Stripping Paint from miniatures

At one point or another, everyone who paints miniatures will come across some models in there collection that makes them think "whats the best way for stripping paint from miniatures?" Well, After many years of searching, trial and error & endless research, I've nailed down a pretty good way of stripping acrylic paints from plastic and metal miniatures that doesn't break the bank, or the figures! I'd like to point out that I'm by no means the first to swear by this method too, I didn't discover it, and lay no claim to that fact. I'm just sharing my knowledge here. Whether you've just opened up a long lost box of figures and recoiled in horror at the awful painting from yesteryear, or you've found an epic bargain on eBay, at some point of another, I think every miniature painter has come across a box of figures that's needed a fresh coat of paint. Sometimes, Those figures can simply be painted over. A light spray with the airgun for a new undercoat, then a conservative paint job can refresh those old minis without loosing much (if any details), but more often than not, they need stripping, and if you haven't got any experience in that area, it can lead to them just being put in a box and forgotten about!

Stripping mini's can be a minefield!

Various products out there will do the job, but you have to be very careful, most products will only work on a certain type of figure, use the wrong product and it can have disastrous consequences. Those products can also be messy, fiddly, dangerous and can have side effects. Previously, the two "better" ways of stripping models I've encountered were using Dettol, for plastic figures, and a product called Nitromors for metal models. Dettol was the first effective paint stripper I found for getting acrylic paints from plastic models, but it took an AGE to work. you had to soak the models in detol for 2-3 days, which even with a lid on the container would usually stink up the place you had them soaking, and even then they needed a heavy handed scrub to get the paint off. Afterwards, you'd have stripped models, but it never got them 100% clean, and the stink of dettol stayed with them long after repainting. Niromors is horrendous stuff. It only works on metal models (it melts plastic ones! A space marine tactical squad found this out the hard way!), and is very dangerous, it requires the use of gloves, and I'd also suggest a mask too. This nightmare fluid will destroy most things it comes into contact with, which makes it perfect for paint stripping. But not kind on the environment. It's not the kind of thing you can pour down the plughole either. Nasty stuff. There is now a third option though! Who ever actually discovered this method, I salute them. I really do. I've heard it mentioned on the net a few times, but only tried it recently, and now after a few successful trials, I thought I would share the good news!

So what's the secret to stripping paint from miniatures?

Fairy Power Spray. That's it ladies and gents. Fairy Power Spray. This product is inexpensive (around £3.50 for a bottle, but can be reused a couple of times, I've found it in Sainsburys and B&Q for roughly the same price). It works on BOTH plastic and metal figures. I haven't tried it on resin figures yet, but I may do an experiment soon and update this post (or if anyone wants to do it and send me the results I shall post them up!). It's really simple to use, as I will show you below!  

How I go about stripping paint from miniatures (metal & plastic)

The photo below is a tiny bit misleading, I was going to post everything you needed to strip paint, but after I uploaded it, I realised I'd missed off most of the stuff I actually use! so here's the list that'll help you along the way:
  • Fairy Power spray.
  • A small container (plastic takeaway containers are perfect)
  • Something to strip (otherwise the exercise is pointless?)
  • Gloves  - Optional, I prefer to keep my hands clean when doing this type of stuff
  • container of clean water - about the same size as your container for the power spray (an excuse to have TWO takeaways!)
  • newspaper - stripping models is a messy affair, no need to aggravate the wife/mother!
  • toothbrush - cheap toothbrush for scrubbing. I picked up a pack of two for 18p at sainsburys.
 
Stripping paint from miniatures - The tools

Stripping paint from miniatures - The tools

Step 1, empty the magic liquid Power Power spray into a container, it needs to be deep enough to cover whatever you are stripping, Here I'm stripping a Battlefleet Gothic Battleship, One bottle was perfect for this. It'll also do a handful of figures at a time too.
Stripping paint from miniatures - in the liquid

Stripping paint from miniatures - in the liquid

Leave the figures submerged in the fluid over night, I left mine for around 12-16 hours, just on a shelf with the lid on the container. Doesn't smell, but be sensible, it's a cleaning product so keep it out of reach of tiny hands (I mean children.. not midgets, they can use it if they want).
Stripping paint from miniatures - lid on

Stripping paint from miniatures - lid on

This container is a standard takeaway container, which is perfect for stripping figures, one bottle will comfortably cover a 10 man squad of figures or a nice big chunky one like this.
Stripping paint from miniatures - don't use your best toothbrush!

