How to Remove Spray Paint from Plastic – Easy DIY Guide!

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Whether you did it by accident or you just don’t like the look of it, sometimes it’s necessary to remove spray paint from plastic.

There are multiple effective methods for removing spray paint from plastic! The trick is to get the right paint remover and the right tools so you don’t damage the plastic. Your options include alcohol, hot water and soap, and even WD-40!

Make sure you know which products work best for removing spray paint from plastic, and which products may damage the plastic in the process.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind

First and foremost, different types of paint will need different solvents to remove them. Latex paints are easiest to remove, as they have the ability to be peeled easily after they dry. Oil-based paints may require a little more work and patience, but it’s still possible to remove them from plastic.

Freshly applied and dried paint will be easier to remove than paint that has been there for some time. If at all possible, remove excess paint as soon as you can. If you are stripping a previously painted object that has dried and cured, the process can be a bit more difficult.

Whatever method or tool you use to remove the spray paint, make sure you are gentle on your plastic object. You don’t want to remove any protective coating and cause further damage.

What Removes Spray Paint from Plastic?

Spray paints are predominantly oil-based, so removing them from plastic can be tricky, especially if the paint has already dried. But there are a few proven methods that can be helpful.

Soap and Hot Water

Before you try any other method, try to remove the overspray with a kitchen sponge, hot water, and soap. It should come off fairly easily, especially if it’s freshly applied.

If a sponge just isn’t cutting it, you can opt for a brush. Just be sure to use one with soft bristles, as hard bristles can scratch and damage your plastic.

Paint Thinner

Paint thinner is a very strong solvent and its purpose is exactly as stated, to thin paint. Sometimes it’s used before application to reduce viscosity and change the color, but it’s also useful in removing overspray from plastic and other materials.

Since it is so strong, it’s recommended you mix the paint thinner with water before applying it to the plastic. Generally, a solution of 30% paint thinner and 70% water is used.

Using too high of a concentration of paint thinner on plastic has the potential to warp and degrade the object, so pay close attention when using this option.

Nail Polish Remover

Most nail polish removers have acetone as their main ingredient, and acetone is another solvent just like paint thinner, although less potent.

Use a small amount on a clean rag and do a test area. If it doesn’t show signs of damage, you can rub the cloth against the painted area to thin it and remove it.

Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is a step up in strength from nail polish remover. It’s safe if it has contact with skin so the potential for chemical burns is slim if used correctly. Try to use a concentration within the 91% to 99% range for the best results.

Just as with any paint remover, test a smart portion of the plastic with a clean rag and rubbing alcohol to ensure it won’t do any damage. Use light, quick strokes and try to only rub the painted area.

Denatured Alcohol

If nail polish remover and rubbing alcohol don’t work, you can try denatured alcohol. Denatured alcohol is essentially rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) with additives in it, usually ethanol and acetone.

These products should be used with caution as they are highly noxious and can cause chemical reactions if they come into contact with skin, so be sure to wear gloves and use them in a well-ventilated area.

Test a small area of the plastic with denatured alcohol and a clean rag. Make sure it’s not damaging the plastic in any way. If it’s all clear, you can use it over the entire area to remove the paint.

Give the denatured alcohol time to evaporate completely before bringing your object inside a closed space.

Mineral Spirits

Mineral spirits are a popular alternative to paint thinners. They are 100% petroleum distillates with nothing added. They are less noxious and less toxic. There are even some odorless varieties on the market.

They are usually more expensive than paint thinners coming in at close to twice the cost. Also, they are specifically for oil-based paints, so they won’t be effective against latex-based paints. They also are best at removing wet paint. Paint that has had time to dry and cure may need something stronger, like regular paint thinner.

WD-40

Will good old WD-40 really remove paint from plastic? Surprisingly, yes! It is a fairly strong petroleum-based compound, similar to mineral spirits. It is most effective on latex- and water-based paints and is less useful on oil-based paints.

Try to use it on paint that is freshly applied or freshly dried. It’s also not recommended for large areas, but more for spot removal of paint. Spray a small amount to determine its efficacy, as you don’t want to damage your plastic object.

Other Oils

Vegetable oils and motor oils are also useful for removing freshly dried paint from plastic. You will usually need to “soak” the paint or soak a rag and drape it over the painted area, giving the oil time to work before attempting to remove the paint.

Vinegar

Here we have another household item you can try to remove paint from plastic. Vinegar works best on acrylic and latex-based paints. For oil-based paints, this method will require a bit of elbow grease so if you have a larger area to strip, a different method may be needed.

The vinegar should be warmed up before applying it to the painted surface.

Plastic Safe Paint Remover

There are paint removers that are marketed solely for plastic and are deemed plastic safe. Check your local hardware store for these options. Take caution, because some of these products only work on specific types of plastic and can damage others.

A Quick Recap

Let’s go over the most effective paint removers for plastic based on your paint type.

Latex-based Paints

Try removing as much paint as you can by scraping it off and using hot water and soap. If you need an additional paint remover, choose from:

  • Acetone
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Denatured alcohol
  • WD-40
  • Vegetable or motor oil
  • Vinegar
  • Plastic safe paint remover for latex-based paints

Oil-based Paints

As usual, try to remove as much of the paint as you can before opting for a solvent. Once you’ve scrubbed and scraped the paint, you can try one of the following options.

  • Paint thinner
  • Mineral spirits
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Plastic safe paint remover for oil-based paints

Acrylic Paints

If you find yourself needing to remove acrylic paint from plastic, try one of these options.

  • Acetone
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Vinegar
  • WD-40
  • Vegetable or motor oil
  • Lacquer thinner
  • Plastic safe paint remover for acrylic paints

Top Tips for Removing Paint From Plastic

No matter what kind of paint you need to remove or what kind of paint remover you choose, there are a few universal things to take into consideration.

If at all possible, remove the paint before it dries. Removing wet paint is far easier than removing dried paint and it can reduce the number of items you may need to use. Even freshly dried paint is easier to remove than fully cured paint.

If the paint has already dried, scraping it with a paint scraper or a razor blade should be tried first before using any kind of solvent. Hot water and soap are also useful in this step, just be sure to use a brush with soft bristles so you don’t scratch your plastic.

If you still need to use a solvent to remove the paint, do so in a well-ventilated area and always use the proper protection. Most of these solvents are strong and can cause irritation if they get on your hands or in your eyes.

Whichever solvent you decide to use, make sure to research the proper way to use it on plastic. Some items are safe to “soak” the plastic in and allow to sit for up to an hour, giving it time to properly penetrate the paint. Other’s items may eat away or dissolve the plastic if left to sit too long.

Final Thoughts

Proper research and planning are needed when removing paint from plastic. Before deciding on the best option, make sure you know the type of plastic you are trying to clean and the type of paint you are trying to remove.

Even if it takes a little elbow grease, it’s possible to clean up your plastic object and have it be completely free of excess paint.

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