Work-Safe Stripping Models

First post on miniature wargaming! About time!

I’ve noticed over the past year that this hobby is not designed for random searches on a work computer. More than once, I’ve been blocked by an internal filter from searching for sites that describe ‘paint stripping model acrylic’. It got worse when I tried to look for ‘latex’ – I quickly clarified that with ‘model latex rubber’ and wished I hadn’t! These are, of course, perfectly innocent search terms to a wargamer but some overzealous web monitors don’t always get the context…

Unrelated to these searches, I came across A Year of Frugal Gaming last year. It is a one-man project to ‘spend less, game more’ and is extremely interesting – offering game reviews, money-saving tips, modelling projects on a budget and advice on how to make some money from your hobby too! One of the most useful tips was how to remove paint from plastic models… effectively, completely, quickly and without damaging the model.

The secret is Dettol antiseptic disinfectant.

I too, now, know the joy of wandering around a house in marigolds, holding a toothbrush and stinking of disinfectant. I have, in my collection, a lot of partially painted and poorly undercoated models from the mid-90’s, when I started collecting Dark Elves. I’ve been looking for a way to strip the paint from these models for a long time, so I can start again with the experience I’ve gained since then. There’s models undercoated white (a nuisance for an evil army to paint over), most of them done with car body spray rather than proper acrylic spray (it was cheaper back then…) and most effective paint-stripping techniques have a tendency to melt plastic.

What I’ve Learned While Dettol De-painting:

  • Wear marigolds, and remove wedding rings!
    My fingers began to itch the first few nights I did this, and a couple of days after a particularly brutal session I spotted lots of skin flaking off. Marigolds are essential.
  • Honey-coloured disinfectant
    I initially tried a lime green Tesco variety, figuring it would be cheaper and just as good. I was wrong, it was a complete dud and barely touched the paint.
  • About 24 hours is right
    I’ve not yet performed the experiments to work out how long is too long, but I imagine that anything that works as well as this will eventually damage plastic models.
  • Put down paper, or take it outside
    Not the time of year for it at the moment, but toothbrush scrubbing will make a mess and the paint scum flying off tends to stick to things like sinks and kitchen worktops and really aggravates spouses and mothers. I found that scrubbing under the surface of the Dettol is better, but not great once it’s really mucky.
  • Paint will come off as a gloopy scum
    This will stick to and stain your toothbrush, and float in the Dettol and get onto other models. Keep a piece of tissue near by to wipe your brush on.
  • Wash models off after stripping
    I used an overnight soak of warm soapy water.
  • You can reuse the bowls
    Up to a point, you can use a bowl of disinfectant more than once – but it’s slightly less effective each time and will collect a lot of paint scum in the bottom (this makes cleaning the models harder).

I was very pleasantly surprised by how well this works, and even my mother-in-law pitched in and brought me a bottle of Dettol last week. She explained that she wasn’t sure whether I wanted the original one, or the new purple one ‘that smells of lavender’. I briefly contemplated an elf army that smells of lavender, and as fitting as that may be I opted for the original in the end. There may be a missing market niche for thematically scented base inserts… anyone have any thoughts on that?