What Dissolves Latex?

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Latex is often found in house paint.
Latex is often found in house paint. (Image: Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

Latex is a natural, creamy liquid substance that forms from under the bark of rubber trees. Found in items such as balloons, rubber toys, bandages, pacifiers, baby bottle nipples, dental supplies, condoms, masks and costumes, Latex is the primary material contained in rubber household gloves and many types of house paint. There are several products to remove latex paint.

Natural Disolvents

Latex consists of 55 to 65 percent water. The ozone, oxygen, heat, ultra violet rays and humidity exceeding 40 percent causes latex to evaporate, leading to deterioration. When it comes to latex, the old adage of "water and oil don't mix" rings true. Latex will deteriorate when coming in contact with oil and petroleum-based products such as shoe polish, saddle soap, Vaseline and other forms of petroleum-based jelly, many hand lotions, oil-based soaps and lubricants.

Dissolving Wet Latex Paint

If it is still wet, latex paint can be removed by using water and household detergent. If the paint is on a non-porous, non latex surface, spray it with water and the paint should dissolve. If it does not dissolve, add either a bit of dishwashing liquid or laundry detergent to the water. Latex paint on clothing can be removed by soaking the garment while the paint is still wet, rather than machine washing it with laundry detergent. Be cautious in using household stain remover products on latex paint as many are oil-based.

Dissolving Dried Latex Paint with Household Products

Once latex paint has dried, removal becomes more problematic. Go from the mildest product to the strongest. Ammonia is mild and will dissolve latex paint but often with a considerable amount of scrubbing. Isopropyl, otherwise known as rubbing alcohol, is stronger and more effective but it is also flammable and can damage surfaces. If water, ammonia, or alcohol are ineffective, lacquer, or paint thinner, will dissolve latex on non-painted surfaces such as ceramic tile, porcelain, brick or cement. However, lacquer thinner will cause burns if it comes in contact with the skin. Non-latex gloves are recommended.

Dissolving Dried Latex with Commerical Products

There are several commercial products that can dissolve Latex. "Goof Off" and "Oops", intended for household use, are found in many hardware stores and offer water-based and environmentally friendly versions. Tetrahydrofuran (THF) readily dissolves latex. Due to its highly flammable and explosive nature, THF is reserved for industrial use. Nitrile or neoprene rubber gloves should be used to administer THF.

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