Will Paint Thinner Melt Plastic? Know Your Plastic’s Type Before Using Thinner on It

Most of you store thinner in a plastic container without ever questioning- will paint thinner melt plastic? The reason might be you are storing the thinner in an unsuitable plastic bottle.

But have you ever thought of using thinner to thin paints of your plastic stuff? And what if your precious stuff melts in the process?

Paint thinner won’t melt most of the hard plastics out there, but plastics having Styrofoam will get sucked up. In short, you need to know which kind of plastics can’t withstand paint thinner.

Can You Use Paint Thinner on a Plastic?

Before looking into the answer, look for the type of plastic you are using. There are several types of plastic, and all aren’t affected by thinners. However, soft plastics might not withstand the harsh effect of paint thinners and disintegrate.

Which Plastic Can Hold Paint Thinner?

Any hard plastic like the one it was sold with can withstand paint thinner. Most of the plastic won’t damage even if the thinner is harshly toxic. But that won’t be the case for soft plastic or Styrofoam-like one-time-use boxes.

Styrofoam is an expanded polystyrene type that will be mulched in contact with thinner. The soft plastic will start to dissolve slowly, and acrylic will start to deform.

Can You Use Paint Thinner to Strip Plastic Paint?

Thinner is used to thin paint by dissolving or vaporizing some of its properties. You can use thinner to remove paint stain, but only on a hard exterior. Soft plastics will warp before getting rid of the paint.

How to Strip Plastic Paint Stain Using Paint Thinner?

In case you are unaware of the type of plastics you have, it’s always safe to test first. Other than testing, look for conventional washing techniques to take off the paint. Use of thinner or chemical stripper should be your last solution.

Quick View of Basic Washing Technique

You can try washing it with soapy water first by completely submerging it. Use warm water for the solution. Scrub throughout the process. You have to perform this process while the paint is wet.

What if the paint is dried?

Then scraping could be your solution. A few drops of rubbing alcohol will loosen the stain, though it’s not mandatory. After scrapping off the loosened paint with a tool, wash the exterior with soapy water and wipe off with a cloth.

The stain hasn’t gone yet?

Now that you have tried every possible alternative to take off the paint, let’s move to the last way out with proper preparation.

Step 01: Personal Protection

If you know how hazardous volatile thinners are, you don’t need this reminder. You better shield your respiratory organs to save your lungs. Wear a mask, gloves, and goggles.

Step 02: Choose Your Thinner

Among several paint thinners like mineral spirit, rubbing alcohol, and paint thinner, choose the one according to your project.

If the stubborn paint residue is acrylic or latex, ammonia will be suitable for your job. Mineral spirits or paint thinner always work out for oil-based paints. Many choose to rub alcohol as it’s not that strong and safe for the skin.

If you are going to choose the same, get the highest percentage of it, or it won’t take the paint off. 91% or 99% of alcohol will greatly affect paint stain.

Step 03: Have a Sample Test

What plastic you are using is the real game-changer. Depending on the type, the thinner might or might not react. Use the thinner on an inconspicuous area to check.

Use a toothpick or a Q-tip brush to use the thinner. If you notice any change in the color or the texture, avoid using the solvent. You can as well press the area to check any indent.

Remember that many plastics might take hours to show the reaction. Wash the solvent after testing.

Step 04: Applying the Thinner

Depending on the solvent you choose, the motion of application will change. Acetone is a strong chemical, and so all you will do is wipe over the paint using cotton balls soaked with acetone.

That should be enough to take off the paint. Change the cotton when it gets dirty. Acetone will evaporate faster, so you will soak the cotton again. Or else the fuzz will keep sticking on the paint.

While using rubbing alcohol, the soaked cotton needs to be rubbed against the stain till it comes off.

Step 05: Bristled Brush and Paint Thinner

Even if there are several thinners, paint thinner is the most suitable solvent for this process. Household cleaners will also work but not like the paint thinner.

For many plastics, cotton won’t work due to extreme adhesiveness. You need a bristled brush for the job then. Fill up a container with your selected solvent and merge the plastic. You can even submerge it, assuring that the stain has been merged.

After merging the plastic for 20 to 60 minutes, use a manicure brush to scrub. A stiff bristle brush will also work. The stain layer should come off easily. If that’s not the case, merge the plastic again for a little longer.

While using the household cleaners, merge the plastic for 24-hours.

Finally, give a simple wash to the exterior with soapy water and air dry.

Will Lacquer Thinner Harm Plastic?

Lacquer thinners will damage the soft plastics slowly and damage the plastic having Styrofoam within a short period. Plastics like Formica won’t react with lacquer thinner.

If you still want to store your lacquer thinner in a plastic bottle, use HDPE. There are several brands selling lacquer thinner in HDPE containers. Even if you choose glass containers, the cap’s gasket is made of HDPE.

One of the great lacquer thinners which are transparent and used for most plastics is Halfords Universal Clear Lacquer.

Will Lacquer Thinner Lighter the Plastic Paint?

While some solvents are weak to start the reaction, most of the thinners will end up lightening the color. Some might even leave an amber tint. There won’t be any issue while mixing lacquers with acrylics and water-based medium in appropriate proportion.

Even so, avoid adding too much thinner. It might either cause the finish to react or make murky puddles over the coat.

Will Turpentine Corrode Plastic?

While other thinners are okay on the plastic container, turpentine isn’t likely to do the same. It’s extremely active and reacts badly with plastics. Due to the poor compatibility of turpentine with plastic, you are suggested not to keep them together.

If you have ever noticed, you will see that this chemical is sold in a tin or glass container because turpentine is compatible with those materials. Whether use any of these two containers or use the type of container you got while buying. That’s even safer.

Try to keep the solvent in a cool place and far from any flame source.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will paint thinner melt PVC?

PVC is a thermoplastic with extreme strength. Even if it’s light-weighted, it’s durable enough to withstand anything. Paint thinner is not likely to affect the PVC tubing in a brief period if used in a modest amount.

However, if the solvent is specifically acetone, there might be a possibility of deformation.

Will paint thinner melt HDPE?

No, paint thinner won’t melt HDPE. It is a plastic that is used to store and sell paint thinners. It’s the most versatile plastic container you can have.

Will paint thinner melt rubber?

Paint thinners are corrosive when it comes to applying over the rubber. Any petroleum solvent could be harsh for your rubber materials, like tires. Lacquer thinners are even more detrimental. It damages the natural lubricant of your stuff.

Will acetone melt plastic?

Yes, acetone indeed melts plastic. Acetone is often diluted in many of your products, making the chemical weak. In actual concentration, acetone is a harshly active component that deliquesces many plastics.

Acetone can form a molecular bond with the polymers of plastics. Hence, acetone starts to interrupt the molecular bond of plastic and breaks plastic down.

Can I put paint thinner in a plastic cup?

Paint thinners or mineral spirit won’t damage hard plastics. However, the case isn’t the same for softer ones. Plastic jars are often seen as containers of paint thinner in the supermarket. If your cup is as thick as that kind of jar, then you are good to go.


From now on, whenever the question – will paint thinner melt plastic? puzzle you up, search for your plastic type. Other than the type of plastic, there are other factors to consider as well. Like which solvent in what amount you are using. The more active and denser it is, the more it’s likely to deteriorate the plastic.

If you are unaware of any of this information, running a sample test could be your only way out.

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