How to Remove Paint from a Plastic Car Bumper – Easy DIY Guide

Author: Pat Freling | Updated: | Affiliate links may be present.

Removing paint from a plastic bumper sounds like an overwhelming task. However, the process itself is quite simple to grasp and execute.

If you decide to remove paint from your car’s plastic bumper yourself, it can save you hundreds of dollars versus going to a professional auto body shop. Using a paint stripper, sanding it, or using WD-40 are all effective in removing paint off a bumper.

Each has its fair share of pros and cons, which I’ve discussed below.

Plastic Bumper Paint Removal Cost – DIY vs. Body Shop

DIY methods for removing bumper paint are not only less costly than taking it to an auto body shop, but they’re also relatively simple to perform. The average you can expect to pay in materials can range from $8 for a can of WD-40 to $80 for a new sander.

However, whichever method you go with, you can expect to save an average of $300-$500, depending on what the body shop says about the severity of the damage to the paint.

When it comes to actually taking the paint off your plastic bumper, here are some tried and true methods that have always worked for me.

Method 1: Use a Paint Stripper

Although most paint strippers will work on small jobs, I have had the most success with Sunnyside 2 Minute Remover Advanced. Why? Because not only does it work fast, but it’s also extremely effective, no matter how stubborn the adhesive is.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Apply the remover one section at a time.
  2. Let the remover work until it begins to “blister” the paint (usually takes between 5-10 minutes but can vary).
  3. Use a flexible scraper to begin removing the paint, it should come off as easy as shavings on a branch.

Pros of Using a Paint Stripper

  • It’s easy to apply and regulate.
  • You are able to repaint easier.
  • Minimal amount of dust.

Cons of Using a Paint Stripper

  • It’s still a chemical which means it could irritate your skin or eyes (make sure you are wearing proper PPE when doing this or any project).
  • If residue is left in a hidden area, it could eat away at the new coat of paint and create further issues.


  • I suggest applying it to a small inconspicuous area first to test the product’s effectiveness.
  • Be Patient! Effective time varies between 5 and 45 minutes.

Method 2: Sand It Down

Sanding is another one of my go-to methods for stripping portions of paint off the bumper. Although this process does take a bit of time and patience, you can opt for this if you don’t want to think about chemicals in your cars.

You can surely speed up the process by using an orbital sander like this one from Dewalt. There are some things to keep in mind regarding sanding, but I will cover those later.

Pros of Sanding

  • If you’re using an electric sander, the time duration can be more consistent than the varying wait time chemicals have.
  • You’re not using potentially harmful chemicals on your car.
  • Generally more gentle on plastic.

Cons of Sanding

  • To some, this may not be a con, but the quality of the outcome is correlated to your experience of sanding things.
  • Generates much more dust than when using chemicals.
  • Labor intensive if larger than a small area


  • Be mindful of how much you sand – too much can melt and split the plastic.
  • Too little sanding can also leave you discouraged because the texture only seems to get rougher instead of smoother – keep going, it will eventually get flat.

Method 3: Why Not Try Both?

Although most people choose one or the other, there are plenty of DIYers I know who will say both are just as good if not better. A light sanding before applying the stripper can make for a smoother experience.

Some even say that it gives them more peace of mind knowing the two methods are both good on their own but better together.

Method 4: For Smaller Areas, WD-40

If someone knocked into your car and their paint has scraped off onto yours, you can use WD-40 to remove that extra bit of paint.

Simply spray down the area that needs to be addressed and allow time for the WD-40 to work into the section. After about 10 minutes, wipe down the area with a microfiber cloth.

Pros of WD-40

  • Effective for small areas of paint that need to be stripped
  • Not as harmful of a chemical as other options

Cons of WD-40

  • Not ideal for large-scale projects


  • Do not spray and wipe, wait at least 10 minutes
  • Make sure you are using a clean cloth or rag to wipe down the area

Method 5: Use a Power Washer

If it’s just a small area of poorly applied paint with little to no prep work, you may be able to get most (if not all) of it off using only a pressure washer. Even if it takes off 80% of the paint, it’ll speed things up significantly for you to then follow the other methods I’ve listed above.


Removing the paint from a car bumper does not have to be overly complicated or expensive. Each method has its own pros and cons but is all safe and effective in its own ways.

Just remember to take your sweet time on this project. Always proper personal protective equipment when working with chemicals.

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About Pat Freling

Pat has been into DIY painting since he was 14 years old. He's painted interior walls, decks, patio, and even the first car that he'd purchased at 18.

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