This article is from the Miniatures Painting FAQ, by Brenda Klein email@example.com with numerous contributions by others.
There are several substances which will work, outlined below. Other
than the top two (which are the author's personal default choices),
they're in no particular order.
a) Pine Sol for a 24-hour soak then brush off remaining paint with
a soft toothbrush. Works great on metal. Brian Lojeck
<firstname.lastname@example.org> ran extensive tests on Citadel plastic
genestealers and Pine Sol for paint removal. Here are his
"I soaked the plastic genestealer in about 50-50 Pine Sol/water
solution for 7-8 hours (a nights sleep). The plastic didn't seem
softer, the detail didn't seem any worse, and the paint came off
pretty well (as it always does with Pine Sol. it was hard getting
the paint out of the cracks (I soaked in acetone to do that)."
Then he soaked some unpainted Citadel plastic figures in another
50-50 Pine Sol/water solution:
"The figure survived whole, without softening or loss of detail.
The solution turned milky white about 30 minutes after the
experiment started, but had cleared back to golden by morning."
<Britt's note - that's the standard Pine Sol reaction in water,
does same when I'm cleaning the toilet.> Brian left the figures
soaking another 48 hours and they didn't mar under the toothbrush
bristles, but he was able to stick his fingernail into the plastic
about 1/16". It looks like the 50-50 mix is the key. Certain
other pine-oil cleaners of less strength than Pine Sol are on the
market. Anyone who tests these on plastic figures is encouraged
to send the author your results for inclusion here.
b) Chameleon model paint stipper from Custom Hobbyist, Inc. found in
model railroad shops. Sort of expensive, but "reusable", water
soluable, and really fast.
c) Floquil/Polly S Dio-Sol. Also purportedly dissolves glue.
Won't harm your plastic as much as Pine Sol, but reportedly loses
detail due to the amount of scrubbing necessary for the recesses.
d) Brake fluid. Won't melt your plastic, but might melt your hands...
2-3 hour soak "maximum", usually works faster.
e) Dettol, the pharmaceutical cleaner. Works much like Pine Sol, but
I have no information on its potential to melt plastic. Though it
didn't melt the base on the test figure, bases probably aren't
polystyrene. It did remove glue, though. (Thanks to Steve Gill
for this bit.)
f) "The Sainsbury's home brand pine disinfectant (UK).
It actually gives pine oil as one of it's ingredients. In testing
it works very well and costs roughly 99p per 750ml bottle." (More
thanks to Steve Gill who found this product and tested it.)
g) Acetone nail polish remover. Smells, peels skin, melts plastic,
takes paint off metal like a champ.
h) Isopropyl alcohol, the stronger the better. Lab grade, if you
can get it. This seems to be the safest product for use on plastic
miniatures, and also the most universally available. "It takes
off acrylic paints in almost no time, but reportedly doesn't do as
good a job in crevices as Pine Sol does. As for oil-based
paints... "after several days of soaking, renewing renewing the
solution, scrubbing... the figurine I tested has still a good
portion of its paint on, mainly on the zones that I cannot access
with a toothbrush." - Magali Mathieu
i) Easy-Off oven cleaner. And wear gloves. It reportedly will not
harm metal or plastic minis. Remember to use GOOD ventilation.
(Thanks to Richard Kurtin for this information.)
j) "Bix Paint Stripper. Buy the sprayable, rather than the jelly
mix. It smells bad, is volatile, and will go after your skin if
you forget your gloves. It will remove enamel paint with minimal
scrubbing, and does a pretty good job on acrylic. It "WILL" eat
plastic, so don't even think about putting your Genestealers (tm)
in it. Also, you'll probably find yourself replacing your
toothbrush more often." - Pete Siekierski
k) "Methylene Chloride. One of the components of Bix Paint Stripper,
MC is rarely available in its purest form (I've no idea where my
dad got his can, and neither does he!). It is extremely volatile.
Do not light up near a can of methylene chloride! It will also do
a number on your skin, making it wrinkled like you've been all day
in the bath. Wear gloves! Also, be sure not to wear metal jewelry.
Because of its high rate of evaporation, MC "chills" metal, and
this can be very uncomfortable if you immerse a ring in it...
On the plus side, pure methylene chloride is even more effective
than Bix, which contains only a small amount. It burns right
through any kind of paint that you'd care to put on a miniature,
and will reduce plastic Genestealers (tm) to shapeless lumps (big
deal, heavy flamers do that too!). It will "chill" lead or pewter
miniatures, so they will feel cold to the touch, but in a room-
temperature environment, this will wear off quickly. Like the Bix
stripper, you'll find yourself replacing your toothbrushes more
often." - Pete Siekierski <email@example.com>
(Archiver's note: Proper dental hygene suggest that you replace
your toothbrushes every other month anyway...)
l) Poxy Scum <firstname.lastname@example.org> in Australia also offers this
info: "I found that Rexona(tm) Sport pump spray, not the aerosole
works quite well, almost immediately on acrylic Citadel paints.
It is best used for spot cleaning as it works almost instantly to
soften paint and is quite safe on plastic and metal.
As you can see, there are a lot of products that will remove paint. Most
are caustic. The author recommends a non-caustic product. Pine oil
cleaner will remove any type of paint (acrylic, oil-based, Rust-O-Leum,
fingernail polish, etc.) from miniatures with no loss of detail, no
caustic residue, and no hazardous fumes. It's safe for metal miniatures
and will not dissolve the glue holding parts together. Pine-Sol is the
best brand, as it's 19.9% pine oil, but any percentage over 5% pine oil
will strip paint (it just requires a longer soak in the less-powerful
cleaners). It also works on paint that's been on for several years (the
author successfully removed 10-year old Testors from a metal miniature
with a 2-day Pine-Sol soak).
For plastic miniatures, Pine Sol in a 50-50 solution with water, else
isopropyl alcohol is your best bet.
Dettol, a product from the UK, seems to work as the US Pine-Sol does
in preliminary testing. More information will be made available as
Simply place the miniature in a container which will allow full
coverage, pour in enough pine oil cleaner to cover, and let it soak
for 24 hours or more. The longer the soak, the better the stripping
(the author has soaked metal miniatures for over a week with no damage
resulting). If you're doing multiple miniatures, it's best to soak
them seperately, if possible. Once the paint starts to dissolve, it
causes a sliminess that can get on the others.
After the soaking, take an old toothbrush (dry) and scrub. A soft
bristled toothbrush is best, however using soft then stiff will get
most everything without special work. The finest details are kept,
the paint comes off easily, and the smell doesn't try to knock you
out. If some paint remains stubborn, another soak will do the trick.
(The tip of a toothpick is also good for crevasse-cleaning as are
standard pipecleaners.) Do wear gloves if you're skin-conscious. The
author doesn't and has never suffered for it, but others report peeling
and irritated skin.
NOTE: Many people have complained about the pine-cleaner soak
darkening the metal of the miniature. The author just finished
cleaning a lead miniature on which the acrylic paint had been for
two years. It soaked for 24 hours and was first scrubbed with a
soft toothbrush then a stiff one until all the paint was removed.
Then the soft brush was washed clean and hand soap (the bar of
Ivory by the sink) was applied to the brush and the miniature was
brushed down vigorously, as one would do teeth. It took about 5
minutes, but the lead shined up as good as the fresh-from-the-package
figures it ended up beside on the shelf. So the `dark metal'
syndrome can be taken care of, if it's important to you and you
care to spend the time.