Paint splatters, spills and spots on plastic surfaces -- such as outdoor furniture and vinyl plant containers -- are more than an eyesore; they can ruin the entire look of the item. Unfortunately, certain solvents, like acetone, that work well to remove paint from metal and other surfaces can damage plastic. You can, however, successfully remove paint from plastic using several safer methods.
Try Soap and Water First
When dealing with unwanted paint on plastic, the first removal method you try should be soapy water. This is the safest way to get the paint off plastic, and it works best if the paint hasn't set on the surface for too long. Dampen a rag in warm, soapy water and use it to rub until the paint is no longer visible. If you find that soapy water doesn't do the trick, move on to another method.
Get Out the Paint Scraper
A plastic paint scraper works best on plastics with a smooth finish, because the scraper blade can sit flush against the plastic's surface. While this method is rather effective, take care not to apply too much pressure and damage the plastic. If you find the paint is still being stubborn, use warm water, rubbing alcohol or distilled white vinegar to soften it before using the paint scraper again.
Use Rubbing Alcohol
Rubbing alcohol can also remove paint from plastic. Dampen the paint with rubbing alcohol before covering it with plastic wrap. Let the rubbing alcohol soak on the paint for about 30 minutes before lifting the plastic wrap and wiping the softened paint off the plastic. To remove all traces of the paint, you may have to repeat the process once or twice.
- Rubbing alcohol is relatively safe to use on plastic. However, you should test it on an inconspicuous area of the plastic first. Ifdamage occurs, discontinue use.
- Rubbing alcohol is flammable and should be kept away from sparks, heat and open flames.
- Scrubbing the plastic with abrasive material -- such as steel wool -- will typically scuff the surface of the plastic.
Vinegar to the Rescue
Vinegar can remove dried paint from paintbrushes, according to Reader's Digest. However, its effectiveness for removing paint from plastic varies depending on several factors, such as how long the paint has set and the type of paint. Vinegar works best on latex paint. Heat distilled white vinegar on high in the microwave for about 60 seconds. The vinegar should be warm but not so hot that you cannot safely touch it. Dampen a sponge in the warm vinegar and scrub the paint off the plastic.