Posted on 08, September, 2015
Last Modified on 21, December, 2020
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Acrylic or plexiglass is one of the popular materials used in commercial and residential products — and for a good reason. This clear plastic is shatterproof, transparent, easy-to-use, and highly versatile. We know because we've been manufacturing acrylic displays for over 40 years. Just like any surface, there comes a time when acrylic needs to be cleaned. When this type of clear plastic becomes dirty or begins to appear dull, you can bet it's time to give it a little TLC.
Regularly cleaning your displays helps promote longevity and clarity, allowing the material to maintain its shine and transparency. Frequent cleanings should keep the workload light with materials you'll likely already have around your home or business. Refer to this guide to find out all the best tricks and tips for cleaning acrylic.
Easy Cleaning Process
Before you begin cleaning your acrylic or plexiglass panel of fingerprints, dust, and dirt, clear the surrounding area of any objects that may obstruct your working space. Always use a microfiber cloth to avoid damaging your panel as paper towels are likely to create scratches when used. Wet the cloth with a recommended cleaning solution or with soapy water. After wetting the cloth, start lightly blotting the acrylic then gently spread the solution onto the entire surface. Use the dry side of the cloth to buff the area and remove any lingering liquid or suds. Avoid aggressively rubbing the plexiglass as this may cause scratches.
Additionally, buffing or polishing acrylic reduces the risk of future stains, allowing for more time between cleanings. Let sit for a moment before checking for any remaining streams. If any are left over, rewet the cloth and dry again.
Choose Carefully: There are a couple of cleaning items that you'll want to stay away from. In fact, using the wrong cleaning product can completely damage your acrylic displays to the point that they become unusable!
- Do not use paper towels because they will not remove scratches and may even cause them. Stick with micro-fiber type of cloth.
- Avoid ammonia-based products, like Windex or other home glass cleaners, because they contain harmful chemicals that will actually damage the surface leaving it cloudy looking. Soapy water is the safest and most effective cleaning solution for acrylic.
Sanitizing Acrylic and Plexiglass Panels to Protect Against COVID-19
In the midst of a pandemic, it is vital to maintain a healthy, sterile environment for both employees and customers alike. COVID-19 has changed the face of business for organizations nationwide, and preventative measures must be taken daily in order to help prevent the spread of infectious disease. Many businesses have implemented the use of protective acrylic or plexiglass sneeze guards, also known as splash shields, or clear hanging banners to create a barrier between customers and employees. These fixtures must be cleaned regularly, less harmful germs and bacteria are bound to fester, especially in locations that do not mandate citizens to wear masks in public.How to clean acrylic and plexiglass sneeze guards?
- Wipe down your acrylic panel as often as possible, at least between each shift, but ideally multiple times throughout the day. We suggest using cleaning wipes with at least 70% alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, bleach, isopropyl alcohol or ethyl alcohol, or other acrylic approved disinfectants.
- Use a microfiber cloth in order to avoid leaving scratches in your plexiglass panels, which would give harmful bacteria more nooks to hide away in and grow. Recent studies have shown that using microﬁber cloth eliminates 99% of harmful bacteria, microbes, and spores. If surfaces are visibly dirty, they should be cleaned gently using warm water and dishwashing soap prior to disinfection.
- Be sure to wear disposable gloves when cleaning or disinfecting surfaces, not only to protect your skin against harsh chemicals but to prevent accidental contamination of viruses and bacteria. Gloves should be discarded into the trash after each use.
- Prolonged exposure to cleaning materials can cause clear acrylic to stiffen, crack, or become hazy, so it is vital to properly wipe down and dry your sneeze guard after each cleaning in order to maintain the highest quality fixture.
- It is important to mention that you should never use window cleaners or other disinfectants that contain ammonia, such as Windex, as these products will do more harm than good.
Note that there are key differences between cleaning and disinfecting a plexiglass or acrylic splash guard. Cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces. Cleaning does not kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection. Disinfecting refers to using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection. It is the responsibility of business owners nationwide to practice safe social distancing measures and to make serious efforts to protect their employees and customers alike. Showing your patrons that your coronavirus response can be taken seriously will go the distance in alleviating any social stresses they may have in a public space. Clean and disinfect your social distancing tools such as clear vinyl banners, acrylic shields, and splash guards often to maintain the healthiest environment for all.
Advanced Cleaning & Repairing Plexiglass
A more elaborate and involved way to get your acrylic looking as good as new is to scrape, sand, buff, or flame polish the durable plastic. Many manufactures and designers use these processes for commercial fabrication and custom-made displays. These methods are not for beginners, especially if you’re unsure about damaging your products. However, when done correctly, the finished surface of the acrylic will look almost new. With that in mind, try to find someone with a bit of know-how.
Find a razor blade or another type of sharp scraping tool to eliminate any machine markings that may be left on the acrylic. Move the sharp instrument from side to side, evenly scraping off the excess and scratched acrylic. Be careful not to dig into the acrylic. You can avoid this by angling the tool at 10 degrees. Using the acrylic scraping method is also great for shaping any jagged or uneven edges.
Sanding will not only remove machining marks but also produce a matte finish on your acrylic. You can use any form of sander including hand, disc, belt, or drum. The type of tool you use will probably depend on the size and surface area of your piece of acrylic.
Sand the acrylic just like you would with a piece of wood. Work your way across the surface with a more coarse sandpaper then move on to a finer sandpaper. For deep scratches, we recommend starting with a 220-grit or 320-grit paper and moving up to a 600-grit or 800-grit. Use light pressure and keep the sander moving at all times. This will avoid heat buildup and damage to the acrylic. Always wear a mask when sanding to avoid dust inhalation.
Stationary polishing wheels are great for buffing acrylic back to a nice clear finish after its been sanded. To make sure you are less likely to overheat the acrylic, use an 8”-14” diameter, 2”-3” wide piece of bleached muslin with bias strips. This will allow the wheel to run much cooler. Make sure you clamp the acrylic in place so that it doesn’t move when buffing.
The finished quality of the acrylic will depend on the type of polish compound you use. A medium cutting compound will result in a glossy finish. A higher, luster finish can be accomplished by applying a fast cutting compound followed by a fine compound. This is a longer process but it will give you the best finish.
Using a normal hydrogen-oxygen torch with a #4 or #5 tip, gently melt the sanded, buffed, or machined edges of the acrylic. Doing so will provide a smooth glossy edge. Start by guiding the torch flame across the acrylic edge at a rate of approximately 3” - 4” per second. You want to heat the edges with swift motions. Make sure not to overshoot or heat the acrylic too closely, which will melt the acrylic and wreck the finish. If you move the flame too slowly or close stress, crazing, and bubbles will occur. If done right, the edges will have a clean, shiny finish that will make your furniture or display really stand out. Lastly, please be very careful whenever using high heat tools!
If All Else Fails...
As you can see, there are many methods for cleaning your plexiglass or acrylic panels. In most cases, users will be able to maintain their fixture with a microfiber cloth and soapy water. However, especially in high-traffic areas, damage is more likely to occur and it is wise to know how to correctly buff out digs, scratches, and other blemishes. If you decide that you aren't comfortable or have enough expertise to clean or buff your own acrylic just yet, take a look at our huge selection of custom acrylic displays! From office signs, to modern podiums, to ballot boxes, and more - at Displays2go we're experts in acrylic fabrication!