Plastic surfaces can be tricky to clean when you get paint on them, so knowing how to remove paint from plastic helps you better maintain your space during DIY remodeling projects. Fortunately, plastic surfaces are nonporous and thus smooth, which makes removing paint from plastic simple in most cases. Discover more about how to remove paint from plastic, including spray paint, oil-based paint, latex paint and enamel paint, with various techniques and paint strippers and removers from the Real Milk Paint Co.
Challenges Faced With Removing Paint From Plastic Surfaces
The thing that makes plastic surfaces easy to clean — the smooth, nonporous design — also creates problems when you need to remove paint from plastic. For example, if you use harsh chemicals on some plastics, they may incur damage or even melt. This means you need to know both the types of paint and the type of plastic you’re dealing with before you try to remove paint stains from those surfaces.
First, Identify the Type of Plastic Surfaces
Different types of plastic require different care, so you need to identify the plastic surface before beginning. For example, thinner polyethylene, polypropylene, acrylic, and fiberglass may allow you to remove paint from their surfaces with stronger solvents. Some ways to tell these plastics apart include using a match to melt an inconspicuous spot and watch for the following reactions:
- Polyethylene: Drips and has a candle wax fragrance
- Nylon: Has a flame that’s sooty and a marigold fragrance
- Polypropylene: Drips and has a dirty engine oil fragrance
- Plasticized PVC: Green-tinged flame and a white acrid smoke
- Polycarbonate: Doesn’t drip and has a phenolic fragrance
Prepare Your Workspace and Materials for Removing Paint
Before starting your project, prepare your work area by putting down a drop cloth in a well-ventilated area. Wear protective gear if you’re using paint thinner or solvents like nail polish remover, paint stripper or denatured alcohol to remove paint from plastic. Gather your tools and supplies beforehand, including:
- Warm, soapy water
- Vegetable oil
- Rubbing alcohol
- Plastic wrap
- Paper towel roll
- Paint scraper
- Paint removers
Techniques for Removing Paint From Different Plastics
For the best paint remover results, try products with less potential to damage plastic first and then move on to stronger options like a paint stripper. Remove paint by soaking the area with warm, soapy water first, then use a little elbow grease to see if the paint comes off. If it doesn’t, move on to other ways to remove paint from plastic.
Using a Plastic Paint Scraper
A paint scraper offers a fast, simple way to remove spray paint, acrylic paints and oil-based paints from plastic. Pair this technique to remove excess paint with warm water to help loosen up the dried paint, especially on smoother plastics like PVC that don’t react well to paint thinners. Start slow, and don’t apply too much pressure when using the paint scraper to prevent damaging the plastic items. However, if the surface is covered in Real Milk Paint, you can easily strip paint from plastic using our Powdered Milk Paint Remover.
Applying Paint Stripper or Solvent
Sometimes, a paint scraper just doesn’t get the job done when you need to remove enamel, acrylic, or oil-based paints. In those instances, it’s time to try a paint thinner or stripper to polish up your paint job. You may want to try a simple solvent that doesn’t damage plastic, such as vegetable oil. Just coat the surface with the dried paint with vegetable oil, put some plastic wrap over it and wait a bit. The paint may come up with some elbow grease and your paint scraper, but if it doesn’t, you have other paint remover options.
Choosing the Right Paint Remover Solvent
There are a variety of solvents that remove spray paint, enamel paint, latex paint and oil paint from plastic. For instance, nail polish remover may be your best bet to remove small paint splatters from acrylic items. At the same time, a simple application of rubbing alcohol can often loosen unwanted paint on small items like plastic models. Likewise, distilled white vinegar works well when you need to remove latex paint or just wipe away loosened paint. If a large area is covered in old paint and a harder plastic, such as polycarbonate, you may want to try a Soy-Gel Professional Paint Remover that removes unwanted paint and encapsulates dangerous ingredients like lead in the process.
Applying Paint Remover Solvent Safely
Before you handle potentially dangerous solvents such as paint thinners and lacquer thinner, be sure to wear protective gear, including rubber gloves and an apron. You also need to be in a well-ventilated space and wear a respirator, especially if you plan on using a harsh paint stripper to remove your paint stains. Keep a paper towel roll ready so you can mop up messes, and use a natural bristle brush or cotton ball to apply a little bit of the solvent at a time to see how it reacts. Be sure to thoroughly clean the area with regular household cleaners such as dish soap and water after you strip enamel, oil or latex paints off plastic surfaces.
Tips for Cleaning and Restoring the Plastic Surface
After you remove the paint from the plastic, clean the surface with soapy water or a high-quality cleanser like Tri-Sodium Phosphate and then dry it off completely. You can also make a simple paste from baking soda and water and then brush it on the plastic to remove residual paint stains and debris from grooves and indentations. For surfaces with tougher stains, let the baking soda solution sit for a while, then rinse it off with soapy water and dry the plastic item by hand.
Ways to Prevent Future Paint Damage to Plastic
Most paint-on-plastic damage occurs when you’re redoing areas of your home or engaging in DIY projects. To prevent this from happening in the future, put down drop cloths to keep spilled paint off your floor and furniture and use painter’s tape to protect plastic light switches and electrical outlets. Likewise, when using spray paint, create a tent around the area with garbage bags to prevent the flecks from landing on another plastic item nearby while you’re painting, or purchase a tent specifically designed for spray painting. If you’re painting parts of your home trim like window frames, move any outdoor furniture away from your work area and clean up any drippage before the paint dries.
Achieve Professional Results When You Remove Paint From Plastic With Our Solvents and Paint Strippers
Get the look you want every time you use products from the Real Milk Paint Co. Our collection of paint strippers and removers provides safe options when taking paint from plastic or almost any other surface. When you’re ready to repaint surfaces, turn to Real Milk Paint for top-notch nontoxic color that works on almost any surface without the need for priming. Check out our products today to see how we can help with your next DIY project.