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There is always a chance of spilling a little paint when working around the house. Maybe you have done the best you can to cover areas, but you still somehow manage to find paint splatter on surfaces when you are finished. Removing paint from metal and most other surfaces is easy; you simply wipe it off with a solvent. Removing paint from plastic, on the other hand, can be a little more difficult as solvents can damage the surface. Thankfully, when it comes to how to remove paint from plastic, there are a few safer methods.
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A Brief Look at Plastic Varieties
At home or work, if you look around, you are bound to find numerous plastic items and products. Plastic has become an extremely common material that comes in different forms. There are several primary forms of plastic as follows:
- Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE or PET): Widely used for packaging for drinks and food
- High-Density Polyethylene or HDPE: Piping, bottles, wood, and plastic composites, and much more
- Low-Density Polyethylene or LDPE: Containers, tubing, and most commonly the plastic bag
- Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC): Industrial and domestic uses like window frames, siding, hosepipes, cable insulation, roofing, and more
- Polypropylene (PP): Variety of applications from automotive to consumer goods, industrial, packaging, and medical applications
- Polystyrene or Styrofoam (PS): Lightweight and easy to form into items like disposable cutlery and packaging
- Various assorted plastics including acrylic, polycarbonate, polylactide, styrene, acrylonitrile butadiene, nylon, and fiberglass
As you can see, plastic is quite a broad term as there are many different types of plastics available today. The type of plastic can also play a role in removing paint from plastic as some are harder and more durable than others. So, what are the possible cases where removing paint from plastic is necessary?
- Light switch covers
- Plastic stools and steps
- Uncovered handles on appliances
- Model painting
- Roof fan
- Drain pipes
- Vinyl siding
- Plant containers
How to Remove Paint From Plastic
When trying to strip paint from plastic, using a solvent may just damage the item you want to clean. The easiest and safest method to try first is simple, use a rag and some soapy water. Rub the area until the paint comes off and wash clean with a wet cloth. You can also soak plastic items if possible. This is most effective when done immediately and the paint has not dried yet. However, if the paint remains, you can move on to something else. Below are more methods on how to remove paint from plastic.
Scraping the Paint
Another easy method to help you strip paint from plastic is by gently scraping it off using a paint scraper. This method works best on smooth plastic, but whatever the case, be careful to not be too aggressive or you could damage the surface. Instead of a paint scraper, you could also try a blade, screwdriver, or putty knife. Make sure the scraper is at an angle to scrape the paint.
If the paint remains, consider wiping the area with a little warm soapy water, or a little rubbing alcohol, and then try scraping again.
As mentioned, some rubbing alcohol can also help. In this case, apply some of the rubbing alcohol to the paint only and then cover it with some plastic wrap. Wait for 30 minutes before taking the plastic wrap away, then wipe the paint off. This procedure might have to be done two or three times to make sure all the paint is gone. When wiping away the paint, use a cloth as a brush or other abrasive material that can damage the plastic surface. Also, it is a good idea to test out a small unobtrusive area first to see if the rubbing alcohol has any negative effect on the plastic. You also might consider wearing a mask and using some gloves for protection.
Another method for how to remove spray paint from plastic with household items is vegetable oil. Everybody has this in their homes, and it is safe and easy to use for removing paint from plastic. Place a clean cloth into the vegetable oil and rub where the paint has spilled. Here you can apply with a lot more energy until you can see the paint coming off.
How to remove spray paint from plastic with household items? We all most likely have vinegar in the kitchen, so why not use it for removing paint from plastic. However, there are certain things you must take into account, including the type of paint on the plastic surface. Vinegar will remove latex paint most effectively. All you have to do is heat some distilled vinegar in the microwave on high. Leave it in for one minute and it should then be quite warm but not too hot. Dip a sponge into the warm vinegar and rub the area where the paint is on the plastic surface.
Acetone and Solvents
You might need something stronger than vegetable oil when it comes to how to remove enamel paint from plastic, which is where acetone comes in. You can use nail polish, however, if the plastic is colored, a regular acetone-based product will work better. Apply directly to the paint, wait five minutes, and then wipe off with a cloth.
Any solvent gives off toxic fumes, so working in a well-ventilated area is advisable.
You can also consider denatured alcohol, which is stronger, however, you must be careful when using it. Dip a rag into the alcohol and apply only a small amount directly to the paint. Wait five minutes to make sure it is not affecting the paint. Only apply once as the plastic surface will be damaged if too much is used. If you notice the paint is dissolving, you can then scrape the paint off. Once the paint has been removed, there might be a few spots left. Simply wipe the surface with a cloth dipped in some warm soapy water and then leave the surface to dry thoroughly. This method is best used on harder plastics like a bucket and only works to take off latex paint.
You can also use ammonia, which works more on acrylic and latex paints. Mineral spirits will work better on oil-based paints. Solvents should always be tested out first in an unobtrusive area. The different plastic will react differently, so take a Q-tip and place a drop on the plastic surface, and wait to see what happens. If you do not notice any difference, it should be okay to use the solvents.
A Summary of the Different Methods for Removing Paint from Plastic
As you can see, there are several effective methods for removing paint from plastic surfaces. Here is a brief summary of these different methods.
|Removing Paint From Plastic-Methods
|Safe to use
|✔ (oil-based paint)
|Solvents (Denatured alcohol, thinners)
Our Top Three Recommendations for Paint Removing Products
There is also some paint remover for plastic products on the market that are effective and safe to use on a variety of surfaces including plastic. These products can also be used for a variety of other purposes around the house, making them versatile and worth what you pay for them.
