How to Clean PVC Pipe
by Brooks Owen
Over the past 30+ years of
showing folks how to build PVC furniture a question I’m often asked is, "why clean PVC
pipe before I assemble my PVC project?"
The reason is this...
When you pick up lengths of pipe from the hardware store they’re always dusty, dirty, smudged, and have a few blemishes or grease from shipping, handling and storage. Also, the pipe has the manufacturer's imprint stamped along the length that should be removed if you want your project to look good. And, if you intend to paint your project, it must first be thoroughly cleaned.
All in all, it’s pretty quick ‘n easy to do.
But first, a Disclaimer and a Safety Caution: The following information is subject to t Terms and Conditions page provided elsewhere at this site. Please read it before continuing.
First, wipe off any loose dust
with a damp rag. Then dab a little powdered cleanser onto
a green nylon scouring pad, dampen and clean. Rinse with a
damp rag. Or, apply a household cleaner like Formula
409 with a scouring pad. This will remove most
scuffs and dirt, but not the ink markings.
Now you're ready to remove the manufacturer's imprint from the pipe.
This is, by far, the easiest, quickest and safest way, and is how I do it.
Simply fasten a length of pipe in a vice, or hold it firm by some other means, and sand it off with a palm sander and 220 grit sandpaper. When finished, wipe it down again with a damp cloth.
Caution: Be certain to wear a proper protective dust mask or respirator and use a shop vacuum in conjunction with the sander as you sand along the pipe. Or use a palm sander that has a dust collector fitting. You don't want to breath in the fine PVC dust particulates, which can be dangerous to your health. If you're allergic, or not comfortable with sanding, consider methods 3, 4 or 5.
Lightly sand blemishes and imprints with a low-cost sanding pad. Get one with medium grit on one side, fine grit on the other. (I use the 3-M brand.) You’ll find 'em at most hardware stores.
Sanding pads conform to the pipe’s contour and will remove markings with just a light pressure. As far as I'm concerned, this is the second best way rather than fooling around with the following, more dangerous, methods.
• Apply a very small amount of acetone onto a small chunk of 000 steel wool and begin rubbing.
• Don’t do the
whole pipe at once. Rub short sections (one or
two feet) lengthwise because acetone dries
quickly and the marking dye tends to smear.
• Wipe with an old rag before the acetone dries.
• Replace the ball of steel wool with a new one when you've done about five feet of pipe.
Caution: Wear heavy-duty rubber gloves (such as yellow kitchen gloves) and an eye shield. Be sure to follow the directions on the acetone container. Work in a well ventilated area.
Be sure to properly dispose of the soaked steel wool and/or rag immediately.
I’ve been told that carburetor cleaner will remove the blue lettering used by some manufacturers, as well as erase other stubborn smudges.
Wiping the pipe with lacquer thinner was suggested to me as a removal method.
I’ve not tried methods 4 & 5. But if you do, the same cautions apply as for using acetone in Method #3.
Finally, if you don't want to attempt removing the manufacturer markings, spray the markings with a coat of primer.
One method others have used to bring back a bit of the pipe's glossy appearance is to apply a coat of tire shine or tire cleaner with a paper towel or a clean rag.
However, because the
tire shine contains silicone it makes the pipe
slick, which could cause injury to anyone using
the pipe as a hand or foot-hold.
© 2000 - 2016 by Brooks Owen