How to Remove Paint from Plastic

How to Remove Paint From Plastic – Stripping Paint from Plastic

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Imagine this: You have just moved into your new house rental and upon arrival, you noticed some paint splatters from a shoddy paint job. Unfortunately, this is also when you realize your landlord cared little for the aesthetics of the house and is not doing much to fix it, so it’s up to you. Your minimalist vibe prevents excessive rugs so removing the paint is your next best option, and for that, we got you covered. This article will discuss how to remove paint from plastic. We will include the best paint stripper for plastic, or the best paint remover for plastic, as well as how to remove spray paint from plastic, and how to remove enamel paint from plastic. What is more, we will even include how to remove spray paint from plastic with household items!



The Different Types of Plastic

We all know that plastic is pretty much the worst thing to have been invented, environmentally speaking. But it does have its upsides which we have become shamefully reliant on. Below is a table that describes a few of the different plastics available and their uses.

Type of Plastic

Plastic Use

Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)Pipes, and bottles, and more
High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)Plastic bags, containers
Polystyrene / Styrofoam (PS)Single-use disposable cutlery and containers
Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE / PET)Drinks bottles and food packaging
Polypropylene (PP)Packaging for consumer goods, medical items, and automotive parts
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)Garden hoses, roofs, cables, window frames, and so on
Other plastics: polycarbonate, fiberglass, acrylic, nylon, polylactide, styrene, and moreSafety glasses, aircraft, roofing, textiles and so on

Plastic Chair and Table

Technically, the term “plastic” is used quite generally. There are many different subcategories and types of plastics which are best suited for certain uses. Some plastics are hardier and others, which means they hold onto paint better than other types and know-how on removing paint from plastic is important. But, why should you want to learn how to remove paint from plastic? We have a few reasons for the need to strip paint from plastic.

  • Vinyl sliding doors
  • Ceiling fan
  • Handles of gadgets and appliances
  • Light switches and cover plates
  • Drain pipes
  • Plastic furniture
  • Bathtubs
  • Craft projects
  • Pot Plants

Plastic Bathtub



Removing Paint from Plastic

When removing paint from plastic surfaces you need not resort to a solvent every time because the chemicals are far too intense at times for the type of plastic and this might damage the plastic in question. Soap, water, and a cloth is a fabulously simple method for removing paint from plastic, maybe requiring a little pre-soaking beforehand, best results come from paint that has not dried yet. Otherwise, if that does not work, we have compiled a bunch of methods that would work for you.

Remove Paint from Plastic Lightswitch


Remove Paint by Scraping

If you are wondering how to remove enamel paint from plastic, or any other paint that has dried for that matter, you might want to get out your paint scraper. Try to avoid using too rigorous movements with your scraping so that you do not damage the surface of the plastic. The best type of plastic should be a smooth surface plastic-like PVC.

Remove Paint with Scraper

Tip: Turn the scraper to an angle when you scrape. If you are working with a stubborn paint stain, you can always try applying some warm water and soap along with the scraping method.

Soap for Cleaning Paint


Using Rubbing Alcohol

For this method, you need some rubbing alcohol and a bit of plastic wrapping. We do suggest that you first try a small non-visible portion of the plastic out on the rubbing alcohol to make sure it does not damage the surface. Apply the rubbing alcohol and then you must wait for about half an hour. The next step is as simple as taking away the plastic wrap and wiping away the plastic. If a cloth does not work at first, you can move on to a sponge with a rough side, or even a scouring pad.

Rubbing Alcohol Removes Paint from Plastic

Safety should be your priority, over and above the need to strip paint from plastic. Make sure you have some protective gloves, safety goggles, and a respiratory mask.


Removing Paint with Vegetable Oil

Here is where you will learn how to remove spray paint from plastic with household items. Vegetable Oil is mighty powerful stuff, what with the ability to start a car and whatnot, it also acts as a great paint remover for plastic. Using a cloth that is dipped or soaked in the vegetable oil, rub over the spilled paint in circular motions – this might take some elbow grease but it is effective.

Vegetable Oil Removes Paint


Removing Paint with Distilled Vinegar

Here we have another answer for how to remove spray paint from plastic with household items. Vinegar is most likely found in most houses, making it a very easily accessible method. Latex paint and Acrylic paint can easily be removed using vinegar, however, if your question is how to remove enamel paint from plastic, you might find this method tricky.

For this method to work, the vinegar needs to be warmed up on the stove in your kitchen, or in a microwave. Then, making sure not to burn your fingers with the hot vinegar, dip a sponge of a rag into the vinegar and start rubbing away at the paint in question.

Heated Vinegar Removes Paint


Using Acetone and Solvents to Remove Paint

Household items might not possess the strength you need for some of the seriously stubborn paint stains. If you want to know how to remove spray paint from plastic, or maybe even how to remove enamel paint from plastic you might need some stronger chemicals which you can find in solvents or acetone. As you can imagine, nail polish is acrylic paint or enamel lacquer which means they need the strength of acetone to be removed, as all nail artists would confirm. This can be done by applying it straight onto the paint in question, or you can dip a cloth in the acetone and rub it over the area.

