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Strip plastic and metal figures using cleaning products

photo by Martin Hodgkiss

This guide will teach you how to remove and strip the paint from all of your old miniatures – plastic and metal. I’ve used this process on Games Workshop / Citadel miniatures in plastic, white metal and lead forms and it works great. You can soak plastics for as long as you like and they will not melt, loose any detail or end up with scratched surfaces. This process also wont touch your glue bonds. I’ve used this process to remove just a single layer of primer through to stripping models which have been primed and painted 2,3, and in one case at least 4 times.

The Dettol will loosen the paint, and then using a combination of your fingers, toothbrush and a tooth pick you will scrub it off. How long this takes depends on the amount of paint on the model and the type of paint used. How much scrubbing depends on how impatient you are.

The guide is written with Brits in mind – using a safe household product (Dettol) that is cheap and easily found in this country. I know it sounds strange to think that an antiseptic disinfectant could paint strip your mini’s, but honestly it really does work.

This method can be replicated with stuff like Simple Green (for folks from the USA and Canada) and Pine-sol as the method is the same.

Please note Brits, you do not need to buy £5-6 a liter worth of Simple Green from their UK site – Dettol works superbly on plastic and metal and is totally safe (both for your mini’s and your health/environment/love lives/ parent relationships!).

Why?


Why strip mini’s?

Why pay games workshop for new models that you already own but were painted at the start of your lobbying journey? Why
not pick up those cheap badly painted mini’s from ebay?

Why write the guide?

Having searched around for a day or so for a decent guide I decided to put all this knowledge in to one place for future paint strippers. This information is all out there and nothing is new – but for shear convince I have compiled it here.

Why isn’t there a GW master-class covering this sort of stuff?

Why do you think.

What You Need

  • Dettol – Antiseptic Disinfectant (Get the brown stuff. DO NOT get the nice smelling stuff (purple/green?) – it wont work)
  • Jam Jar / Plastic Container[/B] – Big enough to submerge your models completely (or at least half in the case of tanks). I highly recommend getting a container/jar with a lid if you don’t like the smell of hospitals…
  • Toothbrush – An old one is fine, if it has a small head you may find it easier to get in between legs. Would not suggest anything too stiff as you are going to be scrubbing your minis with it..
  • Cocktail sticks – Wood ones.
  • Plastic Washing Up Bowl – An old one is best, this will get splatted with nasty funky dettol paint so please don’t use the one your mum uses for the washing up!
  • Rubber Gloves – Whilst not toxic, neat dettol will dry your skin out and make it blister with prolonged exposure. These will get manky so again ask your mum/partner first!
  • Newspaper – For keeping the floor/desk/patio clean
  • Tea Towel- For drying models after – shouldn’t get too manky but again it may be wise to check first
  • That’s it. Nothing deadly, no battery acid or solvents. Everything might well already be sat in your kitchen cupboard…

Safety

  • Don’t drink the dettol you ninny.
  • Leave out of reach of small children and pets. (You may be leaving this stuff lying around for an hour, night or a whole day)
  • Put a lid on your container to escape spouse / parent wrath of doom +10 and to prevent any messy accidents
  • Carry this out in a well aired room or outside – whilst not toxic, you will stink afterwards

Do Not

  • Use water to rinse your models without washing up liquid – you will end up with a superglue like sticky good of paint on your minis! Always rinse by using neat dettol on your tooth brush
  • Expect this to be hugely tidy if your figures have already been painted several times and your in a rush.

Stage 1 – Soak

  • Break apart your minis (optional)
  • Take off the models base (optional)
  • Drop your figures into your container
  • Fill the container with enough neat dettol to cover your models completely .
  • Put the lid on your container
  • Put it somewhere it wont get kicked or mucked about with.

Breaking apart your minis can help the dettol to get in and most importantly makes it much easier for your to scrub off the paint later. I recomend breaking off pieces that come away easy or very badly obscure a part of the model. You really don’t need to do this for all minis. Be careful as very small bits can be hard to pick up in rubber gloves!

Taking off the base can prevent flock from getting in your dettol mixture, and hence this makes it last longer. This shouldn’t be a problem if you use PVA or super glue to stick flock on and alternatively leaving your bases on will let your minis all stand up properly and so let the dettol swish around them. You will be able to do more minis at once if you take the bases off however (but don’t put in so many that the detol can’t reach lots of parts on your minis). If you do take the bases off I suggest you stick a gloved finger in every now and again to jiggle the minis around.

