How to Clean Acrylic and Lucite

Living room with acrylic or lucite coffee table
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Overview
  • Working Time: 5 mins - 1 hr
  • Skill Level: Beginner

The profile of clear, glass-like tables, chairs, and decorative items made from transparent thermoplastic (methyl methacrylate) add a modern and space-expanding touch to any decor. Labeled as acrylic, Plexiglas (Rohm's trademark name), or Lucite (Dupont's trademark name), these clear items are often called ghost furniture because the pieces almost disappear when you look at the room and the furniture works well in small spaces and when you don't want to hide a magnificent view.

Acrylics were developed in the late 1920s and brought to the market in the 1930s. Helena Rubinstein commissioned Hungarian designer Ladislas Medgyes in 1939 to create an illuminated acrylic bed and suite of furniture for her New York City apartment and acrylic chairs for business meetings. During World War II, almost all of the production of acrylics went to the war effort. After the war, acrylic furniture began to appear on the consumer market, peaking in popularity in the 1960s and '70s.

Manufacturers also discovered that acrylics work well for shower doors, glass replacement in picture frames, room dividers, and screens. Acrylics made a resurgence in home furnishings in the 2000s thanks to the material's flexibility, light refraction abilities, and cost. Difficult to break, acrylic furniture is easy to clean and maintains its prized transparency with the help of just a few products.

How Often to Clean Acrylic and Lucite

Removing dust or dirt that obscures the sparkling clear quality of acrylics is key. Weekly dusting will help prevent excessive build-up that can lead to scratches that mar the surface. If scratches do occur, they should be treated as soon as possible before they multiply or get deeper, making them harder to remove.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Microfiber cloths
  • Hair dryer
  • Bucket

Materials

  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Acrylic cleaner

Instructions

  1. Remove Dust

    Dust may seem innocuous, but each speck is just a tiny piece of dirt that may have sharp edges that can scratch acrylics. To prevent scratches, never dust acrylics with a dirty or lint-producing (cotton) dust cloth. Use a clean, slightly damp microfiber cloth.

    One way to make sure you are not causing scratches by rubbing too hard or dragging the dust particles across the surface is to use a handheld hair dryer. Set the dryer to cool air and blow away the surface dust. Hold the hairdryer at a 45-degree angle several inches away from the surface and run top-to-bottom, side-to-side down the surface.

  2. Remove Fingerprints and Soil

    Acrylic furniture and accessories can be cleaned with just a dishwashing liquid and warm water solution. In a clean bucket, mix a few drops of dishwashing liquid in a gallon of warm water.

    Dip a clean microfiber cloth in the soapy water and wring until it is just damp. Starting at the top of the acrylic piece, wipe down each section. There is no need to rinse with clean water unless you used too much soap and the finish looks dull. Allow the piece to air-dry.

    If you prefer to use a commercial acrylic cleaner, Brillianize is a reputable choice. Simply follow the product label directions for use.

    Warning

    One of the worst things you can do to acrylic pieces is to use any type of cleaner that is abrasive or contains ammonia. Gritty cleaners will leave hundreds of minute scratches that will dull the surface. Ammonia, often found in window glass cleaners, leaves the acrylic surface cloudy and can cause permanent damage.

  3. Clean Away Scratches

    If scratches have dulled the surface of acrylic pieces, use a commercial acrylic cleaner like Novus 7100 Plastic Polish Kit. The kit offers formulas to remove both light and heavier scratches. Follow the product label directions carefully to help buff away the problems.

Tips to Keep Your Acrylic and Lucite Furniture Looking Great

  • Remove dust frequently to prevent excessive build-up.
  • Use the right cleaning tools and products to prevent scratches and discoloration.
  • Use a gentle touch when cleaning: no scrubbing or scouring.
  • Never use ammonia-based products for cleaning acrylics.
  • Use protective pads under metal objects to prevent scratches to tabletops.
  • Do not drag or slide items across an acrylic surface. Lift and place items carefully to prevent unnecessary scratches.
  • Protect the items from excessive UV rays and extreme changes in temperature, which can cause damage to less expensive acrylic pieces.
  • When storing acrylic furniture, cover items with a bedsheet or dust cover and store them in a climate-controlled area.