Acetone Removes Paint from Plastic

If acetone does not work, you can resort to the old faithful, denatured alcohol. This method does require some protective gear like masks, gloves, and respiratory masks. You only need a small amount to start with, but if you find that you need more you can always go for it later. Be wary of the amount you add so that you do not damage the plastic. Once applied, for the chemicals to do what they were made to do, you must wait a few minutes. You’ll notice the paint starting to fizz or dissolve, then start rubbing the paint away. The best plastics for this method are the hardy ones like the type used for buckets or pipes. Any thinner plastics will simply dissolve.

Paint Drips on Plastic

You can also try to remove paint from plastic with ammonia, but please, do not forget to use protective gear when working with this substance. You are strongly advised to wear goggles, a respirator mask, and protective gloves as ammonia will not only burn skin and eyes, but can damage lungs as well.


A Summary of the Different Methods for Removing Paint from Plastic

Here we have a quick recap of all the ways you can answer your question of how to remove paint from plastic. This way you will not have to read the entire article above again, you can use this table at your pleasure whenever you need to strip paint from plastic.

Methods for Removing Paint from Plastic

Does It Work?

Is It Safe?

Caution Needed?

Vegetable Oil
Paint Scraper
Rubbing Alcohol



Other Ways to Strip Paint From Plastic

Stripping paint from plastic does not need to be done using harsh chemicals. There are many household cleaners around that can do the job! You may have some of these items at hand already and can save yourself a trip to the store, as well as some money!

Clean Small Plastic Parts with Toothbrush


Dettol Disinfectant

If the above-mentioned commercialized products do not work for you, you might be surprised at the other options that will work for you. You might find you already have these products in and around your house. Dettol is a disinfectant for wounds, but it is also an effective paint remover and can be used to remove paint from plastic models. Before you start, be aware that the glue will also disintegrate with the Dettol so keep that in mind. Here is how you do it:

  1. Get a container that’s large enough to comfortably fit the plastic item inside
  2. Pour enough of the Dettol into the container so that the plastic item in question is submerged.
  3. Wait for a few hours and let this plastic item soak in the Dettol
  4. Remove the plastic item from the container
  5. Rub an old toothbrush over the plastic item to get rid of the paint
  6. When you are satisfied, rinse off the item with water.

Removing Stains from Plastic


Using Oven Cleaner

This may not be a surprise to some, but oven cleaner is also effective in removing paint from plastic, including the plastic models you might be crafting away at. For this method, you must first spray down the plastic item in question, making sure it is fully covered. Then you must place it inside a ziplock bag that is airtight and left for a couple of days. Then, use a sponge and rub the item clean.

Oven Cleaner Removes Paint from Plastic


Sand the Paint off

If all else fails, the sanding method is very effective but only as a last resort. Make sure the sandpaper is not too rough so as not to damage your creation.

Stripping Paint from Plastic Models


Isopropyl Alcohol

Also known as hand sanitizer, this is very similar to the method of removing paint from plastic models by Dettol or even rubbing alcohol. Isopropyl can be used for enamel and acrylic-based paints and the plastic item only needs to be submerged for 20 minutes for it to work. Again, the toothbrush is used to remove the now loosened paint. Rinse it under some running water when you are finished.

Hand Sanitizer Strips Paint from Plastic



Suggestions for Removing Paint from Plastic

Our first and foremost suggestion, which is a recommendation that should not be taken lightly, is to always make sure you have read the label of the product and the paint in question. That way you know what paint you are dealing with and you’ll also understand how to see the product you have chosen. Some of the products can easily melt the surfaces you are trying to clean so do not skip that step. Below are some more suggestions that will make removing the paint an easier task.

  • Vegetable oil is only effective in removing oil-based paints.
  • To prevent damage to your plastic surface, make sure you do not press too hard with your scouring pad.
  • Use a natural bristle brush when scrubbing the paint off the plastic surface.
  • If you are using denatured alcohol, take note that it will only remove latex-based paints.
  • If the paint is spilled on an electronic appliance, take care not to electrocute yourself. Immediately remove the plug from the wall socket and switch off the appliance.
  • Always wear protective gear and work in a well-ventilated area.
  • Make sure to get rid of any waste in the more appropriate manner.



Now that you have educated yourself on how to safely remove paint from various plastic surfaces, you might feel equipped to go out and start applying this knowledge. Strip that much-hated paint that got splattered all over patio furniture when you painted the deck last year. The time has come, so go for it!


View our Remove Paint from Plastic web story here.



Frequently Asked Questions


Can I Remove Enamel Paint from Plastic?

Removing enamel paint (also known as oil-based paint) may require a bit more elbow grease and a stronger paint removing substance as it is quite hardy. Take care not to inhale any fumes and wear protective gear.


How to Remove Spray Paint from Plastic?

Spray paint is wild and unruly sometimes, which is why the need to remove it comes up from time to time. If it is an oil-based spray paint, you can use soapy water with a sponge, or some acetone. If the spray paint is latex-based then you might need to use some denatured alcohol


Can I Use Sandpaper To Strip Paint off Vinyl?

Make sure to use sandpaper with a very fine grit, you can use it to remove paint that has dried on a vinyl surface, although it is best to try to remove the paint before it has dried.


Can Paint Thinners work on Plastic?

It is best not to use paint thinners to remove paint from plastic because thinners contain chemicals that can damage or even dissolve the surfaces of most plastics. You may have some luck with the hardier plastics, provided you do not leave it on there for too long, but never use thinners on soft plastics.


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