How to Remove Car Paint Scrapes on Plastic

by Hugh Patterson
Jupiterimages/ Images

One of the most aggravating aspects to leaving a car in a parking lot is coming back to find a streak of paint on the car body that was not there when the car was first parked. The paint can end up embedded in the surface of the car's plastic bumpers or trim. Auto body shops can remove this type of damage for a price. You can use a few basic techniques and household items to safely remove paint scratches from plastic, saving the expense of a costly visit to the auto body shop.

Step 1

Damaged soft bumper trim can be restored as well as hard plastic.

Wash the area scratched with car paint thoroughly, using hot water and concentrated liquid laundry detergent. This step is extremely important. The combination of hot water and soap helps to lift off some of the paint without having to scrape the plastic's surface. A ratio of 4 tsps. of detergent to 16 ounces of hot water is sufficient for this project. Use a 100 percent cotton cleaning rag dipped in the hot soapy solution.

Step 2

Rub the wet cloth in a circular motion across the damaged area. After three minutes of rubbing, leave the cloth on top of the damaged area. The heat from the hot water will cause the paint to expand slightly, which will loosen it from the plastic's surface. Rub the damaged area again. Allow the area to dry thoroughly and proceed to step 3.

Step 3

The front corner of the bumper is the primary area of damage on any car.

Pull a small plastic squeegee across the remaining paint marks. The object of this step is to gently peel off some of the paint. Rub the paint-covered area again with a cotton rag dipped in hot soapy water. This will remove more paint. Repeat the process three of four times until the majority of the paint has been removed. At least 75 percent of the original paint damage should be removed before proceeding to the next step.

Step 4

Apply three or four drops of plastic buffing compound to a dry cotton rag. Rub the compound into the affected area, using a circular motion. This motion avoids removing too much of the plastic's finish. This will remove any remaining paint. Use a buffing compound designed for light scratches. Compounds designed for heavy scratches will remove some of the plastic's finish, creating a noticeable blemish.

Wipe the area down with a clean dry cotton rag. Apply a tsp. of plastic polish to the rag and polish the affected area until the surface is restored to its original sheen. The project is complete.


  • Boiling water can be applied to paint marks on plastic to soften the paint up. A hair-dryer can also be used to soften the paint. Heat causes materials to expand. Paint has a lower density than plastic and will expand at a higher rate. This means the paint will lose its grip and peel off the plastic. Do not use any heat source with a temperature higher than boiling water, otherwise the plastic will warp and melt.

Items you will need

  • Concentrated liquid laundry detergent
  • Plastic squeegee
  • Plastic buffing compound
  • 100 percent cotton rags
  • Plastic polish

More Articles