How to Remove Spray Paint from Plastic Without Damaging It

DIY’ers like me and you often tend to hustle around the house and take care of day-to-day tasks by ourselves. Be it fixing something or a paint job around the house… It’s us! We treat everything like a project. Speaking of paint-jobs, how many of you tried your hands in Spray Painting?

Ooh! I can see quite a lot of hands out there. As with spray painting, it gets the job done quickly. Also, the spray guns are rather easy to handle. With all things in life however, this one too has a catch.

Spray paint leaves its trails. While painting a wall or our furniture, over spraying can lead to the paint spoiling the room, our furniture, and clothes to say the least. Plastic is at the top of my list of things that get spoiled. What can I say? I surround myself with plastic-made things.

Remove Spray Paint from Plastic

Since most of us struggle while removing the paint off plastic, I did my own research to solve the problem. Thankfully, I now have the answers to the question, “How to remove spray paint from plastic without damaging it?” Interested! Let’s see what we can do to prevent or minimize the casualties

Why Removing Spray Paint from Plastic is More Difficult Than You Think?

The answer is rather simple, really. Plastic and Spray Paint don’t mix too well. Removing it carelessly will damage the plastic. Yes, it’s the same case when working with nail polish or paint remover. If we’re not careful enough, they will eat away considerable chunk of the plastic we’re trying to save.

Then, there’s the odor of these things. If you’re using a chemical to clean or remove spray paint, chances are… the chemical will leave pungent odor behind. The next time you’re using the plastic bottle, toy or any other thing… It’ll strike your nose. Pretty badly I must add!

Paint thinners are of similar nature as well. They can very well damage the chemical bond of plastic itself. It has the chance to dissolve if you put in too much. If we’re not careful, we can end up with a problem bigger than the solution.

If you’re trying to use harsh paint thinners, good luck! These things can and most probably will damage your hands. If you’re having a bad day and aren’t careful enough… you’ll end up with burnt skin on your fingertips.

Bottom-line: Don’t be Reckless while getting paint off from plastic. Let’s learn the correct way.

Talking About the Process: This is How It’s Done!

Although it takes “Some” preparations and work… removing spray paint “Is” possible. However, depending on how fresh or old your spray-painting job is, the methods will vary. Let’s get into some of the popular methods of removing spray paint, shall we?

Wipe the Paint Off While It’s Still Fresh

The best course of action for anybody is to get the wet paint off from plastic as soon as possible. If you dilly dally and leave the job for a later date, the paint will stick to the plastic. It’ll be hard for you to remove it. That’s why you need be prepared at the earliest date possible.

Now, we need to take some precautions while doing this. I clean the entire thing first before moving on to wiping the paint off. If you’re dealing with electronics, make sure to turn it off, unplug the thing before proceeding. You’ll do just fine if you chronologically follow what I’m about to tell you.

We’re using water to get the job. Warm it up a little using your stove. Add some dish-washing soap into it. If you can’t find any at hand… other types of liquid soaps will do just fine.

Okay, we can do things in two ways. If the item you’re cleaning is water-resistant, make sure dip the parts that have paint on them in the water. They should be completely submerged. The other side of the item(s) should be submerged as well.

using sponge to remove spray paint

Obviously, it’s not gonna work with larger items or electronic ones. You’ll have to use a sponge in this case. Get the sponge wet and work on the area of such items where there’s spray paint. Make sure to wipe downward and you’re fine. Also, do squeeze the sponge after you make each pass.

The next thing is to wipe the soap off your plastic toy or furniture. I’d advise people to take clean cloth and dip it in water. Then, wipe the area that you just cleaned. This is effective for electronic appliances. However, if you fear damaging appliances, make sure “Not To” wet it too much. Preferably, not at all.

Next thing to do for us is to let it dry for a bit. I’d suggest keeping the plastic-made furniture in a well-ventilated area. Keep the fan on to let the water evaporate (if it’s not any trouble). I’ve seen people patting a dry towel over it as well. Just to speed the process up. If it’s a machine you’re handling, wait for it to be completely dry before inserting necessary parts and plugging it in.

How to Go About Removing Spray Paint When It’s Dry?

The steps you saw above are perfectly suited if we’re dealing with wet spray paint. But what if your paint dries over time? Would you be able to get it off while the paint has dried? The answer; Of course, you can! Just follow the steps bellow and you’ll be fine!

Using Rubbing Alcohol to Remove Dry Spray Paint

Assuming the paint is “Completely Dry,” use rubbing alcohol to soak it in. This should be enough to cover the entire area with paint. If we use 91% to 99% alcohol, only few minutes will do. If you’re fiddling with electronics, make sure to use a paper towel to wipe the alcohol off.

Often, I use my fingernail to scrap the paint off. I can understand some of you objecting to this. People can use a paint scrapper or a screwdriver as well. I’d like to warn you here! You’ll do just fine with a paint scrapper on flat surfaces. For uneven textures, screwdrivers and finger nails are the way to go.

