Technological advancements in the 21st century have resulted in spray paints that cover plastic and even vinyl. Just a few short years ago, when you applied a spray paint to plastic, it would often puddle or peel off in sheets, but now you can spray away, as long as you use a special paint that bends with the plastic and adheres without fading and cracking.
Special Plastic Paints
When choosing a spray paint for plastic, look for its application recommendations on the can. If the label on the spray can doesn't say, meant for use on resin, polyvinyl chloride or plastic, it's the wrong kind of paint. If you use anything except a paint designed for plastic, the paint will not adhere to the plastic. Spray paints meant for plastic can be used on plastic garden or patio furniture, vinyl fencing and children's toys. These paints do not require a primer. If you do opt for a primer, ensure it is labeled for use on plastics. For vinyl surfaces, choose vinyl spray paint.
For plastic items that are a bit beat-up, avoid using gloss finishes on these, as all their mistakes and flaws are highlighted by high-gloss paints. Instead, choose a plastic spray paint with a hammered finish to hide imperfections. Hammered finishes include light and dark contrasts in the paint that help hide large scratches, dings or dents in the plastic. It can give plastic a metallic look that may be more pleasing for used toys or worn patio furniture. Other finishes include satin, gloss or flat.
Spray Paint Prep Work
Before you paint plastic, you must clean it thoroughly to remove dirt and debris from its surface. On new plastic furniture, wipe it down outside with a mineral spirits to remove coatings or chemicals and let it dry. For old furniture, scrub it with a plastic bristle brush and warm soapy water; rinse with cool water. If the item was previously painted, lightly sand the paint -- not the furniture -- to allow a new coat of paint to adhere, and wipe down with a tack cloth to remove the dust. Let the plastic items thoroughly dry in the sun before painting. You can opt for a plastic spray-on-primer coat to help even out the surface of older plastic items.
Before painting, thoroughly shake the can at least 1 to 2 minutes to mix its contents completely. Spray across the surface, holding the can between 6 to 8 inches away from side to side, lightly covering the item with paint. Don't overpaint, as it can lead to drips and runs in the paint; apply multiple light coats. Wait 20 minutes between coats of paint for it to dry. After 24 hours, you will need to wait up to seven days for the paint to cure before adding more coats.
Tips and Considerations
Spray paints work best when applied in temperatures that range from 50 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit or as recommended on the can. Practice your spray-painting technique on a piece of cardboard or another item to test how far to hold the can away from the surface and how quickly to pass it horizontally or vertically across the item. Thin, multiple coats are better for adhesion and coverage. Work outdoors or in a well-ventilated garage with circulating fans when using spray paints, or wear an appropriate face mask. Spray away from items with pilot lights in them. For tips that clog, shake the can; hold it upside-down and spray for 5 seconds to remove the clog, or before storing the paint can.