There are a few proper methods for cleaning acrylic or Perspex – the popular clear plastic alternative to glass. The method you choose will depend on the state of your acrylic. Dirty acrylic which looks a bit dull will benefit from everyday cleaning. Really dirty or damaged acrylic will need more intensive cleaning. Learn more about both ways and how to do them below.
Start off by wearing cotton gloves and sweep a soft cotton cloth over both sides of your acrylic to wipe away any loose dust or dirt. If your acrylic is large, it might help to prop it against a wall to do this. Smaller pieces of acrylic can rest on a clean, lint-free surface. Your choice of cloth is very important for cleaning acrylic – only use a soft cotton cloth or micro-fibre cloth. Other types of cloth may cause scratches so do stick with soft cotton or micro-fibre. Your choice of cleaner is also very important – only use either hot, soapy water or a special acrylic cleaner (Vuplex for example). Don’t be tempted to use home glass cleaners or ammonia based products – the chemicals contained in these products will damage and dull your acrylic.
Whether you opt for hot, soapy water or an acrylic cleaner, be gentle and only use light pressure as you wipe. Too much pressure can actually cause scratching. Use a dry soft cotton cloth to dry off the acrylic. Give it a little buff or polish with this cloth too.
If your acrylic needs some more advanced cleaning to restore it back to nearly new, there are effective ways. We use techniques in our plastic business which are effective in restoring acrylic: scraping, sanding & buffing and flame polishing. The downside is they are not especially suitaed to beginners because they can cause damage in their process. With a bit of know how, they work well – here’s a bit more about them.
Scraping is a good way to remove any machine marks or jagged edges from acrylic. It can be done with a razor blade or sharp scraping tool (a Stanley knife for example). Scrape the acrylic by moving the razor blade or sharp tool from side to side, evenly scraping off excess and scratched acrylic. Angle your razor blade or tool at 10 degrees to avoid digging into your acrylic. The noise isn’t pleasant but the scraping technique works and prepares acrylic for sanding, buffing and polishing.
Sanding & Buffing
You can remove scratches in acrylic by sanding and buffing. Try buffing first – the scratches may come out and no need to sand your acrylic unnecessarily.
If you are sanding, then sand acrylic like a piece of wood, working across its surface area. You’ll definitely need a mask for this job as it is a dusty one! Choose 3 types of sandpaper – a coarse one ( 180 grit), a medium one (320 grit) and a light one (600 grit). Start with the coarse sandpaper and work up to the finest. If your acrylic has deep scratches start off with the coarse 180 sandpaper. If your acrylic has only very light scratches start with the medium 320 grit. Keep your sander moving at all times to avoid heat build up. As you work use a soft cotton cloth to remove debris to prevent any scratching. Acrylic starts to soften at 80 degrees so it is important to keep it cool while you work. Water, water mist or soluble oils (oil in water emulsions) are good for this job.
You will notice the sanding process leaves your acrylic with a matt finish. You can bring back the glossy shine by buffing. If you’re giving it a go, clamp your acrylic so it doesn’t move. Choose an acrylic polish to help as you buff (Vuplex for example). Buff until the polish clears on the acrylic.
Flame polishing is a fast, steady process. It is a great way to produce those smooth, glossy edges that acrylic is so famous for. You will need a hydrogen-oxygen torch with either a number 4 or 5 tip. Guide the flame over your acrylic edges, heating them with a swift motion. Getting this right can be tricky – moving too slowly or closely to the acrylic will make it stress and you’ll see bubbles appear in the acrylic. Also watch out for overheating the acrylic which will melt it. Producing clean, glossy edges is an amazing result – if your edges still look matt after you’ve flame polished you may have gone too fast. Wait for your acrylic to cool down and give it another go.
For any further help or advice, our friendly team of plastic experts are only a call or email away.