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Site Admin
 16 May 2020, 14:41
At some point there's a good chance you'll find yourself wanting to strip some models down to repaint, whether they be old paintjobs you want to redo, failed test models or eBay rescues in need of a fresh start.

I myself have recently started bidding on far too many a perfectly acceptable number of classic models, only to discover that clear information on stripping them is surprisingly difficult to find and lots use products you can't buy where I live. Some guides also recommend using chemicals that are seriously dangerous, which isn't really what I want to be doing. So here I've put together a little guide to help you out - there are seperate guides for metal and plastic models, and you can get the required materials cheaply no matter where you are - no brand names!

Note: this guide does not currently cover resin miniatures, and trying to follow either section to strip resin can/will result in damaged models. For now if you're trying to strip resin I would recommend looking at @Lovecraft0110's topic here.

It might look a little long, but I've tried to cover as much as I can - you may find that some sections aren't as relevant to you as others. Have a read through of the whole thing before you start buying or attempting anything though. The equipment list looks similar for both plastic and metal models, but pay attention to the storage requirements! And before you start, cover your surfaces properly. I was working on top of paper towels, but still took the print off my cutting mat - I hate to think what it would have done to a table or worktop!

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Click the links below for each section of the guide, depending on what you need to strip.

Plastic models

Metal models

Combined metal and plastic models

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Site Admin
 16 May 2020, 14:41
Plastic models

Equipment list:

99.9% isopropyl alcohol (also known as IPA or isopropanol)
This stuff is brilliant! It also seems to be the reason that Dettol, Simple Green (US) etc work. Don't let your Librarians find out about it, because I think it might be some kind of sorcery!
The brand, packaging and intended use doesn't matter so long as the ingredients only list 99.9% isopropyl alcohol and water (due to the manufacturing process 0.1% water is to be expected). I've used IPA before that was actually meant for removing fake nails - the colouring agent it contained wasn't an issue.
For those in the UK I've been buying mine from here.
As a little bonus, you don't need to clean this stuff off your models, as it evaporates completely - they use it in labs to clean equipment for that very reason!

A suitable container
I use one that's completely airtight so that I don't lose any IPA. Think tupperware/similar or glass, and big enough for the models you want to strip (make sure you'll be able to fill it enough to cover your models - if you only have 500ml of IPA and one model to strip don't use a 3 litre tub!)

A toothbrush
New, old, whatever. Stiff bristles. Just don't brush your teeth with it when we're done!

Wooden toothpicks
Or something similarly pointy, but not too sharp.

Paper towels

Protective equipment
What we're doing is fairly safe, but you still need to be careful. Breathing in these chemicals isn't good for you, even though they evaporate quite quickly. Make sure you have proper ventilation! If you can get one a proper mask that will protect from vapours is also good, but ventilation is key. Similarly getting this stuff in your mouth or especially eyes isn't going to be fun. You'll find it much harder to paint if you lose your eyesight, so don't be silly here! Lastly suitable gloves (marigolds are pretty solid, latex or nitrile should do the job) are recommended to stop your skin drying out or being damaged. In short sessions I've found my hands to be okay, but that doesn't mean you should take the risk!
Oh, and don't smoke near where you're working. Many chemicals (including what we'll be using) can be lit just from their vapours. Again, VENTILATION!

For our younger readers you might want to commandeer an adult to give you a hand. Seriously.

Now, on to...


Mostly drinking tea! โ˜•

Image
Once you've checked off all the above, find some models to strip! I would also recommend running a test using old sprue or models you don't care about. I've had no issues, but that doesn't mean everything will go perfectly for you!
For this guide I'm using a Dark Angels sergeant I aquired from eBay. As you can see there's a layer of black primer and one of dark green. Nothing too thick, but it will serve our purposes perfectly well.


The first thing to do is put your models in your container, fill with isopropyl alcohol until fully submerged, and seal tight.

Now go and put the kettle on and come back tomorrow. Yes, really! This stuff can work in just minutes, but I like to put them in and just come back whenever I have time. The ISO won't do any damage, don't worry - you can leave plastic in it for weeks and it'll be fine!

Tomorrow we can begin...


Initial scrubbing!

Once we've left the alcohol to do its job we can get to scrubbing. Use your toothbrush, and don't worry too much about being gentle - your models are tougher than you think! Just keep your brush and model wet with alcohol and take care around obviously thin or delicate bits to make sure you don't bend or snap them.

This is the result of just a couple of seconds brushing. Not bad eh? (ignore the brushes at the top and bottom -I needed to hold the paper towel down in the breeze and they were to hand!)

Image
As you can see above this stuff will take off paint without damaging (or it seems even softening) the plastic parts of your model. The below picture has been included to show that IPA can quickly get rid of the multiple thicker layers of paint you might encounter.
Image

As a note, polystyrene cement (or 'plastic glue') isn't affected by this stuff, so the bonds between the pieces of the model won't weaken at all.


