Painting with spray paint can be a tough job. It’s much harder to control what you paint, and even if you do a great job with your painter’s tape, accidents can happen. So, in those times you need to know how to get spray paint off plastic.
Maybe you’re a cosplayer making a new costume to go with your character, or an artist trying to paint a graffiti masterpiece. Even if you’re a DIY expert fixing up your antique store finds, sometimes accidents do happen or sometimes you simply change your mind.
In those cases, you don’t have to call your project ruined. Just like in our article on removing superglue from plastic, there are some tricks that you can try before you call it quits or start over.
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Get spray paint off plastic easily
The good news is that for most of these tips, you’ll only need one or two things that are probably already lying around the house.
You also have a number of options to choose from, so if one doesn’t work, you can always look around for something else to try. To find what works best for you, try methods of getting that spray paint off of plastic in the following order.
Note that most of these methods are designed with dried spray paint in mind, but if you’re actively painting and you make a mistake, act quickly! Wipe your spill up as soon as it happens. It’ll be so much easier to clean, and one of our first two tips will likely work just fine.
Use butter to get spray paint off plastic without damaging
Vegetable oil sounds like a strange place to start, but we often have it in the house, and it’s a safe option to try out first. Butter can be a household remedy for quite a few disasters as well. And, you might want to give it a try if vegetable oil doesn’t work. All you need to do is get a rag and coat it with the oil or butter. We all probably cook with one of these, so just pop into the kitchen and get some for this tip for getting spray paint off plastic.
- Grab a rag, and apply your oil or butter.
- Rub it onto the paint you want to remove.
- Oil weakens the bonds of the paint, causing it to come loose.
- This gentle method takes time, so be patient. You might want to let it sit for two or three hours before checking on it.
- Rub vigorously until the paint starts peeling, then scrape it right off.
If you rub and rub and nothing happens, it’s time to upgrade to something a little stronger.
Use nail polish remover to get spray paint off plastic without damaging it
Nail polish is obviously gentle enough for most people’s hands, so it can be considered generally safe to use to remove paint from plastic. It’s formulated with acetone, a paint thinner, which is why it works. Some nail polish remover is even 100% acetone. You can buy this and dilute it with water. The point is, you want something strong enough to work but weak enough to remove the spray paint from the plastic without damaging it.
To remove spray paint from plastic with nail polish remover…
- Soak a rag in your acetone-based nail polish remover and hold it on the paint.
- Rub the paint in a vigorous motion.
- You can also soak the plastic in the remover or leave the rag on the paint. But, check it often so you don’t damage the plastic.
- Repeat until the paint comes off.
If this still doesn’t do the job, we’re going to upgrade our method one more time.
Using denatured alcohol to remove paint from plastic
Denatured alcohol is a very strong paint thinner, and it’ll be very effective in removing the paint quickly, no matter how long it’s been dry. This works on latex-based paints only, so if your paint is oil-based, you’ll need something even stronger.
For your safety, put on thick rubber gloves before you handle denatured alcohol. Also, wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth, and work in an open space or well-ventilated room. You don’t want to breathe in a concentrated chemical like this.
To remove spray paint from plastic using denatured alcohol…
- Put on your gloves and mask.
- Using a rag, test the alcohol on a piece of your plastic to ensure you won’t do damage.
- Soak the rag with some of the alcohol, and apply it to the paint for up to ten minutes.
- Then, scrape the paint off with a putty knife, and rub off any remaining paint.
After using any kind of chemical, you want to rinse the item off with water to make sure no residue is left behind. Also, clean your area and your hands right away.
Alright, there’s only one tip left. If, somehow, by some terrible twist of fate, even the denatured alcohol doesn’t work, you’re going to need to go in with your scraper.
Using a paint scraper
This is not the ideal method, since it’s more than likely going to scuff up your plastic quite a bit. Try using the denatured alcohol first, as it will at least soften up the paint somewhat.
Always be careful when using a sharp tool.
To remove spray paint using a paint scraper…
- Run the blade flat along the dried paint.
- Begin to peel it up, starting at the edges.
- Use a damp cloth to wipe away the dust and particles.
- Try switching back to denatured alcohol once the paint has loosened up.
Now that we’ve talked about our tips for removing spray paint from plastic, let’s move into some frequently asked questions.
Does spray paint come off plastic?
Spray paint can be removed from plastic using paint thinner and a scraper. Oil can also work to loosen the bonds of paint from plastic.
Will vinegar remove spray paint from plastic?
Soak the painted item in white vinegar for 20 minutes, then try to wipe or scrape it off. You can add baking soda to the vinegar for a little extra power.
Will paint thinner destroy plastic?
Paint thinner is safe to use on harder plastics, but it will weaken and ruin weaker, thinner plastics. Always test the chemical first, ideally somewhere a bad reaction won’t be noticed.
Does Goof Off remove spray paint from plastic?
Goof Off in the yellow can is formulated to remove pretty much anything, so it’s a great product to try to remove spray paint from plastic.
How to get spray paint off plastic – Final thoughts
Nothing’s quite as frustrating as making a mistake on a project, whether you’re doing a little home DIY or working on an art project. You can try some of our tips to correct the situation, but please exercise a little caution when using some of our more extreme methods.
Always wear protective gloves when working with chemicals, and don’t go overboard before you’ve tried the gentler options. It would be twice as bad to ruin the plastic when all you wanted was to take off a little spilled paint.
Let us know in the comments what you like to use for paint removal, and don’t forget to check out our other great DIY articles, like our guide for choosing the right paint for your job.