How To Clean Plexiglass

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone. I can see all obstacles in my way.

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So you’ve purchased a race car, motorcycle, airplane, or boat? Congratulations, hotshot. But before your maiden voyage, know this: Your vehicle has important, see-through parts made from an acrylic like plexiglass or a polycarbonate like Lexan. Keeping those surfaces spotless and scratch-free means following some simple cleaning rules.   

Despite the name, plexiglass isn’t glass. Sold under the brands Acrylite, Crylux, Lucite, and Perspex—and mostly known by the generic term, plexiglass—it’s a transparent, petroleum-based thermoplastic. Plexiglass is lighter than conventional glass, while also being sturdier. 

Often mistaken for plexiglass, Lexan polycarbonate shares similar thermoplastic properties with plexiglass but has a higher impact resistance. 

As such, road cars (headlights), motorcycles (windshields), race cars, planes and boats, along with an assortment of household objects, often use formulations of plexiglass or polycarbonate due to their light weight, strength, durability, and inexpensive replacement cost. 

While cleaning headlight lenses is a separate process, cleaning plexiglass and polycarbonate windows require extra care to prevent visibility-reducing scratches and streaks. The Drive’s crack How-To team is here to help you get your new toy looking factory-fresh. Ready?

Basics

Estimated Time Needed: 30 minutes to an hour

Skill Level: Beginner

Vehicle System: Exterior

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Safety

Working on your car can be messy, especially cleaning surfaces you’ve never bothered cleaning before. It can also be dangerous. Here’s what you’ll need to ensure you keep your jeans, shirt, and skin spotless, and your bones intact.

  • Nitrile gloves (to repel chemicals used and irritants in the seat cushions).
  • Long-sleeve shirt to protect your arms.
  • Safety Glasses.

Organizing your tools and gear so everything is easily reachable will save precious minutes waiting for your handy-dandy child or four-legged helper to bring you the sandpaper or blowtorch. (You don’t need a blowtorch for this job. Please don’t have your kid hand you a blowtorch—Ed.)

You’ll also need a flat workspace, such as a garage floor, driveway, or street parking that’s also well-ventilated. Check your local laws to make sure you’re not violating any codes when using the street because we aren’t gonna pay off your impound fees.

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Everything You’ll Need

We’re not psychic, nor are we snooping through your toolbox or garage, so here’s what you’ll need to get the job done. 

Tool List 

  • Microfiber towel (Any other type of towel will scratch your plexiglass).
  • Plexiglass cleaner (non-abrasive, non-aromatic, and non ammonia-based). 
  • Razor blade (if applicable).
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Here’s How to Clean Plexiglass/Polycarbonate in a Few Easy Steps

Though the materials may be different at a molecular level, their thermoplastic exteriors require identical cleaning methods. Here’s to making life simple!

Now, let’s do this! 

  1. As any surface dust and debris could potentially scratch the surface, before using any cleaning products, either blow away any surface dust and debris with a hairdryer, or use soap and water to wipe the surface.
  2. Take your microfiber towel and fold it into a small square that fits the size of your hand. 
  3. Spray one side of the microfiber towel with plexiglass/polycarbonate cleaner (do not spray window).
  4. Delicately wipe the window using the dampened side of the microfiber towel from side to side with very light pressure—the less pressure the better.
  5. Once you’ve cleaned the area, flip the microfiber towel over to the side that wasn’t sprayed with the cleaner and delicately wipe the plexiglass/polycarbonate again to remove streaks and/or further contaminants. 
  6. If other plexiglass/polycarbonate surfaces need to be cleaned, or more debris remains, unfold the microfiber towel.
  7. Refold the microfiber towel so a clean section can be used for the additional areas.
  8. Repeat the process above. 

You’re done, congratulations!

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Tips From a Pro

Here are The Drive’s pro tips for cleaning plexiglass/polycarbonate.

  • Always use a lint-free microfiber towel, not a paper towel or cotton cloth; these materials can scratch plexiglass/polycarbonate.
  • Never use a cleaning agent like Windex that contains ammonia on your plexiglass/polycarbonate. Ammonia can degrade their chemical bonds and make the surface cloudy. 
  • Likewise, never use a cleaning agent that contain aromatics, isopropyl alcohol, solvents such as acetone, dry-cleaning fluid, or any abrasive cleanser (unless it’s a designated plastic polish). 

Life Hacks

Since you may not have access to the right tools, we also compiled a list of hacks to make your life easier and drain your pocket less.

  • If a particular piece of debris or bug carcass won’t come off using the plexiglass cleaner and microfiber towel, a razor blade can be used to remove it. Here are the steps:

    • Wet the plexiglass/polycarbonate with water.
    • Using a brand new razor blade, angle the blade so that it’s around 12-degrees. 
    • Very gently scrape the material off the surface, making sure you don’t scratch it.
    • Once the material is removed, take your microfiber towel and fold it into a small square that fits the size of your hand. 
    • Spray one side of the microfiber towel with plexiglass/polycarbonate cleaner (do not spray window).
    • Delicately wipe the window using the dampened side of the microfiber towel from side to side with very light pressure—the less pressure the better.
    • Once you’ve cleaned the area, flip the microfiber towel over to the side that wasn’t sprayed with the cleaner and delicately wipe the plexiglass/polycarbonate again to remove streaks and/or further contaminants. 

How Often Do You Need To Clean Plexiglass/Polycarbonate?

The unwritten rule is that the more you touch your plexiglass/polycarbonate, the greater the chance you have at scratching it and causing irreversible damage. But paying careful attention to the steps above, and if you respectfully treat it, you can clean your plexiglass/polycarbonate whenever it becomes dirty. 

Featured Products

Rain-X Windshield Repair Kit

Blue Star Windshield Repair Kit

Rolite Plastic and Acrylic Cleaner

Got a question? Got a pro tip? Send us a note: guidesandgear@thedrive.com