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How to remove paint off plastic

Updated February 21, 2017

If paint has been splashed or dripped (and dried) on a plastic item, be aware that removing paint from plastic can be a little tricky. Many solvents that safely remove paint from metal, wood and other hard surfaces can damage plastics. Therefore, be extra careful when choosing a product for removing the paint; otherwise, the plastic item you are trying to save will end up worse off than before you started. Fortunately, there are safe ways and products to remove paint from plastic.

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  1. Scrape gently to remove as much of the paint as you can. Hold the blade flush with the plastic surface to avoid scratching it.

  2. Pour rubbing alcohol over the remaining paint. The alcohol will come out of the bottle quickly, so be careful or it may spill over areas where you don't want it.

  3. Rub the paint with paper towels. If the paint does not transfer to the paper towel, add more rubbing alcohol to the spot and wait 5 to 10 minutes. Add more rubbing alcohol whenever it dries (it evaporates quickly) and change to a clean section of paper towel after every swipe over the paint.

  4. Pour warm water and liquid dish washing detergent on a sponge. Scrub the area to remove remaining paint and alcohol from the plastic.

  5. Dry the plastic with a lint-free cloth.

  6. Tip

    Oil-based paints may be more difficult to remove than acrylic paint. If rubbing alcohol does not work, try Goo Gone or Goof Off Citrus. These products and other paint removing products are available at hardware stores, home improvement stores and other retailers. Test an area of the plastic first, however, to make sure the cleaner will not damage it. Rubbing alcohol can be found at grocery stores, in the aisle containing bandages and other first-aid supplies.


    Although rubbing alcohol is not likely to damage most plastics, test it on a hidden area first. Avoid using acetone (fingernail polish remover) and other strong solvents on plastics--solvents may melt plastic. Rubbing alcohol is flammable. Don't smoke while removing paint this way, and don't use it around any other open flame. Don't use abrasive sponges to scrub the paint off--these will usually scuff up the plastic's surface.

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Things You'll Need

  • Scraper (putty knife or razor knife)
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Paper towels
  • Lint-free cloth
  • Soap

About the Author

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