So, now we've had a good scrub we should hopefully have made quite a dent in the paintjob. There's a good chance that there will be some (or even quite a lot!) left however.
All manner of things can affect how easily the paint comes away: what brand of undercoat or paints were used, the thickness of the paint or the number of layers, whether the model was sealed with varnish...
So what do we do? Firstly have a look in the little nooks and crannies. If they're still full of paint then jump in with your toothpick and see if you can't clean them out a little. By using something like a toothpick we can remove paint without a sharp point potentially damaging any details.
Then get your model or brush head back in the tub. Getting rid of paint can take a little time, patience and elbow grease, so after applying more alcohol we can move on to...


Further scrubbing!

Yay, more scrubbing! ๐ŸŽ‰

Basically, do again what you've already done. Repeatedly if you really have to. Get rid of as much paint as you can before moving on to the following step.


You're finished! (or "when it's okay to give up")

So how long do we scrub for? Either until the model is clean, or until it can't be cleaned any more.

If your model is nothing but plastic then congratulations, you win!

Image

You may however find that while it looks and feels like the paint is gone, there is still colour on the plastic. This is perfectly acceptable, so long as there's no loss of detail, and undercoating isn't going to leave you with a horrible blob. Sometimes the plastic can end up stained by the paint (possibly as a result of the chemicals used to clean it!), and there's nothing you can do but cover it with a nice new paintjob!*


* this guide is purely for removing paint, if you want to actually apply it then there's better people to ask than me!
User avatar
Site Admin
 16 May 2020, 14:41
Metal models

Equipment list:

99-100% pure acetone
This stuff is nasty, but brilliant. It doesn't play nicely with plastic however, so be careful. As with IPA in the plastic section of the guide, it doesn't matter what kind you get, just make sure it's pure.
If you've ever tried stripping models in nail polish remover, this stuff is probably why it worked (or too low a concentration of this stuff might be why it didn't!)
For those in the UK I've been buying mine from here.

A suitable container
Acetone is difficult to store, because it can eat through many kinds of plastic. You want to be using LDPE (low density polyethylene) for short storage, but ideally glass or metal. Make sure you don't have lid seals the acetone might damage (silicone, for example). And lastly, try not to let it get too hot and don't be shaking it about to stop pressure building up. Whatever you choose, make sure you can fill it enough to cover your models - if you only have 500ml of acetone and one model to strip don't use a 3 litre container!
For this guide I'm using a jar that previously contained pickled onions - it was only a pound and I don't like them anyway! Worth noting is that I don't know what the plastic seal in the lid is made out of, but I won't be using this for long-term storage - the onion smell never goes away!

A toothbrush
New, old, whatever. Stiff bristles. Just don't brush your teeth with it when we're done!

Wooden toothpicks
Or something similarly pointy, but not too sharp.

Paper towels

Protective equipment
What we're doing is fairly safe, but you still need to be careful. Breathing in these chemicals isn't good for you, even though they evaporate quite quickly. Make sure you have proper ventilation! If you can get one a proper mask that will protect from vapours is also good, but ventilation is key. Similarly getting this stuff in your mouth or especially eyes isn't going to be fun. You'll find it much harder to paint if you lose your eyesight, so don't be silly here! Lastly suitable gloves (latex will give very little protection, nitrile also almost none, but acetone will get through pretty much all rubber gloves pretty quickly) are recommended to stop your skin drying out or being damaged. In very short sessions I've found my hands to be okay, but that doesn't mean you should take the risk - they go numb very quickly!
Oh, and don't smoke near where you're working. Many chemicals (including what we'll be using) can very easily be lit just from their vapours. Again, VENTILATION!

For our younger readers you might want to commandeer an adult to give you a hand. Seriously.

Now, on to...


Mostly drinking tea! โ˜•

Image
Image
Once you've checked off all the above, find some models to strip! I would also recommend running a test using an old model you don't care about. I've had no issues, but that doesn't mean everything will go perfectly for you!
For this guide I will be using the terminator above. An eBay rescue, you can see that there's multiple layers of paint thick enough to obscure the details, and it desperately needs some love!
(if the person who sold these is reading, I'm sorry!)

Now before you do anything, make sure there's no plastic on the model. Remove bases/backpacks etc if necessary. Acetone will turn plastic to sludge, and we don't want that! If you have plastic parts you can't remove, head back to the first post and find the guide on mixed metal/plastic stripping.


Now we know we're only dealing with metal you can put your model/s in your container. Fill with acetone until fully submerged, and seal tight.

At this point I think you've earned a break, so go and put the kettle on and come back tomorrow. No, honestly! Some people reckon this stuff can be effective in as little as fifteen minutes, but I'm leaving it overnight just to make sure. After all, that paint really is thick!

