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How to Polish Clear Plastic

COMCO is a pioneer in thermoplastic and thermoset fabrication, with over 50 years of experience. We deliver top-quality precision-machined and fabricated high-performance plastics for a multitude of industries. An ever-growing number of products and components are made from plastic materials. When used in demanding environments, clear plastics benefit from periodic polishing to enhance and restore their transparency and shine.

While COMCO offers vapor polishing services for improving the surface of plastic parts, it’s also possible to polish plastic on your own in certain situations. This article will explain how to polish clear plastic materials.

Tools and Materials You Will Need

If a clear plastic product is losing its transparency or has obtained scratches, a variety of common household products can easily restore it to like-new conditions. If the scratches are more deep and stubborn, tougher products and processes might be required to remove them. Cleaning and polishing your plastic component will require the following tools:

  • Sandpaper in 600-, 800-, and 1200-grit
  • A plastic polishing compound, baking soda, or toothpaste depending on the severity of the scratching
  • Clean, dry cloths or cotton rounds
  • Rubbing alcohol or dish soap

How to Remove Scratches From Clear Plastic

Many products are made using clear plastic materials, including windows, headlight lenses, and various types of consumer products. While plastic formulations can vary greatly between products, most of them can develop scratches when abused or operated in challenging environments. To restore any type of clear plastic to newer-looking conditions, perform the following steps.

Step 1: Examine the Scratches

A scratch’s depth will determine the best method for removing it. For light, shallow scratches, a mild abrasive such as toothpaste or baking soda is usually sufficient for successful removal. If a scratch is deep enough that you can fit your fingernail into it, however, a fine grit wet sandpaper will be required.

If your plastic component requires maximum optical clarity, vapor polishing is the best solution. Vapor polishing is a professional technique for improving plastic surface finish and achieving optimal clarity. It works by smoothing plastic resin material at a microscopic level, drastically improving the transparency of machined parts. You can learn more about vapor polishing on our website.

Step 2: Get the Area Clean

After you’ve determined the depth of your scratches and obtained the abrasive tools you’ll need, the next step is to thoroughly clean the plastic. Cleaning first is important because if there is any debris on the plastic’s surface, it can cause further scratching when buffing. Using a little bit of dish soap or rubbing alcohol applied to a clean cloth or cotton round, gently cleanse the plastic. Afterward, if your scratches are light, you can proceed to the next step or skip ahead to step four if your plastic has deep scratches.

Step 3: Buff Using a Mild Abrasive

For shallow scratches, the silica in toothpaste may be sufficient to touch them up. Apply a small amount to cover the scratch and buff with a cloth or cotton round in small circles until the surface shows improvement. It may take as much as 10 minutes of polishing to remove the scratch. Instead of toothpaste, you can also use a paste of equal parts baking soda and water following the same method. Work the paste into the scratch for several minutes and rinse when the scratch has been removed.

Step 4: Wet Sand for Deeper Scratches

Wet sanding is ideal for deeper scratches as it slowly evens out the plastic’s surface with more force than baking soda or toothpaste. Using water to moisten the sandpaper keeps material from building up and causing further surface damage.

Step 5: Go For a Finer Grit

After performing the previous steps, if traces of scratches remain, select a finer grit sandpaper, such as 1,000 grit, and continue buffing in a circular motion. You can use progressively finer-grit sandpaper until the scratch has completely disappeared. Afterward, clean the surface a final time with a damp cloth.

Step 6: Polish to Renew Shine

You may now notice that the plastic has lost its luster in the working area. To restore the shine, apply a small layer of a plastic polishing compound. You’ll only need to apply a small amount, in circular motions, with a dry cloth.

High-Quality Plastics from COMCO Plastics

While there are several techniques you can try to restore plastic surfaces to like-new condition, COMCO’s vapor polishing services can help if you’re looking for high-gloss, crystal-clear clarity. For more information about our vapor polishing services and other high-performance plastic capabilities, request a quote or give us a call at (718) 849-9000.

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