This article is all about removing paint from wargaming miniatures such as those used in Warhammer 40k. The following guide is designed for use with plastic, metal and resin miniatures, but we do not recommend you try it on the Citadel Finecast range as those products are too soft for paint stripping. Using household cleaning products you will be able to clean up your old models or those you have picked up from eBay, so that they look as good as new.
Here is one of our old metal Techmarines from Warhammer 40k. We plan to use him as part of a conversion for our Iron Guard Space Marine chapter, and so we need to remove his old paint job. Even if your miniature is caked with many layers of acrylic paint, using this guide you will be able to strip it right back, ready for a new paint job. During this guide we will be using an antiseptic disinfectant called Dettol, but if you live in a country where this product is not available, we will list some alternatives. Lets find out what we need to get started…
Dettol produce a range of cleaning products, and what you need for stripping miniatures is their brown coloured antiseptic disinfectant (as shown in the featured image at the top of this page. Now… I know we said Dettol, but we are using a slightly cheaper store-brand antiseptic disinfectant which works just as well. This one was purchased from our local Morrisons supermarket, and was around £2 ($3.10) for the bottle, which will be able to strip quite a few miniatures. Not all store-brand products will work (we’ve tried a few) so you will need to test them out if you are not going with Dettol. If you live in a place where Dettol is not available, then another product which works well is Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner. Alternatively if you are just stripping metal miniatures then nail varnish remover will also work, although it may melt plastic minis, so be careful.
You will also need either a glass or plastic container in which to put some of the Dettol plus your models to soak. Any old jar will do as long as your miniatures fit inside and it has a lid.
Other things well use in this guide include rubber/latex gloves, a plastic bowl (we used a takeaway container) and an old toothbrush.
Step 1.) Place you miniature(s) in the jar and cover them with Dettol. We’ve read some guides which suggest watering down the Dettol, but we’ve always used it neat. Remember, while this will work great one plastic, metal, and resin models, it will ruin Citadel Finecast.
Depending on the amount of models and paint to be stripped, you will need to leave this jar for anything from a couple of hours to a few days for the Dettol to do its work. We’ve left metal and plastic models in Dettol for up to a month with no damage to the miniatures, although you dont need to leave it anywhere near this long. We left our Techmarine in the jar overnight, which was plenty long enough to loosen all the paint. Keep the lid on the jar as Dettol has a strong odor.
Step 2.) Firstly, make sure you are wearing gloves to protect your hands from the Dettol, it will really dry out your hands (prolonged exposure can cause blisters), plus it has a very strong odor. The model(s) and Dettol can now be poured into the bowl, and you can use the old toothbrush to scrub off the paint. This is a messy job, so either do it outside or protect the area with old newspapers and wear old clothes. Do not use any water at this point, as it will turn any paint on the model into a sticky glue. keep scrubbing and dipping the model and brush back into the Dettol until all of the paint is removed. You can use a wooden cocktail stick at this point to help you get paint out of the details if needed. If there are still layers of paint on the model, return it to a Dettol filled jar and let it soak some more. If all the paint is removed you can move onto step 3.
Step 3.) Once all the paint has been removed, rinse the model in warm, soapy water to remove the left over Dettol, this is important so that paint will stick to your miniature in future. We use soapy water (washing up liquid is fine) as it it stops any remaining paint turning to glue. If the model still feels tacky when you take it out of the water then it needs more rinsing. You can then place the model on some paper towel or similar to dry.
Don’t throw away the Dettol you just used, it may have some flecks of paint floating it in, but its still suitable for stripping more miniatures. Pour it back in the jar ready for your next batch of miniatures.
Here is our fully stripped Techmarine looking as good as new! The paint actually came off this guy pretty easily, but even with really thickly painted models you should be able to remove 99.9% of paint using this guide.
We’ve tried various other methods for stripping paint in the past, but for us Dettol seems to be the best solution, especially since it can be used on plastic, metal and resin models without fear of damage. Using the procedure outlined above you can potentially save a lot of money by reclaiming old models and making them like new again. We’ve used this same procedure on larger models including tanks, and it works just as well, you just need a larger jar/container and more Dettol. We hope you find this guide useful let us know how you get on!