As a little aside, this picture was taken ~15 minutes after the acetone was added to my jar. It was clear to begin with!
https://i.imgur.com/HcIgieX.jpg
When I came back to take the models out you couldn't see into it!

And tomorrow...


The first scrubbing!

Once we've left the acetone to do its job we can get to scrubbing. Use your toothbrush, and don't worry too much about being gentle - these metal models are solid. If I dropped this outside it would probably damage the concrete more than the Terminator!
Just keep the model wet with acetone, watch out for flimsy bits like banner poles and give it a scrub!

Image
This is how our Terminator looked when I pulled him out. He looks all puffy because the layers of paint are that thick they're simply falling off!

Image

A light touch with the brush and it's peeling away beautifully! Told you this stuff was brilliant - several layers of paint gone in moments! Around the back the paint came off almost in one, and even kept its shape!

Image

Acetone has the added benefit of completely getting rid of super glue for us too, so we can properly clean and then reassemble our models. For difficult to access joins a little pressure might be required, or cleaning paint from the join to let the acetone in, but it will do the job!


So, now we've had a good scrub we should hopefully have made quite a dent in the paintjob. There's a chance that there will be some (or even quite a lot!) left however. Not all models will clean up as easily as this, and when you scrub it will almost look like you're giving the model a silver drybrush as the paint comes off.
All manner of things can affect how easily the paint comes away: what brand of undercoat or paints were used, the thickness of the paint or the number of layers, whether the model was sealed with varnish...
So what do we do? Firstly have a look in the little nooks and crannies. If they're still full of paint then jump in with your toothpick and see if you can't clean them out a little. By using something like a toothpick we can remove paint without a sharp point potentially damaging the surfaces of the model.
Then get your model or brush head back in the tub. Getting rid of paint can take a little time, patience and elbow grease, so after applying more acetone we can move on to...


Further scrubbing!

Yay, more scrubbing! ๐ŸŽ‰

Basically, do again what you've already done. Repeatedly if you really have to. Get rid of as much paint as you can before moving on to the last step.


You're finished! (or "when it's okay to give up")

So how long do we scrub for? Either until the model is clean, or until it can't be cleaned any more.

If your model is nothing but shiny metal then congratulations, you win!

Image

You may however find that while it looks and feels like the paint is gone, there is still colour on the metal. This is perfectly acceptable, so long as there's no loss of detail, and undercoating isn't going to leave you with a horrible blob. Sometimes the metal can end up stained by the paint (possibly as a result of the chemicals used to clean it!), and there's nothing you can do but cover it with a nice new paintjob!*

Before you do so however, I would recommend giving it quick bath. Acetone can leave a slight residue on the model, which isn't ideal for priming on top of. A quick wash in 99.9% isopropyl alcohol will fix that however. If you've read the plastic or mixed metal/plastic sections of this guide then you probably already have some in a container!

* this guide is purely for removing paint, if you want to actually apply it then there's better people to ask than me!
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Site Admin
 16 May 2020, 14:41
Mixed plastic and metal models

This section is less a guide in its own right, and more a combination of the other two.

Sometimes you'll find yourself with a model made from both metal and plastic components. In this case, neither acetone or isopropyl alcohol (the two chemicals we're using, if you haven't yet read the rest of this guide) are best for cleaning the whole model.
The plastic components will melt in acetone, so we need to use IPA, but this will weaken the super glue bonds that were (hopefully) used to join the metal components, which are better cleaned in acetone anyway.

The plan, therefore, is to start as though you were stripping a plastic model. By the time you get to the 'initial scrubbing' stage (don't worry about scrubbing yet!) of the plastic guide the superglue holding the pieces together should be nice and weak. I've found that sometimes it goes brittle, sometimes sticky, but either is easier to work with. A little bit of pressure should take the metal components off quite easily, allowing you to strip the plastic and metal components separately using their respective sections of the guide.
If the metal pieces won't come away, remove any paint surrounding the join, re-soak your model and try again now the alcohol has had more time to work.

The super glue that remains on the plastic section of the model will hopefully be nice and soft, and come away with your paint. If however it remains stubborn then rubbing very carefully with a very small amount of acetone on a cotton bud (or Q-tip for our American friends) should help get rid of it. Be careful here, as the acetone can and will damage the plastic on your model - we only want to get rid of the glue!

Once all your pieces are separate you can get to the real task at hand using the rest of this guide. Good luck!
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Site Admin
 16 May 2020, 17:37
FAQ

How do I dispose of leftover chemicals?

My first answer is don't! So long as you're using an airtight container and store them out of direct sunlight (acetone in particular doesn't like being heated up that much, and doing so can cause a pressure build up) then you can simply save them until you next have something to strip.

