How To Polish Plastic

A Guide on How To Polish Common Plastic Products

Did you know that on average, a car is made of 50% plastic? And, if you take a look around, you’ll see something made out of plastic. Outdoor furniture, laptops, food containers, headlights, etc. are made up of plastic.

But it tends to lose its shine over time, and it gets scratched the more it is used though.

A year or so later, our laptops. car bumpers and furniture need of polishing. We would also need to remove scratches. So, it’s a good thing that we can polish plastic easily using items like vinegar and toothpaste.

plastic chairs

These simple plastic polishing methods will make your item look brand new. (Learn How To Polish Concrete)

Polishing Plastics Guidelines

There are different kinds of plastic, over a hundred in fact, and so there’s no one method to polish all plastic. But we can follow a general guideline on how to polish the common types of plastic.

The first step is to clean the product and get rid of dirt. A bit of water and soap will get the job done. The next thing to do is to remove the scratches with the use of abrasives such as baking soda or toothpaste. Lastly, remove oxidation.

The reason why we want to polish instead of buying another item is that what we have is usable. Remember this tip, a wrong way of polishing can cause further damage. It’s a delicate procedure because we only want to remove the outer fringes to give them a seamless look.

This guide will not cover fading and discoloration. Plastic that suffers from fading and discoloration is usually exposed.

washing plastic

Washing the Plastic

Mix dishwashing liquid and warm water in a bowl. If you are polishing a surface car exterior use a car soap for the mixture. Car soap is a safer option.

If the area you are cleaning is too big you could choose to spray it with water. A hose and a generous amount of water should suffice.

Another option that you could do is to rub a piece of cotton cloth to the plastic surface. This is so the grime or oil is removed. And by removing the grease, the polishing process becomes easier.

Remember that the goal here is to remove dirt. Dip a sponge or cloth to the bowl then rub in a circular motion. Repeat until no improvement can be made, and rinse.

Checking For Scratches

You could technically check for scratches first but it doesn’t matter. What does matter is gauging the depth of the scratches. You could use your nails to determine whether the damage is deep or not. (Learn How To Clean White Leather Purses)

Run the end of your fingernails at a 90-degree angle relative to the direction of the scratch. If it runs smoothly then a light abrasive will do. But, if it descends at the cut/s then sheets of sandpaper are required.

How to Remove Light Scratches

At this point, the plastic is cleaned, and you determined that there are only shallow cuts. Light scratches are easy to fix.

The Baking Soda and other Light Abrasives Method

Mild abrasives such as toothpaste and baking soda are alternatives to furniture and plastic polish. As a general rule, use toothpaste for lighter scratches.
Dip a piece of cloth into the abrasive then rub it into the plastic surface. Be sure to buff in circular motions. Clean, and wash to better see the improvements. Repeat until you are satisfied with the results.

Dealing With Acrylic or Plexiglass Light Scratches

Plexiglass is the same as Tupperware in the sense that the brand is synonymous with the product. Anyways, Acrylic plastic deserves a special mention here because of its fragility. Only proceed if you are certain that you are working with acrylic plastic.

Clear acrylic plastic looks shabby if there’s dust or scratches so you would want them clean. And you also don’t want to ruin them with solvents such as:

  • ammonia
  • acetone
  • carbon tetrachloride,
  • gasoline

Now to remove the scratches from a Plexiglass, this method utilizes ultra-fine sandpaper. Start by rubbing wet sandpaper in a circular motion then use a dry one after. Do this for about a few minutes, and don’t worry if there is a frosty look to the plastic.

Next, move onto sandpaper with its grit higher by a few hundred than the previous one. Just keep on rubbing until all the scratches are gone. Viola!

How to Remove Deep Scratches

Deep scratches are still fixable. Just keep in mind that if the depth is above 5mm it’s a long shot.

Sandpaper In Circular Motion

Use tape if applicable to avoid sanding areas you don’t want to scratch. Gather three sandpaper sheets of different grit. As a loose guideline use one super fine, and two sandpaper with ultra-fine grit. Dip the least fine sandpaper in water, and rub in a circular motion.

Clean and dry the area. Repeat the process with finer sandpaper until the scratches are removed.

Dealing With Acryllic or Plexiglass with Deeper Scratches

As mentioned earlier, the deeper the scratches the harder it is to fix. Use the same routine mentioned earlier in the light scratches for plexiglass. Start with a 600 grit then move on to a higher grit. Then move again to a higher grit, as an example consider 600-900-1200.

Buffer Wheel Method

There’s a wide variety of buffs but whatever you choose just make sure to be gentle. Polycarbonate and acrylic are two of the most common type of plastic. Both of them are hard enough to make this method a good option. (Learn How To Clean Couch Fabric)

If you don’t know the difference between the two types of plastic this next bit will help. Dark edges mean polycarbonate while a clear edge means acrylic.

Use the buff wheel to remove light scratches. It’s a quick method when it comes to light scratches.

Map Torch

How to make plastic shine again? Use a map torch. This only works on acrylic though, and it’s a good way of dealing with the edges.

Making It Shiny Again

This is the last step in our guideline. We want to bring back the polished, and shiny look of the plastic. Apply a light amount of plastic or metal polish to a piece of clean cloth. Rub in a circular motion the cloth to the dull surface,

Repeat as necessary, and you should have a shiny new look to your plastic. Additionally, Vaseline can be used to restore shine. Perfect for laptops, cellphones, and the likes.

If the plastic is painted and discolored, repainting is advised.

Stain Removal

Sometimes, there are unwanted things that stick and no matter how hard we try can’t get rid of the stains. Luckily, several household materials that can be used. For example, a vinegar-water solution can effectively remove stains on food containers.

Rubbing alcohol, and lemon can also be used to remove the stains.

strong plastic

How to Make Plastic Last Longer

Wear and tear can’t be avoided, and sometimes you have to expose plastic materials to sunlight. With that said, you could try to minimize exposure to weather. You could also clean plastic regularly basis to avoid dirt buildup. (Learn How To Get Ink Stain Out Of Clothes)


Several types of plastic are common in society, and each has its own properties. There are recommended ways of polishing that are not advised for others. Some of the methods here can be combined or modified but be cautious.

Generally, you would first want to clean and wash the plastic. Then check for scratches, and use mild abrasives to remove the cuts. The final step is to make it shine again.

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