Acrylic scratch repair

Written by hugh patterson
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Acrylic scratch repair
Scratches can ruin the clean look of acrylic (scratches image by Allyson Ricketts from Fotolia.com)

Acrylic is a versatile material used in a large number of consumer and industrial applications. In the consumer market it’s used for everything from drinking cups to furniture. As versatile as acrylic is, it has a minor flaw: It scratches easily. The reason has to do with the material’s density. The greater a material’s density the more difficult it is to scratch. Glass, for example, is more difficult to scratch because it has a greater molecular density than acrylic; however, acrylic’s lower density allows scratches to be removed easily. There are a number of ways to remove scratches from acrylic, depending on the depth of the scratch.

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Light Scratches vs Heavy Scratches

A light scratch can be defined as one you can’t catch your fingernail on as you run it across the surface of the acrylic. An abrasion mark on a CD (caused by the CD rubbing against its jewel case) is an example of a light scratch. Light scratches are easier to remove because there’s less steps involved. A heavy scratch is one that catches your fingernail when you run your nail across the scratched surface. This type of scratch removal requires multiple steps. For in-between scratches use the light scratch techniques first to see if you can remove the scratch without multiple steps.

Light Scratch Removal

Light scratches can be removed without sanding. There are two methods for light scratch removal. The first involves using a product called Novus #2 Fine Scratch Remover. Simply apply three or four drops to the scratch and start rubbing the area with a 100 per cent cotton rag (or microfibre cloth). There is a mild abrasive in this product that removes a layer of plastic as you polish; therefore, you want to rub the Novus in with some pressure. Make sure to rub the scratch remover in an area larger than the scratch because the substance will leave a noticeable divot if you concentrate your rubbing in a small area. Once the scratch is gone, wipe off any residue.

Acrylic scratch repair
Plastic cups look cleaner without scratches (plastic cup image by Vinicius Tupinamba from Fotolia.com)

Medium Scratch Removal

If you find a scratch that your fingernail catches on, it’s a medium to heavy scratch. For medium scratches you can use Novus #3 Heavy Scratch Remover. You use the same method for light scratches, applying three or four drops to the scratch; however, deeper scratches require more buffing or rubbing on your part. Keep applying the scratch remover and rubbing until the scratch is gone. Novus Scratch Remover is designed so you don’t have to go from Novus #3 to Novus #2, but

you may want to switch to Novus #2 when the scratch becomes faint so you don’t remove too much plastic from the surface. Wipe off any residue.

Heavy Scratch Removal

When a scratch is extremely deep, you have to sand the bulk of the scratch out with wet/dry sandpaper. This type of sand paper can be moistened with water to improve its abrasiveness. For really deep scratches start with 400-grit sandpaper (to remove the scratch) and work your way up to 2000-grit paper (to get it completely smooth). Again, make sure to sand an area around the scratch so you don’t end up with divots (indentations or low points) in your acrylic. For large areas consider using an electric palm sander to speed up the process. Once you have sanded the scratch out with sandpaper, use Novus #2 to bring the surface back to a clean gloss. Wipe away any remaining Novus.

Removing Scratches with Heat

For minor or light scratches you can take a plumber’s hand torch with MAPP gas (propane or butane won’t burn hot enough) and quickly run it along the scratch with the flame barely touching the surface. The heat from the torch expands the acrylic and melts it at the same time causing the scratch to disappear. However, if you leave the flame over the acrylic for too long you’ll burn the surface which cannot be repaired. Also keep in mind that too much heat will warp thinner acrylic. Use this method only if you feel confident enough to work with a torch.

Tips

Eye glasses and electronic screens are a commonly scratched plastic. Many are made from either acrylic or polycarbonate. While you can polish out scratches from both, they often come with coatings, especially eye glasses. These coatings will be removed when you use an abrasive scratch remover. This means you could end up with a noticeable area where the coating has been rubbed away. Check with your optician before trying to take scratches out of your glasses. CDs often get scratches that prevent them from playing. Novus #2 Scratch Remover will take the scratches out of your CD rendering it playable again. The torch, MAPP gas and sandpaper can be purchased from your local hardware store. You can use 100 per cent cotton T-shirts as a buffing rag. Avoid household paper towels because they can scratch acrylic.

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