How to Sand Acrylic

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Acrylic is a versatile building material with many applications. Although it is very resistant to damage, it is possible to scratch the surface of acrylic sheets. Cut acrylic sheets are also prone to scratching and clouding along the edges.

Removing these scratches and cloudiness is possible. Learn why they form and how to remove them. This article will explain further how to sand acrylic.

What Is Acrylic? 

Acrylic is a material made from clear plastic. It is stiff, durable, and transparent. Acrylic usually comes in sheets of varying thicknesses, but can also be formed into rods or tubes.

Other names for acrylic are perspex, plexiglass, and acrylic glass. Tint may be added during production to change the color.

Acrylic can be molded to suit a variety of purposes. It is used in varied applications such as airplane windows, bulletproof glass, furniture-making, and display cases.

Acrylic is naturally UV resistant and weatherproof. It is lightweight—about half the weight of glass—and can withstand significant impact without breaking.

How to Sand Acrylic

You can use a sander to fix acrylic that was cut, or to take out scratches in acrylic.

How to Sand Acrylic Edges 

Acrylic can be cut with a jigsaw, dremel rotary tool, circular saw tool, hand saw, or a scoring knife. Lasers are also used in industrial settings. When acrylic is cut, the edge can take on a cloudy appearance. Sanding is necessary to restore the clear appearance of the material.

  1. Choose your workspace. You will need running water for this project, so it’s wise to situate yourself near a sink. You may wish to clamp the workpiece for better control during the sanding process. Use fabric to cushion the clamp and avoid scratching the acrylic.
  2. Protect yourself. Sanding any material releases particulates into the air, and it’s best not to breathe these in. A respirator-type mask that fits snugly around your nose and mouth will filter out particulates.
  3. Gather your materials. You will need at least three grits of waterproof or wet/dry sanding paper: 180, 320, and 600-grit.
  4. Choose a sanding tool. Depending on the shape of the acrylic edge, you may choose an existing sanding implement or fashion your own. A detail sander is an effective power sanding option for acrylic edges. A sanding block or sanding sponge will also work well. You can wrap sandpaper around a dowel or foam block to create a custom sanding tool.
  5. Rough sand the edges. Wet the 180-grit sanding paper and attach it to your sanding tool. Move the sander back and forth across the cut edge of the acrylic to remove any protrusions or unevenness. If sanding starts to slow or become effortful, rinse the sandpaper in the sink to remove clogs.
  6. Smooth the edges. When the edges and corners are even from sanding, switch to 320-grit sandpaper to smooth everything out. Make sure to wet the paper before use and rinse it regularly while sanding. The acrylic should resume its clear appearance and start to become shiny.
  7. Polish the edges. Swap the 320 grit sandpaper for 600 grit. Again, wet the sandpaper before sanding. Sand the cut edges of the acrylic with ultra-fine sandpaper until it is very smooth and very polished.

How to Remove Scratches From Acrylic With a Sander

While it’s difficult to scar this scratch-resistant surface, it is possible for acrylic to become scratched. Scratched acrylic may be difficult to see through, affecting its usability. Or, the scratches may simply be an aesthetic annoyance.

Light and medium scratches can be removed with this method.

  1. Determine the depth of the scratch. Very deep gouges require specialty tools, but moderate and light scratching can be removed in a home workshop.
  2. Acquire your tools. To remove moderate scratches, you will need 600, 800, and 1200-grit sanding paper. For light scratches, only 800 and 1200-grit paper is needed. This method includes wet sanding, so you will also need a source of water. To finish your sanding job you will need two clean, dry clothes and some plastic polish.
  3. Soak the sandpaper. Use sandpaper labeled ‘waterproof’ or ‘wet/dry’. Dunk the sanding paper in water or hold it under a running faucet to get it very wet.
  4. Rub the sandpaper against the acrylic. Start with the lowest grit of sandpaper – 800 for light scratching and 600 for moderate scratches. Rub the wet sandpaper in a circular motion over the scratched area of the acrylic. It is normal for the surface to look cloudy or scratched during this surface.
  5. Continue for two to three minutes. As you rub the acrylic with consistent pressure, the water and acrylic dust will start to form a semi-liquid mixture.
  6. Move up in grit. If you started with 600 grit sandpaper, use the same technique with wet 800 grit sandpaper, rubbing in a circular motion for two to three minutes. You should start to see some of the scratches disappearing.
  7. Finish sanding with 1200 grit sanding paper. The final sanding is done with wet 1200 grit sanding paper. After two to three minutes of wet sanding, the scratches should disappear, leaving the surface clear again.
  8. Wipe the surface. Use a clean, dry cloth to wipe the sanding debris off the surface of the acrylic.
  9. Polish. Use a new, clean, dry cloth to apply acrylic or plastic polish to the surface. Rub the polish into the surface using a circular motion. Several coats of polish may be required to reach your desired results.

Can I Sand Acrylic?

You can sand the surface of acrylic sheets with high-grit sandpaper, as long as you wet the paper and the surface of the acrylic sheet. You can also sand the cut edges of acrylic sheets. Only waterproof sandpaper should be used to sand acrylic.

Using dry sandpaper to sand acrylic is likely to scratch the surface further. To remove very deep gouges, you may need to consult a professional.

Conclusion

Acrylic sheets are smooth and scratch-free when first produced. Scratches can be introduced through impact or other use, or when the acrylic sheets are cut into smaller pieces. Sanding acrylic is possible as long as the gouges aren’t very deep.

Wet sand acrylic using water and wet/dry sandpaper. High grit sandpapers are used to sand acrylic. Rinse your sandpaper frequently to avoid clogs.

Ellenkate grew up on job sites run by her family’s construction company. She earned her theater degree from The Hartt School, a prestigious performing arts conservatory in Connecticut. Her design and DIY work from her Chicago loft was featured in the Chicago Reader and on Apartment Therapy.