How to remove crayon from plastic

If you have kids, it’s inevitable. At some point you’ll need to know how to remove crayon from plastic. And while there are any number of ways to do it, I haven’t found anyone else mentioning the easiest way to clean up stray crayon marks. So I’ll share my secret.

Popular ways to remove crayon from plastic

remove crayon from plastic
Sometimes crayon marks get where they aren’t supposed to be. When this happens, you’ll want this neat trick to remove crayon marks from plastic with lighter fluid.

I’ve heard of a lot of ways to remove crayon from plastic and they all work, with varying degrees of effort. You can use magic erasers, dish soap, really hot water, or baking soda. You can also use some combinations of them.

The only problem with these methods is that it will be a project. There’s a faster way.

Remove crayon from plastic the easy way

To remove crayon from plastic, I use lighter fluid. Lighter fluid works quickly to dissolve the wax crayon marks, and it doesn’t harm the plastic. The active ingredient in lighter fluid is Naphtha, which is a very effective cleaner that especially works well on grease and wax. Most discount stores and pharmacies carry lighter fluid, which normally is used to refill cigarette lighters. It’s not as easy to find as it once was, but stores still carry it. You can also buy a quart of Naphtha at hardware and home improvement stores. This may be cheaper, although a quart will probably last a long time.

I’ve used this on my kids’ toys, and I’ve also used it to clean up and restore vintage toys with decades-old crayon marks on them. I think it works a bit more easily on fresh crayon marks but the overall principle is the same regardless.

What you’ll need

To remove crayon marks from plastic with lighter fluid or Naphtha, you’ll just need a few supplies.

  • Lighter fluid or Naphtha (of course)
  • Paper towels
  • Kitchen rubber gloves, such as for dishwashing
  • Cotton swabs
  • A scrub brush

How to remove crayon from plastic with lighter fluid

The trick is to soak the affected area with a bit of lighter fluid and let it sit for a couple of minutes. Let it soak into the crayon. Without doing anything at all, you’ll start to notice the color dissolving into the fluid.

If the surface is smooth, you can probably just wipe the crayon and lighter fluid away with a paper towel. It’s a good idea to wear kitchen rubber gloves, like for dishwashing, while you do this.

If the surface has a texture, you’ll need to scrub a bit. Cotton swabs are fine for small areas. If the crayon marks cover a lot of area, you might want to use some kind of scrub brush. Squirt a bit more lighter fluid onto the cotton swab or the scrub brush, then go over the marks until you see them fade. Once you see more color dissolve into the lighter fluid, wipe it away with a towel. Apply a bit more fluid if needed, then scrub a bit more. You shouldn’t have to repeat very many times. The naphtha evaporates quickly, leaving behind a clean surface.

The same trick works just as well to remove stickers, tape, or adhesive residue from the plastic.

It’s part of their nature for kids to want to draw on things with crayons. It’s even the subject of a widely popular children’s book, Harold and the Purple Crayon. Fortunately, if one of your kids goes all Harold on their toys, your computer, or your lawn furniture, it’s not terribly hard or expensive to clean it up. And if you see a low price on a vintage toy because someone went all Harold on it way back when, buy it. You won’t have much trouble cleaning it up, and you’ll get a bargain.

You can use similar methods to remove paint from plastic too.

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