Whether it's a keyboard, a cellphone case, a piece of furniture, an ATV fender, or anything else made from plastic, scuffs and scratches are a common problem. That's because anything harder than the plastic's surface can leave it scratched, including metal jewelry, rocks, bits of sand, broken glass, or plastic with rough edges. Luckily, there are a few ways to fix scratched plastic, but your strategy should vary based on how deep the scratches go.
How to Clean Plastic Before You Repair
Before fixing a scratch, you need to clean it to prevent debris from causing further damage. Mix a few drops of dish soap and use a sponge to softly wash the surface clean, or you can use a cotton round dipped in rubbing alcohol.
Once the area is clean, run your nail across the surface to evaluate how deep the scratch is. If your nail goes right over the scratch, it is considered a light scratch and easier to remove, but if it catches, it’s a deep scratch, meaning the repair requires the use of sandpaper.
1. Use a Mild Abrasive
This is the easiest and gentlest method for repairing scratched plastic. Start by covering the scratch with either a regular (nongel) toothpaste or a paste made with equal parts water and baking soda. Use a clean cloth to buff out the surface until the scratch begins to disappear. Rinse the residue occasionally to evaluate your progress. Repeat until the scratch is gone.
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2. Grab a Heat Gun
If you have a heat gun, you may be able to soften the surface just enough for the plastic to smooth out, eliminating any scratches. Hold the heat gun 1 inch away from the surface and turn it on high. Move the heat gun in a circular motion around the scratches and stop when they disappear. Avoid holding it in place or you could melt the plastic.
3. Sand Down the Scratches
For deep scratches, wet sanding is necessary. The moisture is important, as it removes the scratched layer while preventing debris from further scratching the plastic. Start by using a razor blade to remove any plastic protruding from the scratch. Soak a piece of 800-grit sandpaper in water for a few minutes until it is fully saturated and then apply light pressure while moving the sandpaper in circular motions around the scratch. Rinse the sandpaper every few minutes to remove debris and keep the paper moist.
After the first pass, repeat the process with 1,000-grit sandpaper. If any scratches remain, repeat the process again with 2,000-grit sandpaper. Last, wipe the surface with a wet cloth to remove any remaining debris.
When you’re finished removing the scratches, if you notice that the plastic appears to have lost its shine, apply a plastic polishing compound. Using a circular motion, rub the polishing compound over the dull spot with a clean cloth and buff off the residue. Repeat the process until the luster returns.