How to Drill a Hole in Plastic

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When drilling into a piece of plastic, you need to be careful l and take your time. It is extremely easy to crack this brittle material. As plastic is everywhere- you will likely need to drill into it at some point when tackling DIY home projects.

Can You Drill Into Plastic?

If your project requires you to drill through plastic, you need to make sure the material is not going to crack and break. Most plastics can be drilled through without issue.

Dremel on top of a plastic container

It might seem easy at first, but remember that plastic is very brittle. You can’t drill into it using normal methods. Just like cutting plastic, drilling into it has the possibility of breaking or cracking it.

If you do, it will be sure to break. You will want to take your time and drill into the plastic slowly, while using the proper drill bits. If you can do all that, then you should get amazing final results.

Overall, plastic is a soft material. You will want to take the time to prepare. You also will need to know what types of screws are not going to break your material when used.

Drill Bits to Use

You will need to make sure you are using the best drill bit. That way, you get even edges, without the cracking. You can use a wood drill bit on it, but it’s not the best option.

Wood drill bits can cause the plastic to heat up and break. The best choice of drill bit would be the dowel bit. This type of bit has a sharp point at the end and is usually very long.

If you can, use a dowel jig to drill the hole.

Best Drill Bits for Plastic

When drilling in acrylic there are certain types of bits that are going to be more helpful than others. You will want to look for the following:

  • Cobalt
  • Carbide
  • Solid carbide
  • High speed steel

These metal drill bits are less likely to damage the plastic. The best tips won’t chip or damage your plastic.

Always make sure you’re using a sharp drill bit. You can sharpen drill bits if need be.

Drilling a Hole in Plastic

When you have the proper drill bit, you can get to work. Start by taking measurements and mark the spot on the plastic that needs to be drilled.

What You Need

  • Cordless or corded drill
  • Drill bits
  • Clamps
  • Plastic
  • Spare/ scrap plywood
  • Work bench
  • Masking tape

1. Setting Up

We recommend that you clamp the material down on a workbench. That ensures the piece stays still as you work on it. If you skip this step, you could run into a lot of frustration as the plastic slips away from you.

We also recommend you place a piece of scrap wood under your plastic. It reduces the likelihood of the plastic chipping on the bottom.

You also might want to consider a lubricant. This allows you to work on making deeper holes without worry of melting the plastic.

Remember, plastic is a material that expands under heat. The hole you drill should be slightly bigger than the final result that you want. That way, the screws you add later won’t damage the plastic.

The best drill bits to use will have a 90 to 118 degree point angle and a 9 to 15 lip angle. Finally, it is essential that your drill bit has a 0 degree rake angle, so it doesn’t burst through the plastic.

2. Mark the Hole

Use your masking tape on the plastic to position where you will be drilling. You can technically draw right on the plastic, but your marks might easily rub off. Instead, set down the tape and mark that up with your pen.

3. Keep the Drill Perpendicular

When drilling, you need to keep the drill upright and perpendicular to the surface of the plastic. You will need to keep it steady and allow the drill to do a majority of the work.

The closer to the bottom of the plastic you get, the less you want to push on the drill. Doing this helps the drill to pass through the material without chipping the back portion of it.

Finally, once you get the drill through completely, make sure to keep the drill running. Leave it on as you slowly remove it from the plastic.

Overall, that’s all you need to do to completely drill a hole through a piece of plastic.

Learn how to cut acrylic sheets once you’re done drilling through them.

Drill bit kit

4. Add the Screws

You will want to use wood screws and avoid putting the heads in too deep. If they are in too far, the plastic material will break. You can avoid this by not using a countersink.

Finally, make sure you don’t add the screws too tightly- and you are done! Hard plastics can hold these screws better than soft ones and are less likely to break. You can also find screws that don’t add as much stress to the material.

Screws that use sharp, angled threads with a round shank are the best for plastics. They provide a good amount of strength without as much stress.

Finally, you don’t want to use self-tapping screws. These tools are used on their own to push into the material. They can rip and tear the plastic easily or break down its structure over time.

Drilling Tips for Plastic

If you follow all of these tips, you can be sure that your plastic does not chip or melt.

  • Stop often to avoid overheating
  • Use flood coolants
  • Choose a slow speed
  • Use dowel or spur-point bits
  • Remove sports with sandpaper
  • Always use a clamp
  • Practice on scraps first
  • Try a drill press

Drilling Near Edges

There may be cases where you need to drill near the edges of the plastic. This process can be harder, but it is not impossible. The plastic is more likely to crack along the edges of the sheet.

As a general rule, keep the new hole at least twice the thickness of the plastic away from the edge. So, if you are drilling a 15mm thick plastic sheet, you need to keep the hole at least 30mm away from the ends.

Drilling Deep Holes

Sometimes you may need to drill deep holes into your material. Instead of melting the plastic by running the drill constantly, you use what is known as “peck drilling”.

To do this method, simply push the drill in and release the trigger. You don’t want to cut the whole way through in one shot.

Allow the drill to cool for a minute before continuing on. That way, the heat doesn’t have enough time to build up in the plastic. Taking your time ensures the plastic is not going to melt.

Make sure that you check the hole as you drill to see if the drill is melting the plastic, becoming dull, going too fast, or too deep, which can all cause problems.

Learn how to cut plastic with just your scissors!

How to Drill a Hole in Plastic Without a Drill

You can still drill a hole in plastic, even if you don’t happen to have a drill. This method is harder, but still works in a pinch. You will need these tools:

  • Screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Soldering iron
  • Electric knife

Make sure that you aren’t breathing in the melted plastic since it can be bad for you.

All you need to do is push the soldering iron through the material. If you don’t have this tool, there is an even easier method.

Start by clamping the plastic down, then using the hammer and screwdriver to break through the plastic. This process is simple, but the hole is not going to look that good.

Still, this method is safe and works the best if you find yourself in a pinch.

Learn how to cut a hard plastic box without breaking it.

Summary

If you don’t use the correct tools, you run the risk of chipping, cracking, or even shattering your plastic sheet. Instead, you will want to follow the tips we listed throughout this guide, so that nothing goes wrong for you.

Once you drill plastic for the first time, it gets much easier. We recommend that you try the process on a piece of scrap material before you move onto using your good plastics.

An expert at home repair, remodel, and DIY projects for nearly 40 years. His first experience came in completely restoring an antique home. Completely redone from the inside out, and restored to its original form, the home is a featured design by renowned Southern California Architect Cliff May, considered to be the father of the California Ranch Home. Now Dennis spends his time on fine woodworking projects and tool comparisons.