How To Remove Paint From Plastic Car Parts Safely
How to Remove Paint from Plastic
If you get paint on plastic, don’t worry! Plastic is smooth and non-porous, so it’s rare for paint to form a permanent bond with it. The sooner you get to the paint, the easier it will be to remove, but you can still scrape it off once it has dried. For more stubborn stains, a little bit of rubbing alcohol or acetone is all you really need.
Washing off Fresh Paint
Get to the paint while it is still wet.This is when the paint is the easiest to remove. Once the paint has started to dry, it will become more difficult to clean off. This method will work the best on items that can get wet.
- If you’re trying to clean an electronic, you will have to be extra careful. Unplug the electronic first, and remove any batteries, if possible.
Prepare a solution of warm, soapy water.Fill a bucket with warm water, then add a few pumps of dish soap into it. Give the solution a stir to combine everything. If you can’t find any dish soap, then any other type of liquid soap will do..
Dip small, water-resistant items into the bucket.Make sure that the item is completely submerged. If you need to, rotate the item to get the other side wet too. Use your fingers or a sponge to rub the paint off while the item is submerged, sort of like washing dishes..
- You only need to soak the parts that have paint on them.
- Do not soak electronics or items that may get ruined if they get wet.
Dip a sponge into the water, then use it to wipe down larger items.If this is an electronic item, then you should squeeze out the excess water; otherwise, just wipe the paint off with the soaked sponge. Since the item isn’t continuously in contact with water, you may have to do a few passes with the sponge.
- Dip the sponge into the water and squeeze it after each pass that you make.
Rinse the item with fresh water.If this is a smaller item, you can hold it under a running stream of water until all of the paint and soap residue disappear. For larger items, you can pour a bucket of water over them or rinse them with a hose..
- If the item can’t get wet, dampen a sponge or rag with water, squeeze the excess out, then use it to wipe the soap and paint residue off.
Let the item dry completely.You can either set it out in a well-ventilated area to air dry, or you can pat it dry with a towel. If this is an electronic, wait until the item is completely dry before re-inserting the batteries and plugging it in.
- Consider waiting a full 24 to 48 hours for electronics, just in case water got inside.
Scraping off Dried Paint
Wait until the paint has dried.This method will work best if the paint has completely dried, but it may still work on acrylic or latex paint that hasn’t fully dried yet and still has a rubbery texture.
Soak the painted area in rubbing alcohol if it is thick.You don’t have to do this, but the rubbing alcohol may help loosen the paint and make it easier to remove. Simply pour some rubbing alcohol over the item; use enough to cover the painted area and don’t wipe it off.
- Be careful with electronics. Alternatively, soak a paper towel with rubbing alcohol and place it over the painted area for a few minutes.
- For best results, use 91% or 99% rubbing alcohol.
Choose a scraping tool, such as your fingernail or a paint scraper.Paint scrapers are great for flat surfaces because they have a nice, straight edge. Your fingernail will work better for curved surfaces, such as toys and models. You may still be able to use a paint scraper for cylindrical items, however.
- If you don’t want to use your fingernail, you can try using a flathead screwdriver.
- Paint scrapers and screwdrivers can scratch certain types of plastic. If you’re worried about this, use your fingernail. It’ll take longer, but it’ll be safer.
Hold the scraping tool at an angle against the paint.If this is a splash of paint, you should position the tool against the edge of the paint. If the entire surface is painted, you can pretty much start anywhere. This goes for all scraping tools: paint scrapers, fingernails, and screwdrivers.
- For paint scraper/screwdriver on the unpainted area, with the edge touching the paint.
- For fingernails, make a hook with your index finger, then place your fingernail on the paint, close to the edge.
Scrape the paint off.The direction that you scrape in depends on the item that you are using. For paint scrapers and screwdrivers, you want to push against the paint, like pushing a cart. For your fingernail, you want to pull your fingernail across the paint, like tickling someone.
- Keep going until you have most of the paint off. Don’t worry if there is some residue.
- If you are scraping on a cylindrical item, run your scraping tool down the length of the cylinder. This way, you’re always touching a straight edge.
Rinse the residue with water or oil, then scrape again, if needed.Alternatively, you can use a little bit of vegetable oil instead. This will help lubricate and lift the paint, making it easier to scrape off. Simply pour a little bit of water or oil onto the paint, and continue scraping.
Wipe the residue off with a damp cloth, then let the item dry.Soak a sponge or rag in plain water, then squeeze the excess out. Wipe the surface of the plastic item down with your sponge or rag, then let it air-dry.
- You can also pat the item dry with a clean cloth.
Using Solvents for Stubborn Paint
Choose your solvent.Rubbing alcohol, acetone, and paint thinner are all great options. You can also use a household cleaner with pine oil in it, like Pine-Sol.If you’re using rubbing alcohol, be sure to get the highest percentage that you can find: 91% or 99%. If the percentage is lower than that, the rubbing alcohol won’t have any effect.
- If you have sensitive skin, it would be a good idea to wear plastic or vinyl gloves.
- Acetone may damage some types of plastic, such as Plexiglass or vinyl-based plastic. It’s safe for fiberglass and polyester resin, however.
Test your solvent in an inconspicuous area.This is important, because different types of plastic react different types of solvents. Pick up a drop of your solvent with a soft paintbrush a Q-tip, or even a toothpick, and place the drop onto an inconspicuous area on your item. Wait a few minutes, then rinse the solvent off.
- If nothing happens to the plastic, the solvent may be safe to use. Keep in mind that some solvents may need hours before they have an adverse effect on your item.
- If the plastic changes color or texture, don’t use the solvent. You might even want to press the area with your fingernail; if you see an indent, choose a different solvent.
Wipe small areas down with a cotton ball soaked in your solution.This will work the best with acetone, but you may be able to use rubbing alcohol as well. Simply soak your cotton ball with your solution, then rub it across the painted area until the paint comes off.
- Discard the cotton ball when it gets dirty, and use a new one.
- Acetone evaporates fast, so you’ll have to re-soak the cotton ball often. If you don’t do this, the fuzz will stick the the paint.
Use a stiff-bristled brush for stubborn stains.If the cotton ball is not working, pour your rubbing alcohol or acetone over the painted area, then scrub it with a stiff-bristled brush. Keep applying your solvent and scrubbing until the paint comes off.
- Avoid nylon brushes if you are using acetone, or the bristles may melt.
Soak fully-painted items in your solution, then scrub the paint off.Place your item into a container, then fill the container with enough of your solution to submerge the item. Leave the item in the solution for 15 to 60 minutes, then pull the item out. Scrub the paint off with a stiff-bristled toothbrush or manicure brush. Clean the item with soap and water afterwards, then let it dry.
- This method works best with paint thinner and household cleaners. You can soak most plastic items in household cleaner for up to 24 hours.
- If there’s still residue on the item, dip it into the solution, then scrub it again. Think of this as scrubbing dried food off of a plate.
- If you can't remove the paint, consider painting over it.
- Test your solution in an inconspicuous area on the plastic—it doesn't have to be painted.
- Don't use anything lower than 91% rubbing alcohol; it won't be strong enough.
- Avoid using tinted nail polish removers, as they may stain the plastic. Use a basic, acetone-based nail polish remover.
- Ensure good ventilation. Many of these cleaners and chemicals will contain fumes that may cause headaches and lightheadedness.
- If you have sensitive skin, be sure to wear plastic or vinyl gloves.
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