Posted on 08, September, 2015
Last Modified on 24, April, 2020
While there are many ways to clean plexiglass or acrylic, some are more effective than others and help promote the longevity and clearity of your panels. When this type of clear platic becomes dirty or begind to appear dull, you can bet it's time to give it a little TLC. Some heavier cleaning proccesses may require tools, however, frequent cleanings should keep the workload light and allow you to use materials you already have around you to clean. Refer to this guide to find out all the best tricks and tips for cleaning acrylic.
Before you begin cleaning your acrylic or plexiglass panel or belmises or dirt, it is wise to clear the area of any debris, accessories, or other objects that may obstruct your working space. Always use a micro-fiber cloth, to avoid damaging your panel, with soapy water to clean the entire surface arrea. After wetting the cloth, be sure to work by lightly blotting the surface rather than applying too much pressure as you wipe. By agressivley rubbing the plexiglass or acrylic, you may accidently scratch the surface. After you have wiped the entire piece of acrylic, use the dry side of the cloth to buff the area and remove any lingering liquid or suds. Buffing or polishing the plexiglass surface reduces the risk of future stains, allowing for more time between cleanings. Let sit for a moment before checking for any remaing streams, if any are left over, rewet the cloth and dry again.
Choose Carefully: There are a couple of cleaning items that you'll want to stay away from. In fact, using the wrong cleaning product can completely damage your acrylic displays to the point that they become unusable!
- Do not use paper towels because they will not remove scratches and may even cause them. Stick with micro-fiber type of cloth.
- Avoid ammonia based products, like Windex or other home glass cleaners, because they contain harmful chemicals that will actually damage the surface leaving it cloudy looking. Soapy water is the safest and most effective cleaning solution for acrylic.
Advanced Cleaning & Repairing Plexiglass
A more elaborate and involved way to get your acrylic looking as good as new is to scrape, sand, buff, or flame polish the durable plastic. Many manufactures and designers use these processes for commercial fabrication and custom-made displays. These methods are not for beginners, especially if you’re unsure about damaging your products. However when done correctly, the finished surface of the acrylic will look almost new. With that in mind, try to find someone with a it of know-how.
Find a razor blade or another type of sharp scraping tool to eliminate any machine markings that may be left on the acrylic. Move the sharp instrument from side to side, evenly scraping off the excess and scratched acrylic. Be careful not to dig into the acrylic. You can avoid this by angling the tool at 10 degrees. Using the acrylic scraping method is also great for shaping any jagged or uneven edges.
Sanding will not only remove machining marks but also produce a matte finish on your acrylic. You can use any form of sander including hand, disc, belt, or drum. The type of tool you use will probably depend on the size and surface area of your piece of acrylic.
Sand the acrylic just like you would with a piece of wood. Work your way across the surface with a more coarse sandpaper then move on to a finer sandpaper. For deep scratches, we recommend starting with a 220-grit or 320-grit paper and moving up to a 600-grit or 800-grit. Use light pressure and keep the sander moving at all times. This will avoid heat buildup and damage to the acrylic. Always wear a mask when sanding to avoid dust inhalation.
Stationary polishing wheels are great for buffing acrylic back to a nice clear finish after its been sanded. To make sure you are less likely to overheat the acrylic, use an 8”-14” diameter, 2”-3” wide piece of bleached muslin with bias strips. This will allow the wheel to run much cooler. Make sure you clamp the acrylic in place so that it doesn’t move when buffing.
The finished quality of the acrylic will depend on the type of polish compound you use. A medium cutting compound will result in a glossy finish. A higher, luster finish can be accomplished by applying a fast cutting compound followed by a fine compound. This is a longer process but it will give you the best finish.
Using a normal hydrogen-oxygen torch with a #4 or #5 tip, gently melt the sanded, buffed, or machined edges of the acrylic. Doing so will provide a smooth glossy edge. Start by guiding the torch flame across the acrylic edge at a rate of approximately 3” - 4” per second. You want to heat the edges with swift motions. Make sure not to overshoot or heat the acrylic too closely, which will melt the acrylic and wreck the finish. If you move the flame too slowly or close stress, crazing, and bubbles will occur. If done right, the edges will have a clean, shiny finish that will make your furniture or display really stand out. Lastly, please be very careful whenever using high heat tools!
If All Else Fails...
As you can see, there are many methods for cleaning your plexiglass or acrylic panels. In most cases, users will be able to maintain their fixture with a microfiber cloth and soapy water. Howerver, especially in high-traffic areas, damage is bound to occur and it is wise to know how to correctly buff out digs, scratches, and other blemishes. If you decide that you aren't comfortable or have enough expertise to clean or buff your own acrylic just yet, take a look at our huge selection of custom acrylic displays! From office signs, to modern podiums, to ballot boxes, and more - at Displays2go we're experts in acrylic fabrication!