth.

Solvent-Based Paints

Paint TypePropertiesUsesRemoval
Oil Made with linseed oil or alkyd (synthetic).Painting trims, doors, interior finishes, and moldings.Use rubbing alcohol.
Epoxy CoatingMade with a hardener and epoxy resin.Painting steel and concrete gives surface resistance to acids, water, and alkali.Removal will damage the succulent.
UrethanesMade with natural and synthetic compounds.Coating industrial metal surfaces.Rub gently using rubbing alcohol.

Final Word

Using water or a toxic-free solvent to clean the paint might not always work. In such a case, allowing nature to do its thing is better.

Keep watering your plant and give it the right amount of sunlight. The succulent might find the strength to thrive and produce new leaves.

To remove any traces of paint that might have made it into the soil, we recommend changing the pot.

Remember, the quicker you find out your succulent is painted, the easier it will be to remove the paint.

Trim the roots before repotting the succulent, and then devise a maintenance schedule to ensure your succulent grows big and healthy.