This part involves you holding the paint scrapper at an angle. Push the tool (scrapper, screwdriver or your fingernails) from the edge of the dried paint. If the entire surface is covered with paint, you can start from anywhere you like. Place the edge on the area that’s not painted. Make sure to form a hook with your nails before scrubbing. It’ll yield better results.

Okay, you have to do the manual work this time around. Meaning, scrap off the paint. It’s good to start scrapping in the direction of the paint job if you’re using screwdriver or paint scrapper, make sure to move it from the opposite direction of the paint. For fingernails, make sure to start from across the paint.

Next, you’ll need to wash the scraped paint. I use water for the job. Just pouring water over the scraped paint is fine. This will make your job easier. If people feel like it, they can mix a bit of vegetable oil with water as well. It depends on your choice of medium in the end.

Lastly, it’s time to wipe the rest of the paint off. My advice? Use a clean cloth for the job. Then, we should let the area dry out on its own. When trying out this method on my own, I did “Air Dry” the plastic. I’ve seen other people pat the area dry with a clean piece of rag as well.

You Can Always Remove Spray Paint Using Solvents

I can understand people having a hard time scraping paint from plastic and taking the easier route instead. That is, to use solvents. People use solvents to get oil-based paint out of the plastic as well. This method takes out some of the more stubborn paint jobs. Easy as it is, this thing requires some complex steps.

For this job to go according to plan, you need to choose your poison (er… solvent) carefully. It all depends on which type of paint we’re pairing up with our spray or spray gun. For example, if you’ve spilled latex-based paint over the plastic, use ammonia. Oil-based paint reacts well with alcohol. People use paint thinner and acetone for the job as well.

It’s mighty important for you to test out the solvent you want to use. However, I’d not use it on the affected plastic right away. Instead, I’d take a “Q-Tips” and apply a tiny bit of the solution on a surface. The next thing to do is to wait until it dries. Then, I’ll wash the solvent off.

There’s a tiny difference in how you approach the actual process. Instead of scraping, we need to gently wipe the surface with a cotton ball. Oh, and don’t forget to soak the thing with some of that solvent. An insider tip: Acetone works “The Best” with cotton balls.

What people fail to realize is the fact that they’ll do the scrubbing as well. While scrubbing, it’s best to use brushes with stiff bristles. This will make it easier for you to remove spray paint. In less time, I must add. People who’re using Acetone, take my advice and avoid using nylon brushes. They’re prone to melting in the presence of acetone.

Now, if the plastic you’re using is fully covered with paint, make sure to soak it in paint remover, thinner, acetone or alcohol. Leave it alone for 15 minutes. People even go to the lengths of an hour. Then, take it out of the solution and scrub it to remove the paint.

Factors I Keep in Mind While Working with Solvent

Before you come at me with your own tips in the “Comments” section, I decided to hand out my own in terms of how to remove spray paint using a solvent. Don’t worry, these things aren’t gospels that you NEED to follow. Rather, they’ll safeguard and cut your time short if you follow them along.

  • When using paint thinners or nail polish removers (they do the trick as well), wear protective gloves if you have sensitive skins. Feel free to use plastic or vinyl gloves for the job.
  • I keep bringing acetone into the discussion, I know. It’s rather helpful after all. However, it can damage certain types of plastics as well. For example, vinyl or plexiglass. This thing is rather good with others such as fiberglass or polyester resin.
  • When testing out the spray paint remover solvent, make sure to give it some time. Although you’re not noticing the effects of the solvent right away, it may take hours before the paint reacts with your solvent.
  • When this happens, make sure to check for any dents or bumps. Congrats! The plastic surface is ruined. You’ll need to change the solvent in use as well.

Remember: I mentioned about using cotton balls? You need to soak them in the solvent whenever they dry out. They WILL dry out very fast. Don’t clean plastic surfaces with dried cotton balls. The fuzz will stick to the surface if you do.

  • When dipping the painted area into your solvent, it’ll take time to wash off. You may need up to 24 hours for the solvent to take effect. Just so you know, the method will work best with a paint thinner.
  • There’s a possibility of some paint actually remaining on the plastic. Yes, I’m talking about residue. If you find any, dip the plastic in the solvent again until it’s clean.

Putting the Discussion to Rest

As you know by now, removing spray paint from plastic isn’t a hard job after all. You’ll have to know which way to go. Well, that depends on which type of plastic you’re dealing with to be honest. Also, how much time you have to get the paint off. However, there’s a small catch.

Not all solvents or methods for that matter will work on the plastic we choose. We have to be careful in choosing the method to go with. Thinner plastics are more prone to getting spoiled by paint thinners or solvents. No matter which type of spray paint you use, the end result always comes up the same.

People even apply methods of removing spray paint from concrete to their regular household items. Hey, this is a “No Go.” You’ll need to be sure as to which type of project you’re tackling. I hope my guide on the topic helps you in some respect.

Have a method of your own that I missed?

Loard Eva

Hi there! I’m Eva, artist, designer, photographer and mom of three little gentlemen altogether. When I’m not playing with my kids, you’ll find me researching and writing for ChooseMarker.

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