Stripping paint from miniatures - don't use your best toothbrush!

Once your figure has been soaked overnight (12ish hours), it's time to start scrubbing. Take your toothbrush and start scrubbing gently, no need to go crazy here, your model is more delicate than the paint. In most cases a good rub with your fingers might even take off a a few layers of paint.
Stripping paint from miniatures - scrubbing

Stripping paint from miniatures - scrubbing

Here I've started lightly scrubbing and you can see the bare metal already coming through, this literally was after just a couple of seconds scrubbing.
Stripping paint from miniatures - messy work

Stripping paint from miniatures - messy work

I'm doing this on a sheet of MDF so you can see what's going on, but as you can see, if is easily taking off the paint. Although making a mess in the process. This model had a fair few layers of paint on it. At the back you can see its a metallic bronze colour, in the middle a grey colour and at the front I've scrubbed right down to the bare metal, with very little effort at all.
Stripping paint from miniatures - scrubbing again

Stripping paint from miniatures - scrubbing again

With very little effort you'll start to get results, but, you'll also see the fairy power spray creating soap suds. This is where the water comes in!
Stripping paint from miniatures - rinse

Stripping paint from miniatures - rinse

Occasionally rinse of the model, firstly, it'll remove those last bits of paint that are nearly ready to come off, and it'll let you see what you're doing. No point in scrubbing away at something that's already clean!
Stripping paint from miniatures - close up

Stripping paint from miniatures - close up

Here you can see I've taken off 99% of the paint from the mini, both metal and plastic parts.
Stripping paint from miniatures - cleaned parts

Stripping paint from miniatures - cleaned parts

after a short while the model will become clean of most paint. This stuff doesn't usually effect glue, although with the action of manhandling you model, and depending on the type of glue used you might find your model comes apart. In my case, I was quite happy with this. This eBay purchase was a bargain, but only because the guy hadn't assembled the model correctly, and it was horrifically painted!, The plastic parts down the centre of the hull didn't come off. The glue here just wouldn't budge.
Stripping paint from miniatures - not perfect, but close enough

Stripping paint from miniatures - not perfect, but close enough

As you can see, there are still tiny flecks of paint left on the model. But on the whole, it's pretty darn clean!! I could have revisited the parts that weren't clean, but to be honest, 99% is close enough for me!
Stripping paint from miniatures - close up stripped model

Stripping paint from miniatures - close up stripped model

Close up of the stipped parts, shows that it takes the paint right off both the metal and the plastic parts, and really does not take very much effort at all.   I can highly recommend Fairy Power Spray as my "stripper of choice" (as George Takai might say, Ohhhh mmmyyy!), it's affordable. It's reusable, it's not dangerous (still be sensible... don't drink it or put it in your eye!), it works on both plastic AND metal figures, and it takes very little effort to get great results, with none of the horrible side effects we're used to with things like nitromors! I hope this article has been of use to you, if you've liked it, PLEASE leave a comment (drop me an email if you have problems) , share on social media sites using the buttons to the right, reblog this on forums, and why not add a link to your own blog/site. All those things really help me out. Thanks! Chris.

About The Author

Chris has been a Wargamer since he was 12 years old, progressing through 40k, WFB now playing a diverse range of games from 15mm WW2, to space combat games, and even the odd game of judge dredd.

3 Responses

  1. madmechaguy

    have to yry this out, used to use acetone based nail varnish remover . worked on metal and plastic but this looks cheaper and works better

    Reply
  2. Nick Von Cover

    I was pumped to read this article, especially since it covers BFG ships as the only way to get them now is off ebay (read: with dubious paint jobs). Then I find that you’re using a product that doesn’t exist in the ‘States! I actually thought you were joking at first…

    Over here I most recently tried Simple Green, which worked well enough on metal but not at all on resin. Would not recommend. Prior to that I used pine oil, which if I remember correctly softened plastic parts (but it has been a long, long time). Need to try it again.

    Reply
    • Chris

      According to an article on Dakka Dakka, Dawn Power Dissolver is the US equivalent to Fairy Power Spray. Hope the helps.

      Reply

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