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How to strip plastic and metal figures using cleaning products!

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 litre 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/enviroment/love lives/ parent realtionships!).


Why strip mini’s? Why pay games workshop for new models that you already own but were painted at the start of your hobbying 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 Disenfectant (Get the brown stuff. DO NOT get the nice smelling stuff (purple/green?) – it wont work)
  • Jam Jar / Plastic Container – Big enough to submerge your models completely (or at least half in the case of tanks). I highly reccomend geting a container/jar with a lid if you don’t like the smell of hospitals…
  • Touth Brush – 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…


  • 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 detol 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 detol 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, nuff 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

– Other wise you will end up with a gluey messy model

Using your rubber gloves simply scrub the model with your touthbrush. Put your hands and model inside your washing up bowl to keep stripped paint splatters to a minimum and your ears a healthy pink colour. 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.

Posted by on August 5 2010. Filed under Painting. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

6 Comments for “How to strip plastic and metal figures using cleaning products!”

  1. Are you by any chance Red.Sight on Heresy Online as well? I’m just curious this exact text has been floating around on the internet for the better part of 8 months. It can be found in discussions on Heresy Online and Warseer as well as mentioned and quoted in the forums at BLoS and TauOnline. Its not bad advice, appart from using completely toxic chemicals and all its a good idea. Still it would be nice for new content.

  2. Melvin McSnatch

    Castrol Super Clean, a degreaser found usually in the automotive aisle (WalMart)worked perfect for me when I stipped an entire army a few years back. I soaked them ovenight in a bucket of diluted Super Clean and did some easy scrubbing with a toothbrush. Worked on both metal and plastic. Works as well as “Purple Tiger”, an industrial strength degreaser they use in every restaurant in America.

    Use gloves and avoid exposure to eyes — labeled as a biodegradable chemical but still toxic.

  3. Petite Francois

    You can use Pine-Sol on plastic minis to some effect. I let my mini's soak for 30 minutes and roughly 75% of the paint came off with the plastic undamaged. Pine-sol does not harm the bond of testor's model glue, but does dissolve Elmer's white glue. Definitely there are better more thorough cleaners to use on plastics, but in a pinch, Pine-sol may have to do…


  4. I tried Pine-sol on metal and plastic model. I let it soaked for 48 hours. It worked great on the metal model but not so well on plastic as it melted the surface of the model and eliminated some of the details.

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