When doing anything with neat dettol or the unrinsed minis I would suggest doing it either outside or in a well ventilated room. This is not really for health reasons (unless you class bruised ears as health reasons…).
Neat dettol stinks, enough said.

When filling the container, remember that anything not covered by dettol will not be stripped. For tanks it may be necessary to strip one half and then flip the model and strip the other.

Stage 2 – Wait

  • Wait some time
  • Scrub off a layer or two of paint (optional)
  • Wait some more time

How long this process takes varies greatly, based on the paint type, amount of paint, model type (metal/plastic), primer type etc

Some of my observation

  • Metal models which have been painted multiple times will need to stand between 4-12 hours.
  • Plastic models painted multiple times will need to stand for about 8-16-24 hours.
  • Metal models which have been primed and painted only once can be ready as quickly as 4 hours.

In order to speed up this process you can scrub some of the paint off and then return the miniature to the dettol stripping pot. Follow the method in stage 3 for scrubbing.

Stage 3 – Scrub

  • Use the toothbrush to remove the loosened paint
  • Use a toothpick to get in the very tight cracks
  • Return the model to the dettol stripping pot and return to stage 2 if needed

RINSE THE MODEL USING NEAT DETTOL – DO NOT APPLY ANY WATER AT THIS STAGE![/B] – Other wise you will end up with a gluey messy model 😉

Using your rubber gloves simply scrub the model with your toothbrush. Put your hands and model inside your washing up bowl to keep stripped paint splatters to a minimum and your ears a healthy pink color. You should see metal, or a much deeper level of paint very quickly (one or two stokes).

If you don’t find this process easy then return the model to the paint stripping pot. If your in a rush, scrub as hard and as long as you like, your toothbrush should not scratch plastic or metal.

If you find the model gets a bit gooey, or you end up with paint fragments dotted around then just get some neat
dettol on your brush and wash it away.

Repeat this process until all of the paint is gone from the model. You can stop earlier if you like, but it is certainly possible to get 99.9% of the paint off the model using this process.

Stage 4 – Rinse

  • Plunge the model into warm soapy water
  • Rinse throughly
  • Towel dry
  • Check for a tacky residue

Once the model is totally stripped, plunge it into a bowl of warm water and washing up liquid. Make sure the water isn’t too hot or you will deform the plastic. The washing up liquid prevents the nasty gumming affect mentioned in the stage 3. Wiggle the model in the water for a while to make sure all the Dettol is off.

If you don’t get the Dettol off then you will find that paint and primer will not hold well to model. Rinse the model in cold water to get off any soap residue once this is done for the same reason.

When the model is dry check for a tacky residue, this will indicate that the model needs a bit more washing 😉

Well done you… guess what, your done!

You will find your mini now smells of Dettol almost as much as you do. This is fine, in both cases the smell will dissipate. You will also find that you figure is free of paint and very, very clean. So much so that metal models shine far more then when you first got them out of a blister.

You can reuse the Dettol if you wish, however I find that after a few paint stripping sessions the solution becomes pretty paint laden and that the stripping effectiveness drops off sharply.

Posted by on March 22 2010. Filed under Blog, Painting. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

11 Comments for “Strip plastic and metal figures using cleaning products”

  1. Great article, nice to see others who have discovered the joy of Dettol for stripping models.

  2. Great article, nice to see others who have discovered the joy of Dettol for stripping models.

  3. Very helpful though i find Fairy Power Spray is very effective also. Soak for a few hours in the spray and scrub with toothbrush under running water and 9/10, the paint just sheds away. Excellent on both metal and plastic.

  4. Very helpful though i find Fairy Power Spray is very effective also. Soak for a few hours in the spray and scrub with toothbrush under running water and 9/10, the paint just sheds away. Excellent on both metal and plastic.

  5. Helpful guide, I’m always eager for those but…anyone caring for people outside UK/US? What products are the most effective (while staying easy to find in supermarkets) for people in EU, or Italy in my specific case?

  6. Helpful guide, I’m always eager for those but…anyone caring for people outside UK/US? What products are the most effective (while staying easy to find in supermarkets) for people in EU, or Italy in my specific case?

  7. thanks for this, it means that i can repaint all my failed necrons from when i started

  8. War Boss Ghark

    thanks man i put some test models in about two-three hours ago and its worked wonderfully so far, tomorrow i'm off to a bigger store to get some more dettol, it'll be cheaper in town rather than the corner store here

  9. Pineapplismaximus

    Brake fluid works just as well but a bit more expensive

  10. Well, just “stole” my wife’s bottle of dettol, guess she’ll have to buy another

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