Wednesday 16 January 2013

An Italian Striptease

Stripping miniatures down to naked metal can sometimes be a bit of a tease. Over the years I have found that removing acrylic paint from a miniature can either be easy or it can be an absolute pain in the posterior. I'm trying to strip old paint from some of 6mm Italian Tanks and normally I have found that a good long soak overnight in very soapy water softens the paint. A quick scrub with a brush and the paint usually lifts off easily... but this time it just isn't shifting.

*Removing paint from old miniatures can be difficult. There are lots of techniques for stripping acrylic paint from metal, but most require some patience and a little bit of elbow grease. The basic method is to soak your miniatures in one of the paint removing mediums listed below for 6-12 hours and then use an old toothbrush to remove the softened paint. This process may need to be repeated several times to get all the paint removed. I've used several products over the years so here are a few of the more popular examples for returning your lead miniatures to bare metal ready for repainting. Some of the products listed may not be available in every country so I have tried to give generic names or alternatives where possible.

Washing Detergent - Normal washing-up liquid can help soften acrylic paints although it takes 6-12 hours of soaking and some scrubbing with a toothbrush afterwards. 

Pinsol / Pine oil - Good on Acrylics and Enamels. Soak miniature for at least 6 hours, longer if possible & remove with a soft brush. May require several applications. Best not to use this on plastic models but can produce good results removing acrylics from metal after only 2-3 hrs.

Dettol - This is a method endorsed by the Angry Lurker and has the advantage that the waste liquid is biodegradable and safe for the environment. Only use the original 'brown' version of this antiseptic disinfectant; it'll stink the house out so this might be worth doing outside or in a well ventilated area. 

Castrol Super Clean - A non smelly product that is also bio-degradable and is safe to use on plastic models as well. This product contains Sodium Hydroxide and can produce excellent results after only 6 hrs. The main drawback is that this product comes in a gallon can which is probably more than anyone needs for this type of job.

Simply Green - A 2-Butoxethanol based product that can be used on Plastic or metal models. Best used as a soak rather than sprayed or brushed on. The product is Non Toxic, Biodegradable and non corrosive. Gives good paint removal after only a couple of hours but for best results soak for 12 hours.

Oven Cleaner - This is another product that uses Sodium Hydroxide as its main active ingredient. There are lots of different products available but the one that get mentioned often in various miniatures/painting forums is Easy-Off Oven Cleaner. Soaking produces the best results after 6hrs.

Brake Fluid - Can be bought in relatively small quantities from any garage. Brake Fluid gives best results after 24hrs soaking so this isn't a fast option. Safe to use on plastics but needs to be disposed of responsibly as it is harmful to the environment.

Dawn Power Dissolver - Recommended by the guys at From the Warp this product can produce results in a little as 20 minutes. Because it is a foam it can be sprayed on to the model and left to do its stuff, but be careful not to spray it onto anything you don't want stripped!

Nail Polish Remover / Acetone - Easy to acquire but smelly as hell. Use in a well ventilated area and soak your model for at least 6 hrs. Do not use on plastic miniatures unless you want them to turn into slag.

There are several other products that I have read about, but the application and results are (allegedly) broadly the same. Some of these such as Linseed Oil and regular DIY store paint stripper are fairly logical options. Others like Lighter Fluid sound distinctly dangerous and then there are the weird and wacky options such as Coca-Cola and Distilled Water.

Aside from the paint removing medium you will need some or all of the following tools to clean your models. Most people won't have a problem with any of the products listed but some may have a chemical allergic reaction so its always a good precaution is to wear some latex gloves. A ceramic or metal container to soak your miniatures in. An old toothbrush is also essential. Regardless of what method you use an good scrub with a toothbrush can help lift loose paint and get in those hard to reach spots. An absorbent cloth or paper towel to mop up spills... trust me this is essential. A small bit chamie leather to grip the model with while scrubbing. This is soft enough not to damage the casting and can be washed out between uses. The tool of last resort is the dental pick which lets you get in the deepest recesses and remove those stubborn bits of paint.

*I first published this article in December 2009 but thought it worth a second posting (with a few updates) considering the problems I have recently encountered cleaning old miniatures. I'll be using the Dettol method (its the 'Reject Way' apparently) and will report back here on the results. 


  1. A very comprehensive list. Italian Strippers in the title, I thought it was going to be about their parliament!

  2. I've tried several products over the years with varying degrees of success. This current batch of Italian tanks are proving particularly stubborn to clean. The paint already on them is really thick, rock hard and even the Dettol soak is having a hard time softening the paint.

  3. Dettol is my Stripper of preference. Downside; The smell and the fact that the acrylic paint comes off in layers - like clingfilm.


  4. I don't know - sucking us into reading your blog under false pretences. There I was thinking that this would be an AAR of a bunga bunga party you'd been to! ;)

    I've been getting good results with Tesco pine floor cleaner/disinfectant, but when that hasn't worked have resorted to nail polish remover.

    With regards to containers for soaking, plastic food storage containers are OK as they are made from polypropylene which is resistant to most chemicals.

  5. I just bought some Fairy Power Spray but have yet to try it.


  6. Good post and review. I've never tried to strip a model, but have at least one I should try this on.

  7. I prefer the pine oil / Pinesol method. Works well and smells nice.

  8. Just remember to wash your hands before you go to the loo!

  9. Must admit I am a fan of the Simplegreen.

  10. i use acetone "free" nail polish remover. it works just the same as normal acetone based nail polish remover, but can be used on plastic. also, it won't destroy your tooth brush like normal nail polish remover.

    the only caveat, if left to soak overnight the mini's will soften slightly, but thats "only" if you if have left them for 24hrs. just soak them for 2 hrs, brush with a toothbrush and hey presto job done, clean plastic minis.

    i tried using dettol a few times, but the smell, mess & never being able to completely remove the residue & smell for the mini's after cleaning them made me look for something else.

    give it a go on an old rubbish plastic mini and see what you think.

  11. Hello from an Italian :)
    I learnt that, often, products available in a continent are not so commom in another.
    What i use with a 90% chance of succes is the ChanteClair "degreaser":
    i think it is a pretty common product, perhaps also in the US.

    Leave the miniatures (no matter if plastic or metal) in a glass submerged by that thing and they will come out clean, with a minimum of brushing for the recesed parts. You can repeat the "bath" with a new glass of degreaser, if needed, after a couple of days.

    - it soften the superglue, making it become like a gel. So you may need reassembling
    - Some of my miniatures still have the smell of the degreaser, even after being primed and repainted a year ago. I guess it was the "soft" plastic they were made. The smell is not bad, anyway, and subtle. But you'll notice it when you open the box after some time.



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