How To Restore Faded Plastic Toys

I think throwing away toys just because their color has faded away or they’ve become too dirty is a waste of resources. Personally, I’m a huge fan of recycling and restoring stuff and love to do the same with old toys as well. So many people discard their toys, not even realizing once that if the toy’s condition is fine (on the whole), they can restore and transform the toy into a completely different product.

For those who are interested in restoring their old toys but don’t know-how, and those who think of avoiding the headache of doing this job themselves, let me make this very clear- restoring toys at home is VERY EASY. If you want to know how to restore faded plastic toys, just follow these simple steps and get started today itself. 

How To Restore Faded Plastic Toys

1. Choosing The Right Toys For Restoration

The first step involved in restoring old, faded toys is to recognize which ones can be retouched and serviced effectively. Ideally, the toys in which colors have started to wear off slightly, or those with a lot of dirt on the surface are serviceable and can be restored with simple retouching. I’ve visited toy stores in my locality that charge a lot of money for even this simple restoration process.

However, when I tried experimenting myself, I found it extremely easy to clean up the toys like professionals and restore the faded color at home. It should be noted here that plastic toys with damaged or missing parts cannot be restored with regular household resources. 

2. Cleaning The Toys

Now that you have found the right toys for home-based restoration, it is time to get started by cleaning them thoroughly. The most common problem with the toys that have a creaky appearance and faded colors is that they have a lot of dirt on their surface that does not get removed with simple washing.

If you have a hose with high water pressure, it would be best suited for removing the sticky dirt particles from your toy. For outdoor toys like toy cars, you wouldn’t be able to do the cleaning without a good-quality hose pipe. After spraying off the dirt with your hose, just let the toys dry under the sun before proceeding with the restoration process. 

For the restoration of smaller toys having very resistant dirt particles, I find scrubbing off the dirt with hands to be the most effective method. Simply take a bucket full of hot soapy water and rinse the toys followed by vigorous scrubbing. While a good scrub is more than sufficient in 90% of the cases, some people also like using razors or scalpels to peel off highly sticky grime particles from the exteriors of the toy. 

3. Preparations Before Painting

After the toys have been thoroughly cleaned and dried, it is time to get started with the paint job. You can either restore the toy by applying the same paint again or even choose new colors to transform the toy completely. In either case, you will require spray paint to get the job done.

A single can of spray paint costs nearly ten dollars and can be purchased from any local hardware shop. It is better to buy a variety of colors so that they can be used whenever you feel like restoring a toy at home. The best thing about spray paints is that they are easy to apply, and can be used for any kind of plastic restoration. 

To complete the restoration process in an organized way, it would be better if you decide the order of coloring beforehand. It is also important to decide whether any part of the toy has to remain unchanged with respect to the paint. If yes, then you will have to cover that part so that the spray paint does not get splashed over it.

Another important thing to consider is that you should not waste new paint on those parts that come in contact with the ground more often. Even after a good paint job, the color will surely fade on these parts much before the others. 

4. Techniques For Painting

The actual painting technique can be different for different kinds of toys, but some basic instructions remain the same. To start with, keep your equipment and the toy to be painted in an open, well-ventilated room. It will allow the paint to get dried and settled quickly. While using your spray paint, do not try to make the color dense at a particular part right from the beginning. The paint job needs to have a gradual progression to look good. 

a. Make Thin Layers

Begin by making thin layers covering every aspect of your toy evenly. Once all the desired parts are colored equally, then start increasing the color density if needed. Having said that, you should not stop after applying thin layers of color only. Even if the paint is not highly dense, it should certainly be present as a thick layer over the toy so that it does not fade away quickly. What it means is that multiple layers should be created to ensure that a thick coating is present over the surface. 

b. Check From All Angles

Painting the corners of the toy can be a very tricky task. Visualize the toy while painting the corners from all possible angles. It will help you ensure that no aspect of the toy is left uncovered. A good way of doing so is to use a flashlight and check whether any area is left with faded color or not. The painting should be done in stages. Apply the first thin layer all across the toy and then let dry before applying for the next layer. 

Another tip for using the spray paint cans is to avoid moving them in an upward direction. This way, the paint starts spreading away and you will not get a uniform layer. If all goes well, a 24 hour drying period will be more than enough to allow the paint to settle and give your toy a shining new appearance. 

5. Masking And Some Other Tips

As stated before, if you do not want any part to be retouched, then it will be better if you mask it with tape or a tight cloth. Moreover, once the paint has dried up on one part, you should mask it immediately before proceeding to the next part. In general, be careful while masking any aspect of the toy, because if you apply the tape before the paint dries up completely, it will take off the paint later on when you remove the masking. 

When you are applying the second layer, check whether the previous layer provides the right texture to the part or not. If not, then increase the amount of paint that you will apply from here on in stages. For instance, if you wish to change the color of a dark-colored part to a lighter one, you will have to use more paint and add more layers to let the new color be visible over the previous one. 

When you are finished painting all different parts of the toy, you will be left with dozens of masking tapes. These tapes should be removed with a lot of care and never be pulled off in a hurry. In a majority of cases, if you have provided sufficient drying time to the paint, the tape will come off smoothly without removing the paint at all. Lastly, after removing the tapes, you may notice two different colors mixing up with each other at some points. To take care of this, simply take a brush and, with small strokes, paint any part where you notice color bleeding or mixing. Again, just 20 minutes of drying and the paint will settle on the toy effectively. 

6. Finishing Touches

Essentially, the whole retouching and restoring job is over by this stage. It is only if you want to add some finishing touches or decorations of some kind, you can work further on the otherwise restored toy. Some people like to stick items like Chrome grills while others like to add stickers to the toy after the paint job is complete. Whatever you do, just recheck that every part of the toy is dried and the paint does not come off touching.

If this is done, you can do any kind of decoration on the toy to give it an attractive new appearance. Just to give an interesting idea, you can also think of adding LED lights on the toy wherever possible. Keeping a toy plain and simple isn’t the best thing to do after working so hard on the cleaning process and the paint job. 


So, as you can see, completing the restoration of a toy by following these steps is as easy as it gets. I always look forward to using household items to do this retouching, making the entire process even more simple and less expensive. If you’ve got any ideas about the same, do share them with me so that I can mention them in my next guide. For now, get started with restoring your toys at home, and who knows, you end up creating a much more attractive-looking toy than the original one. 

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