Learning to Strip (Paint)

So some of the bitz I brought back from Adepticon were actually fully painted figures. There were two Chaos Plague Marines figures that were painted pretty poorly, and didn’t match my color scheme at all, so I figured I would do a bunch of research and attempt stripping the paint off of them. I also received some advice from a friend (hi, John) as well, so here’s my walkthrough so that you can have all this information in one place.

To start, I used something called SuperClean Cleaner/Degreaser, which used to be made by Castrol, but now it seems to be produced by its own company, SuperClean Brands. It comes in every size from a 32-ounce squirt bottle to a 55-gallon drum. It’s purple, you can see through it, it smells okay (actually a bit fruity) and it’s biodegradable, which is nice. I found it at my local Fleet Farm, but if you don’t have one of those in your area, you can also get it at Ace Hardware, Walmart, and many automotive parts centers. I bought a gallon jug and it cost around eight bucks.

I put the two models I was planning to strip into a plastic disposable Gladware-type container (the SuperClean is biodegradable, but you still shouldn’t eat it, so make sure to use a container you won’t use for food later), carefully poured the purple stuff into the container until it covered the figures, and then snapped on the lid. I left them to soak for a day and a half, but I’ve read it usually only needs to sit overnight to be effective. When I was ready to clean them off, I gathered my tools and went outside.

Tools for stripping

You’ll notice the container with the models and the SuperClean on the left, an old toothbrush (you really shouldn’t use your roommate or significant other’s toothbrush), a bucket of water and some black gloves. The gloves are very important here. As I’ve mentioned, the SuperClean is biodegradable, but it can still cause skin burns if you get it on you for long. Therefore, you need to protect yourself with gloves. Don’t use latex gloves, as the purple stuff will eat them and you will get burns. Look for nitrile gloves, they usually come in blue or black. They don’t have any latex in them and they’ll stand up to the fluid and not dissolve.

Lurking in the murky depths

Carefully remove the lid from your container (it’s proabably a really good idea if your container has a lid) and then, with your gloves on, grab one of the your models and take a look at the surface and see how the paint is holding up.

Purple, green and gold Plague Marines? Really?

Mine initially came out of the soup looking exactly like they did when I put them in, and I assumed that the SuperClean bath hadn’t worked. However, as I inspected the model, I noticed that the paint was no longer sticking to the model as much as it was sticking to my gloves. I grabbed my trusty old toothbrush and got to scrubbin’, frequently dunking the model back under the surface of the SuperClean. I noticed that if there were some bits of paint that were being stubborn, if I threw the whole thing back into the solution and went to work on another piece, when I would come back to the troublesome model the harder bits would then come off much easier. Re-soaking hard to tackle models seemed to work well.

Mostly paintless, and in the water bath

Then, after getting as much paint off as I was able, I would then throw them into the bucket with the water. This was mainly to rinse off the SuperClean and also to hopefully remove any last flecks of paint. There were still a few bits of paint in the deep recesses of the model, but I figured that this was about as good as I could expect at this stage, and took the models in the house to dry.

Mostly clean

The plastic arms had broken their glue seal from the metal bodies during the scrubbing and handling phase, but that didn’t bother me much. They’ll be easy to re-glue or replace completely, as needed. While they were drying on some paper towel, I used a toothpick and even a stickpin to scrape out the paint from the deepest crevices of the models. It generally came right out, softened as it was from the purple stuff bath.

Naked Plague Marine

And that was it! Clean, happy models, naked as the day they were cast. I’m looking forward to getting these guys painted up (my way) and on the field. Also, instead of avoiding painted models on eBay, from now on I’ll be looking for them, knowing I can properly strip them and bring them back to glory. This is good news, because there are a lot of terribly painted models for sale on eBay, and frequently for cheap.

If you have any questions about the process, please comment below and I’ll try to come up with some answers.

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1 Response to “Learning to Strip (Paint)”


  1. 1 John May 2, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    Ive actually never used gloves, but, I dont use them when I use zip-strip either. the burning lets you know you’re taking too long, lol.Also, as an added bonus, this stuff will not not harm greenstuff!


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atom smashing

A gaming blog talking about miniatures games, miniatures painting and collecting, game design and other nerdly delights.


The Statistics – 2013

Minis games played:
• WH40k (1850 pts):
   BT/GK vs Kevin (Eldar/DE) LOST
• WH40k (1500 pts):
   BT vs Jason (D.E.) LOST
• WH40k (1500 pts):
   BT vs Kevin (S.W.) LOST
Minis finished:
 none yet
Terrain finished:
 none yet
Cons attended:
 Fire & Ice
updated 28FEB2013

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