The Best Specialized Paint Remover: MOTSENBOCKER’S Lift Off
If you are looking for a product specialized product for removing paint, then you do not need to look any further than this fantastic product. The water-based formula allows you to safely and easily remove all kinds of paint from a range of surfaces, including metal, plastic, concrete, fiberglass, and more. This product is eco-friendly and safe for the user.
The Best All-Around Paint Remover: MR CLEAN Magic Eraser
If you only need to clean up a small amount of spilled paint and you do not want to buy a whole new product, this all-in-one domestic cleaner is a great option. Once you have removed the spilled paint, you can use these cleaning pads to clean up any other sources of dirt in your home. This product is perfect for cleaning doors, bathtubs, oven doors, and even light switches. There are no harsh chemicals in this product, and you can either re-fill the product once it runs out or recycle the bottle.
The Most Effective Paint Stripper for Plastic: GOOF OFF Household Heavy Duty Remover
This product works the first time every time to remove a variety of tough stains like paint on plastic. If you have tried many products and they have not worked, then you definitely need to try this product. You can safely use this paint stripper for plastic, clothing, glass, and a variety of other surfaces. This paint remover for plastic is easy to use, simply apply it to the stain and leave it to penetrate for at least a minute. You can then use an absorbent cloth to wipe it off.
The Best Methods for Removing Paint from Plastic Models
Plastic models and painting them is a popular hobby and at some point, a paint stripper for plastic will be necessary. Maybe a mistake was made, or you could simply want to apply a fresh coat of paint, either way, the old paint needs to be removed. Plastic models can either be painted with enamel or acrylic paints and these can be removed by using a commercial paint remover you get at a model store. You could also try out other products like Easy Off, Simple Green, Purple Power cleaner, or SuperClean.
There are other options available as well, and these methods use materials that might be lying around the house. One cheap and easy method is to use Dettol or some other antiseptic product. This will work best on acrylic paints. Follow the process below for removing paint from plastic models.
- Place some of the Dettol into a big enough container
- Fill until it covers the plastic item
- Leave this to soak for about four hours
- Take the plastic item or model out
- Apply a toothbrush to get rid of the paint
- Once the paint is gone, rinse off with water
Any plastic model or item that soaks in the Dettol will loosen any glue there is. However, this is a good thing if you want to adjust any mistakes. You should just be aware that the glue will break down.
Another household item that can be used to remove paint from plastic is oven cleaner. You can spray the model and place it into a sealed bag. Leave this for a day or two and remove it, use a brush to clean the item, and rinse it off with water.
This method should only be considered as a last course of action. If you do attempt sanding, use fine-grit sandpaper, and work extremely carefully so that you do not damage or remove any surface details.
This will follow the same process as the Dettol. Place some alcohol into a container, just enough to soak the plastic items. Submerge the plastic model pieces and leave for about 20 minutes. The enamel paint might take a bit longer to remove. After soaking, take a toothbrush and remove the paint. Rinse once done and leave to dry.
This method can be used to remove both acrylic and enamel paint.
Our Top Tips for Removing Paint From Plastic
Paint remover for plastic products may contain harmful ingredients that could affect the plastic surface. So, always read the label and make sure what you are buying is correct and follow the instructions for use. Even some of the household items can also cause damage to plastic surfaces. Nail polish remover, for instance, can melt plastic, so it is best not to use too much of it. Following are a few more tips, so you can remove paint from plastic carefully.
- Try not to scrape, rub, or work too hard on a plastic surface, as you can leave marks behind
- Denatured alcohol should be used carefully and can only be used to remove latex paints, you will need another solution for oil-based paints
- Vegetable oil works quite well for oil-based paints
- Solvents can be dangerous, so make sure to use protection like gloves and a mask. Also, work in a well-ventilated space
- Any paint that has been scraped off is seen as hazardous waste and you should get rid of it properly
- Be careful when removing paint from plastics and electronics, make sure to unplug or remove batteries before you clean the item
- If you do use a brush, make sure it is a natural bristle brush
If you are ever stuck with a situation where you have spilled paint on a plastic surface, you now know what paint stripper for paint method to use. You can also use any of our top recommended products to easily remove the spilled paint in a matter of minutes.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to Remove Enamel Paint From Plastic?
When using a paint stripper for plastic, you have to be careful what you use. Harsher chemicals like paint thinners can melt the plastic. First, try using simple soap and water, then try some vegetable oil. If the paint is dry, you can also try scraping it off and if that does not work, try a little acetone or rubbing alcohol.
How to Remove Spray Paint From Plastic?
Spray paint can sometimes get onto surfaces even if you have tried your best not to mess. Depending on the type of paint, you can either use soap and water or if it is oil-based paint, some acetone, or denatured alcohol if it is latex paint.
Can Paint be Stripped off Vinyl with Sandpaper?
The best method would be to get rid of the paint straight away. However, you can also lightly sand the surface to get rid of the paint. Do not overdo this method as you can leave marks, sanding will also dull the surface.
Can you use Paint Thinners on Plastic?
Thinners as a paint stripper for plastic may not be the best method. Thinners might not damage some harder plastics, but they will definitely harm softer plastics and dissolve Styrofoam. Trying something less harsh first would be a better idea.