I have seen multiple posts and topics repeating the question, "How do I take paint off of all my old or second hand models?" So, I have written this article to answer this and many related questions to the topic of stripping paint from your miniatures.
Section 1, Safety:
The stripping process will involve different types of chemicals, some harmful, some not, depending on what method you choose. As a general rule of safety, always assume that the chemical you are using is harmful and treat it thus, because it probably is, even Water is toxic in large quantity.
Work in a well ventilated room or area. Either a garage with a fan and open window or outside or wherever you can work where fresh air is entering the room.
Wear safety glasses Always wear safety glasses. This is THE number one injury during paint stripping, splashing the chemical into your eyes, where it will burn and really make you mad. This is probably the most important safety measure, if you don't do anything else, please wear safety glasses. If you do get something in your eye, flush them well with water for 5 to 15 minutes.
If possible, wear rubber gloves, or disposable rubber gloves. The same kind that doctors wear, either latex, or nitrile or otherwise. Protect your hands. Also makes cleaning up afterward much much easier.
Also, No Smoking! Most of these products are flammable and the fumes can be explosive if not properly ventilated.
Stripping with Brake Fluid:
Brake fluid is safe for use on metal and plastic minis alike.
No Smoking! This material is flammable!
First, lets discuss using Brake Fluid. Typical DOT 3 Brake Fluid will work. You can purchase this from a Wal-Mart in the automotive section or at a local auto parts store such as O'Reilly or Autozone, etc. Ask a parent to help you if you need or ask the clerk to assist you if you don't know what to look for. Regular brake fluid, doesn't need to be anything special, even the cheap brands will work. It doesn't really matter.
Brake Fluid is toxic, don't drink it or dump it out in your yard. I'd prefer you don't dump it in the sink or toilet either. Most cities have places you can bring hazardous home waste and they will take care of it for you. I suggest having a dedicated waste container of some sort and when its full taking it in to be recycled. Some auto parts stores will also recycle brake fluid. Just call and ask them if they do, or if they know where you can take the used fluid.
To use brake fluid, is very simple. Pour the fluid into a container that has an opening big enough to fit the minis you want stripped into, and then place (dont drop to prevent splashing) the minis into the fluid. Make sure the fluid level is high to completely submerge the mini. I personally use an empty house paint can. I pour 1 quart of brake fluid in and then place my minis in the fluid and place the lid on the can in case it somehow gets knocked over or to keep my kids out of it if they get too curious. Try not to use a glass container cause you could drop and break it and make a nasty mess. Various opinions exist on how long you should soak the mini. I suggest a minimum 24 hour period of time before you start scrubbing the miniature. This should be adequate to loosen 90% or more of the paint. Use an old toothbrush or other non-metal bristle brush to rub the paint off. Don't scrub too hard, you could damage the miniature by your own strength of scrubbing. If after 24 hours not all of the paint is off, let it soak for another 24 hours and then repeat. Repeat as necessary until you are satisfied with the results. Use a toothpick to dig out any stubborn paint in the cracks and crevices that wont come off with regular scrubbing. An Xacto knife can be used but you risk scratching the the miniature.
After you have removed the paint. Wash the miniature with soap and warm water. Something like an oil cutting dish detergent is preferable, Joy, or Dawn dish soap, something like that. Let it dry, and then you are done!
Stripping with Simple Green:
Simple Green is safe for use on metal and plastic minis alike.
The process here is almost exactly the same as described above with the brake fluid. Simple green is a cleaning detergent. It can be found in the automotive section at Wal-Mart. I am not sure if auto parts store would have it but I assume they will. You can always call them and ask or look for yourself. I use the concentrate. There are a couple of types of simple green, they will all work for this purpose. You can either use the concentrate as is or dilute it slightly in water. It does work faster undiluted though. Unlike brake fluid though, simple green can be dumped in your sink or toilet.
To keep it short, follow the same procedure described above for soaking your miniatures. Pour some off into a container with an open top and submerge your miniatures in the simple green. Let them soak for 24 hours and then begin the scrubbing. More than likely as you scrub the paint off the fluid will suds up. This can be annoying and if it starts to bug you, rinse the mini off in some water and scrub and rinse as necessary to cut down the suds.
After you have removed all of the paint, rinse the miniature off well and let dry and it is then ready to repaint.
Stripping with Nail Polish/Varnish remover:
Nail Polish remover is NOT safe on plastics! Use ONLY on metal miniatures.
No Smoking! This material is High Flammable!
Nail Polish remover is a blend of Acetone and Toluene. Both very strong solvents that will melt plastic and melt paint off. If you cant get a type of paint off with either brake fluid or simple green, this stuff will most likely do the trick. Use safety when handling the remover as it is toxic and environmentally hazardous. Dispose of used chemical either by incineration (yes, you can burn it) or leaving it out to evaporate. When in use, be sure to cover your container if you use one to keep it all from evaporating before you get to clean the paint. Wear safety glasses. Wear gloves. Use in a ventilated area.
To use nail varnish remover, only use a little bit at a time. Your miniature can soak submerged in the stuff if you wish but I typically dip my brush in the bottle and then scrub the miniature as this stuff begins to work instantly. If submerged, let it soak for 15 minutes and you can start to scrub the paint of. Let it soak longer if necessary until the paint starts to come off easily. Some paints are more stubborn than others.
After you have removed the paint from the miniature, be sure to clean it with soap and water and allow it to dry before repainting.
Stripping with Mineral Spirits/Paint Thinner:
Mineral Spirits/Paint Thinner is NOT safe for plastics! Use ONLY on metal.
No Smoking! This material is highly flammable!
Mineral Spirits is virtually the same as the Nail Polish remover described above. It is however not as strong a solvent and can take longer to soak for it to reach its full effect. Please read the above description and apply it to using Mineral Spirits. Same method of use, and disposal.
Stripping with Oven Cleaner/Easy-Off:
Oven Cleaner is NOT safe for use on plastics, use ONLY on metal.
Oven cleaner is hands down the most toxic chemical listed in this article. It will strip paint but I highly advise against using it if you don't absolutely have to. If you do choose this chemical, please observe and employ all safety precautions.
The stripping method is exactly the same as described for Nail Varnish remover and Mineral Spirits, please read those sections on how to use it for stripping. After the paint is stripped, be sure to wash the miniatures with soap and water and allow to dry before repainting.
Other Chemicals usable for stripping:
I believe I have covered the vast majority of materials used for stripping paints. I have heard that Castrol Super Clean is an effective stripper but I have no experience with this product so please read all warning labels and product concerns on the label before using it. I do believe it is also safe for plastic and metal miniatures alike.
Acetone by itself can be used, but it is very flammable so please treat it with respect and away from open flame. The method used is the exact same as for Nail varnish remover.
For all your conversion projects.
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