Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Tutorial: Stripping paint and removing super glue from metal miniatures

This is what I have mainly been up to for the last week or so and the technique I have been using is incredibly successful so thought I would write a quick guide to hopefully help people out who may need it, as I didn't have a clue until a few months ago. There are some good articles out there on forums and blogs, but many were US centric and centred around products available there. Also they concentrated on stripping paint or removing glue and I have put the way to do both in one nice neat post for you!

A quick Google search back when I started out brought such ideas as using brake fluid, petrol and oven cleaner. Now I can't comment on the effectiveness of them but they all sounded a bit dangerous to me! The two products I use are Dettol to strip the paint and then Nail Varnish Remover (Acetone) to remove glue. Both are relatively cheap and allow you to get paint encrusted minis at half the price off eBay and return them to just leaving the factory condition.


Just so my very part time blogging doesnt get me in any trouble, a couple of points to note:

  • Both these products are fairly irritating to the skin so if your going to expose your hands for any amount of time (especially scrubbing with Dettol) wear gloves.
  • Always leave these products out of reach of children and pets and make sure you cover them so they can't get access, they will be sitting around for a while.
  • While not strictly safety beware Dettol especially smells so don't do this in the house (I use the garage) and again make sure you cover containers as it will permeate far beyond that room otherwise! Not to mention your clothes, they will stink (I drive my wife nuts!) if you get these products on them so don't do this in your Sunday best.
Stripping Paint

You will need:
  • Dettol - original stinky brown as none of the others work! If in doubt you are looking for Dettol Antiseptic (the one for first aid). 
  • A large plastic container with a lid. 
  • An old toothbrush.
  • Rubber gloves.
  • Kitchen Roll (nothing fancy cheap as you can get).
I'd also suggest numerous plastic containers and a pair of large tweezers. Be aware once you have used these items for this, that is pretty much it for using them for anything else without some serious cleaning.

Preparing Minis (Optional)

Its a personal thing but I like to remove the bases and pull apart bits that are glued before soaking my minis. Be careful not to damage the minis though, if a metal part wont come away with a bit of pressure don't bother, the glue will come apart later (have a look at the removing glue part below) so its not worth it. Slottas can be fairly fragile once glued as well so be careful not to put masses of pressure on when breaking bases off as they will probably break off to. Try to snap the base off by putting pressure evenly on either side.

Soaking in Dettol

Dettol is bloody brilliant! It will remove all the paint on your metal mini (caveat being any covered by glue). You need to pour the solution neat into a plastic container (do not mix it with any water), it needs to be deep enough to cover entirely the minis you want to strip . Once you have minis in solution like so, leave them to soak (dont forget to put the lid on to avoid the stench!). I can honestly say you can leave them as long as you like! I left some for 2 months while away, paint comes off easier and absolute zero damage will be done to metal minis. 24 hours is the minimum to get paint moving, but if you want a really easy job leave these guys at least a week.

Cleaning the Mini

If you leave the models in for over a week you end up with the effect in the picture, a mini where the paint is literally falling off. So you can use the Dettol again you don't want to leave all the pieces off every mini in it, that would soon leave it too fouled to be useful. You want to  be wearing your gloves from now on. Its quite hard to pick up minis in this state and that's why I suggested the tweezers. Remove the mini from its soak and put in kitchen towel, rub the worst of the paint off with towel. If you have left the model in for a long period even rubbing off the paint with kitchen towel will remove the worst of it and leave it in a state below.

To finish cleaning this is where you use the large container and the toothbrush. Put the almost clean minis in the container and put an amount of neat Dettol in. Use the toothbrush to scrub the mini, pay particular attention to hard to reach areas where your towelling wont have done anything. Rinse it off in the dettol and place in a bowl of luke warm soapy water to rinse. Make sure no paint remains when you put it in the water otherwise the paint returns to a sticky gloopy substance and you will have to put it into Dettol to soak again. Then give the models a clean in the water and then a good rinse with clean water. I find the models still smell of Dettol though after! So I leave them to soak in clean water for a few days to make sure no Dettol remains.

After you've dried them off they are like new! Put them in a slotta base and off you go!

Removing super glue from metal models

Sometimes after stripping all the paint glue is still an issue. While only the real perfectionist is going to remove glue from slottas! I find a lot of other modellers have been very liberal with the amount of glue used.

You will need: 
Nail Polish (with acetone)
Glass container with lid
Tooth picks

First put the models needing glue removed into the glass jar. All I have used here is an empty Colman's jar. Then fill the jar with nail polish so all the models are covered. You need to leave this for a bit to work (At least a few hours I would say), it will start working relatively quickly but again the solution can't harm metal so leave them in as long as you like. You must put a lid on the pot, not to mention the fact that it smells quite strongly if you don't cover it the solution will evaporate! Take out your miniatures (again i wouldn'y use hands!).

You then need something soft like a toothpick to remove the glue from the model, anything sharper may scratch and damage the metal.

A quick amount of work will remove the worst, again depending on how much of a perfectionist you are you will eventually remove everything. The nail polish does remove paint but nowhere near as well as Dettol or as thoroughly.

Anyway, I know most people who read my blog will be well versed in all this, but if you do come across this article and your not, I hope it helps you out!


  1. Great tutorial, paint stripping has always been something I have bumbled along with but this really helps out! Thanks!
    Get back painting, I want to see some more finished guardsmen!

  2. Great stuff! My psykers I did recently needed paint stripping, so I did a cursory Google search and you're right, most of the products were for the US. I used cheap nail polish remover, but it took several soaks and then required a vigorous scrub with a metal brush (which resulted in some minor damage). Thanks for this! Read and bookmarked.

  3. Excellent tutorial, I will favourite this as I have a limited edition Necron Lord I painted for my last Necron army that I want to repaint for my new one. How does the dettol deal with the clear plastic rods by the way? It's my only concern to be honest.

    1. Hi, thanks. I can't say for definite what would happen to the plastic as I have no idea what kind of plastic they are, but I have left plastic in dettol before (Bases, plastic guard parts) without issue (it comes in a plastic bottle, and I leave it in plastic tubs as well so it doesn't seem to mind standard plastic!), I honestly don't think leaving plastic in it should harm it, however I don't know for certain. Resin on the other hand I would be much more wary of leaving in it for any amount of time without checking for damage, I haven't tried yet.

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  5. Thanks for sharing this one. I am grateful you shared this information with us. This is really a big help.

  6. Impressive! I am grateful that you shared such useful tutorial. Thanks a lot for sharing this valuable piece of information.

  7. Removing super glue from minis can really be annoying at times, especially if they’re stuck in-between small gaps. Being able to pick them off easily after a good soak would really make it look amazing after the repaint.

    Shannon @ ASI