Plexiglass, also known as acrylic glass, is a versatile plastic material used for everything from aquariums to display cases thanks to its crystal clarity and light weight. But like any material, plexiglass is prone to scuffs and scratches during use. While scratches can seem irreparable at first, there are actually many techniques you can use to remove or minimize their visibility. With some effort and the right tools, you can make your plexiglass look brand new again.
We’ll cover quick fixes for minor scratches, more advanced DIY techniques for deeper marks, and when it’s best to call in a professional. With a little care and patience, you can restore the optical perfection that makes plexiglass such a treasured material.
As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Taking measures to prevent scratches in the first place will save you the hassle of trying to remove them later. Here are some tips for keeping your plexiglass pristine:
Handling Plexiglass Properly
Acrylic glass is easy to scratch, so handle it gently. Transport sheets vertically rather than flat to avoid surface abrasion. Never use paper towels on plexiglass–the wood pulp fibers can leave fine scratches. Use soft microfiber cloths instead when cleaning or polishing.
Avoid stacking or sliding objects along the surface. Even materials like cardboard can leave hairline scratches. Use spacers and corner protectors whenever possible to keep surfaces from contacting the plexiglass directly.
Cleaning plexiglass regularly prevents dust and debris from accumulating and potentially causing scratches. Gently wipe surfaces down at least once a week using a microfiber cloth and plain water, or a specially-formulated acrylic cleaner.
Applying a plastic polish monthly builds up a protective barrier while removing minor scratches from everyday use. Choose a polish that is safe for acrylics.
Fixing Minor Scratches
For light surface scratches that don’t catch your fingernail, plastic polishes offer an easy fix. But before polishing, it’s critical to properly clean the plexiglass to avoid grinding any dirt or grit into the surface defects.
Clean the Plexiglass Surface
Wash the plexiglass with mild soap and water to remove any dirt, dust or residue. Acrylic cleaning sprays are also safe options. Avoid ammonia-based cleaners.
Let the surface dry completely, then wipe again with a lint-free microfiber cloth to remove any remaining particles. Any debris left on the surface can cause additional fine scratches.
Use Plastic Polish
Products like Novus No. 2, Meguiar’s PlastX and Mothers NuLens are specially formulated polishes safe for use on acrylics and polycarbonates. They contain mild abrasives that remove light scratches and restore optical clarity.
Apply a small amount of polish to a soft, clean cloth. Using minimal pressure, rub the polish in small circular motions to work it into the scratched area. The compounds fill in and smooth over the defect. Take care not to press too hard.
Continue buffing until the scratch fully disappears. Clean any excess polish off with a dry microfiber towel. Reapply more polish if needed for deeper scratches.
When buffing out scratches, use gentle but firm pressure focused on the defected area. Quick back-and-forth motions help build friction to melt and smooth the scratch edges.
Avoid applying too much polish at once, which can leave a messy residue. Work it into scratches for the best results. Change cloths frequently to prevent any grit buildup.
Inspect under bright light. The goal is to buff just until the scratch becomes invisible, not to over-polish the entire surface.
Repairing Medium Scratches
Deeper marks that catch a fingernail require a more aggressive approach. Multi-step plastic polishing kits with compounds of varying grit are available for deeper scratch removal. Wet sanding and abrasives can also help for medium scratches.
Assess Scratch Severity
First, examine the scratch to determine the depth and severity. Minor abrasions can likely be buffed out through polishing. But large, deeper gouges may require professional help.
Test how easily the scratch catches a fingernail – the deeper it is, the more aggressive the repair method needs to be. Scratches down to the glass core mean the panel may need replacement.
Try More Aggressive Polishes
Heavy cut plastic polish compounds, used with a power drill and foam pad, can remove deeper marks and provide a clearer finish. Apply a small amount of polish to the pad and work in a back-and-forth motion with light pressure.
Gradually increase your speed as the polish begins to haze. Keep the pad flush to avoid uneven polishing. Rinse residue and reapply more polish as needed.
Smoothing With Abrasives
For deeper scratches, wet sanding the surface can help smooth and reduce the mark. Use extremely fine grit sandpaper (1000+ grit) and keep the surface well-lubricated.
Gently sand in the direction of the scratch, applying minimal pressure. Check often to avoid removing too much material. Frequently change sandpaper to prevent deeper damage.
Fixing Deep Scratches
Major scratches that penetrate deep into the plexiglass require professional help or replacement. But some aggressive DIY methods could be attempted first before replacing the pane.
For severe scratches that penetrate through multiple acrylic layers, professional resurfacing may be needed. Experts have access to specialized equipment like:
- Machined polishers with diamond abrasives
- Flame polishers that melt and reflow the plastic
- Chemical immersion in acrylic-compatible solvent baths
These techniques require experience to avoid ruining the panel. Consult a professional to see if resurfacing could restore optical clarity before replacing plexiglass.
Filling With Epoxy
For deep localized scratches, filling the damage with an acrylic-compatible epoxy could provide a cost-effective repair.
Thoroughly clean and dry the scratched area, then mask surrounding areas. Mix a small amount of clear casting epoxy and carefully fill the scratch, leaving a slightly raised area.
Allow the epoxy to fully cure per the manufacturer’s instructions – usually 24 hours. Then sand flush and polish the area until smooth and clear.
Replacing the Pane
If the scratch penetrates fully through the plexiglass and cannot be resurfaced, replacement may be the only option. Consult the original plexiglass supplier to find an identical or very similar acrylic sheet product.
Carefully remove the damaged sheet and replace with the new pane. Use compatible sealants or gaskets to install the replacement section.
Caring For Repaired Plexiglass
To keep plexiglass looking pristine after scratch removal, be extra careful cleaning and handling the surface:
- Use microfiber cloths and avoid abrasive sponges or paper towels
- Clean gently with only mild soap and water
- Re-apply plastic polish regularly to build up a protective layer
- Avoid contact with chemicals like solvents that could damage the acrylic
With proper care, you can keep your plexiglass scratch-free for years. But accidents happen, and our techniques guide will hopefully help you restore clarity quickly.
Plexiglass is highly susceptible to scratches but repair is almost always possible. For light scuffs, plastic polishes can buff away defects. Medium scratches may require wet sanding or heavy compounding. Major damage needs professional help or replacement.
The key is knowing which method to use based on scratch depth. With this comprehensive guide, you can now restore your plexiglass’s optical perfection and prevent future damage. Just remember to handle your acrylic glass gently and clean it regularly.