Tip – Rubbing Alcohol for Removing Stubborn Gunk

Alcohol – Not Just for Cocktails Anymore

As most of you know, I can be a bit obsessive. I like things nice and neat. While moving, I removed some beautiful lucite shelves from my old bedroom and found that they had taken some of the paint off the wall with them. They couldn’t be used that way without removing that stubborn gunk. So it was rubbing alcohol to the rescue!

Lucite shelf with stuck-on paint

I tried carefully chipping it away with my nail (a sure recipe for a ruined manicure), but it didn’t do the trick. If the pieces had been metal or glass – anything other than plastic, I might have used acetone – my go to solvent for removing stubborn gunk build up, sticker residue and paint from most surfaces. But acetone dissolves plastic, so I would have had a frosted, marred mess on my hands. I chose rubbing alcohol. It’s every bit as good as acetone in removing stubborn gunk, and doesn’t mar the finish of Lucite, acrylic and other plastics.

You’ll need:
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Cotton balls
  • Rubber gloves (optional)

removing stubborn gunk with rubbing alcohol


Begin by peeling away as much of the paint (or other gunky buildup) as you can. With a cotton ball saturated in the rubbing alcohol, begin rubbing away at the mess. It will start to dissolve and clog up your cotton ball. As this happens you’ll want to fold the ball so a clean face of it is exposed. You’ll eventually discard the first ball and move on to the next one. Depending on how much gunk needs to be removed, you may go through several cotton balls. Continue this process until the gunk has been wiped away and the surface is clean. If your surface is metal, glass, ceramic or porcelain, you can use either rubbing alcohol or acetone (nail polish remover), though always test the solvent on a hidden area first – you don’t want to wipe away surface decoration with the gunk!

It takes a bit of elbow grease, but a touch of rubbing alcohol or acetone on a cotton ball will remove all sorts of detritus. I had to use numerous cotton balls, and it was a messy process.

All clean!

But the results are stunning. Just look how clean and clear that corner is now! If you’d like to try removing some stubborn gunk yourself, here are a few tips: As mentioned above, always test the alcohol on a small, hidden corner to be sure it doesn’t mar the finish. Depending on how much paint or build-up you’re trying to remove, it may take some time, and patience. Never smoke while doing this – alcohol (and acetone) is flamable.

It’s so satisfying to see things all nice and clean again!

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