Tips for Cleaning Plexiglass and Acrylic
Posted on 08, September, 2015
Last Modified on 22, September, 2015
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There are a few ways to clean acrylic or plexiglass. When this type of clear plastic becomes dirty or appears slightly dull, you can use a variety of cleaning processes-all of which are detailed below. Some heavier cleaning processes even require power tools, depending on how damaged or dirty the acrylic is. Read this guide to find out all the best tricks and tips for cleaning acrylic.
To clean acrylic and plexiglass that has slight blemishes or dirt, start off by clearing away any debris. Then, use a premium micro-fiber cloth with soapy water to clean the entire surface area. After wetting the cloth, be sure to lightly blot the surface, rather than applying pressure as you wipe. Too much pressure can actually result in more scratches. After you have wiped the entire piece of acrylic, use the dry side of the cloth to dry or buff the area. Buffing or polishing the acrylic surface reduces future stains. If there are any remaining streaks, 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 delicate 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.
Purchase 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...
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!