How to Get Paint Off an Electrical Outlet

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Even the most careful DIYer occasionally splatters a little paint where it doesn't belong. If your electrical outlets are the victim of errant paint drips or splatters, you have several options for removing it. However, it's important to practice electrical safety anytime you work around electrical outlets to prevent electrical shock.

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Shut Off the Power

Before you do any work on an electrical outlet, shut off the circuit breaker that powers that outlet. It's easy for a paint scraper or rag to slip inside the slots on the outlet, which puts you at risk for shock. Drips of water or cleaner can also get into the outlet, so shutting down the power keeps you safe while you work.

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Removing the electrical outlet cover also makes the cleaning easier. If the paint is only on the cover, you can clean it fairly easily without worrying about getting water or cleaner inside the outlet. If the plug-in part of the outlet has paint on it, you'll need to clean more carefully to avoid getting cleaner inside the outlet.

Wipe Wet Paint

The easiest option is to wipe the paint off the electrical outlet while it's still wet. A damp cloth or paper towel should do the trick if you remove the paint immediately. You can add a little dish soap to the water if you need extra cleaning power. Squeeze out any excess water if you're washing the actual outlet portion and not the cover.

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Try Vegetable Oil

If the paint is already dry, vegetable oil can help soften and loosen the paint. Pour the oil on a clean rag and rub it onto the paint marks. It should soften the paint after rubbing it for a short time. Clean the plastic well after using the vegetable oil to keep it from staying greasy.

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Use caution with any liquids to avoid getting them inside the outlet. A GFCI outlet can be even more difficult because of the buttons, where oil or water can get inside the outlet. Vegetable oil is easiest to use on the outlet cover when it's removed, so you don't have to worry about it getting into the outlet.

Use a Paint Scraper

A paint scraper can help you clean off remaining paint. This strategy is often effective along with vegetable oil. Once the oil softens the paint, the scraper can help peel it off the plastic surface. Scrape gently and keep the scraper flat to avoid scratching or gouging the plastic on the outlet.

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Apply Tougher Chemicals

If the paint still doesn't come off the outlet, you might need to call on tougher chemicals to remove it. One option is rubbing alcohol, which should help remove the paint without damaging the plastic. You can also use acetone to remove paint from an electric outlet cover. Use a cloth to rub the cleaner onto the outlet cover until the paint comes off. You can also use a paint scraper to help.

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Clean Up the Mess

Whatever you use to remove paint from the electrical outlet, wipe it down with a damp cloth after you're finished. This removes any remnants of the cleaner you used and helps you wipe away any last pieces of paint that might still be on the outlet. Reattach the outlet cover once it's free of paint and restore the power to the outlet.

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