If however you've gotten to a point where the chemicals have become really murky, sludgy or are otherwise past their best (personally I find acetone worse for this) they maybe it's time to start from fresh.
The process for this is actually very easy - both ISO and acetone will kindly evaporate if you leave them open! Simply open your container and leave it somewhere safe and secure outside, and wait until nothing is left. If there is paint/glue residue that's solidified inside the container simply use your cleaning chemicals and some paper towel to get rid of them, and your container should be good as new.
(For acetone once it's evaporated I prefer to simply dispose of the glass jar and get a fresh one, as there's usually one to hand and it's easier than cleaning them out)


Why use different chemicals for plastic and metal models?

When choosing the chemicals for this guide I had 4 main criteria. They had to be available anywhere (so no brand names), affordable, strong enough to remove paint and not damage the models you're stripping.

Acetone is very good at removing paint (and super glue!), and won't damage metal, which makes it perfect for your older pewter models. It will, however, damage plastic, so make sure you take plastic bases off if you don't want them melting to your models!

Isopropyl alcohol is strong enough to remove paint (and weaken super glue, too), but even with extended exposure won't have any effect on plastic. You can use it to strip metal models too, but you'll have an easier time if you use acetone.

Both of these chemicals can damage resin models however, so please do not use them on Forgeworld, Finecast or any other models with resin components - and if you do don't blame me if it goes wrong! This guide will be updated with a resin section if and when I can find a chemical that suits the above four criteria - if you have any suggestions here feel free to drop me a PM!


Can I use chemicals at lower concentrations?

You may find that under the kitchen sink you've got a bottle of 70% IPA hand sanitiser or 90% acetone nail polish remover. Technically you can use these, but your results simply won't be as good as they would be if you used purer chemicals because the remaining percentage is made up of stuff that doesn't help us strip paint. Both ISO and acetone are cheap to buy, so for best results go pure.
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Full Member
 16 May 2020, 21:07
Brilliant guide mate!!!! Really in depth but still simple to follow!!! Nice to see one of my old minis getting a clean up! The dv sergeant is a great model.
Think I'm going to get myself both of these. Acetone and isopropyl. Plenty of takeaway tubs around too ๐Ÿคฃ
Got rotbringers sorcerer and daemon prince that'll need stripping!

Also was your cutting board green before? Looks better in that colour ๐Ÿคฃ
Last edited by pawl on 16 May 2020, 21:11, edited 1 time in total. Reason: Cleaning up double post
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Site Admin
 16 May 2020, 21:15
Cheers man! I'll get round to the FAQ when I can be bothered, but the resin addition might take a while as I haven't worked with it before.

I wasn't a fan at first but he's grown on me as a sculpt, I must admit!

You can find both on Amazon and eBay easily enough. At the minute I'm having better luck (and cheaper prices) on eBay, as Amazon aren't stocking a lot it would seem. Just don't forget to check the storage requirements in both sections!
I would recommend buying by the litre at least. I've used ~300ml of acetone today stripping a handful of figures (the jar happened to hold what I could fit in my hand!) and the half that hasn't evaporated is brown and full of paint and bits, and will need replacing tomorrow.

Nope, purple on one side and pink on the other ๐Ÿ˜‚
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Full Member
 16 May 2020, 23:51
Have you stripped the rest of the dv guys? Can't wait to see them all built.

I'll have a look and keep you posted! Thanks for this!
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Site Admin
 17 May 2020, 00:20
Not yet. I've got a load of metal models sat in my iso to soften up the super glue while I was waiting on acetone. I could only find it in small volumes on Amazon and I've already made it, so now I've been on eBay I've got some more coming. Once that arrives I can finish this metal batch, and move the next lot out of the iso, which will free up space for plastic.

Must admit that I'm impressed with how well the acetone is working - I've tried nail varnish remover in the past and it's not in the same league as the pure stuff. What's left in the jar is a thick brown colour, and some of the models had basically stripped themselves! This batch will go back into the new stuff though, just for a surface clean. By the end of my session earlier the acetone was leaving colour on the models due to how much paint was in it!

The one I've got on the way is this stuff.

Image

A litre was a shade cheaper than I paid for 300ml on Amazon, and some of their other listings go up to 5L I think. I would have bought more to save money in the long run but I have storage space to think about!
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Full Member
 22 May 2020, 00:45
I've ordered some isopropyl alcohol.
I made a boo boo. Put a new wash on the gangers on tuesday and the paint started peeling and bubbling again... even after two days of drying. People really don't tell you, you need to varnish the hell out of stuff if your going to go over it ๐Ÿ˜ซ
So I've been abit meh with painting last couple of days and I'm gna strip them and start again.
My big order from wayland turned up finally. So I think I'm going to start one of my contemptors since I've got all the weathering pigments to try!
Hope you've had some better fortune in hobbying than me this week ๐Ÿ˜€
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