A simple, cheap and effective technique to removing paint from plastic models - Model Railway Engineer

A simple, cheap and effective technique to removing paint from plastic models

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Dettol Paint strippingWhy a picture of Dettol on a model railway blog? Read more to find out how a household disinfectant can help your railway modelling.

This is great model making tip I’ve read about a lot in military diorama and wargaming blogs but not seen raised in the railway modelling community.

Essentially, it’s how to remove acrylic and enamel paints of plastic models but as it’s both cheaper and more effective than standard branded products in the model market i’m reproducing it here.

Paint stripping plastic is something all modellers will be faced with a some point.

Whether its correcting an earlier accident/mistake or refreshing the paint on an old model the old paint needs removing before applying new coats. (Not doing so leads to loss of detail and a poor seal).

You could just buy the standard off-the-shelf paint removers sold by model shops. They’re good but typically expensive.

But as I’m out to show you, there’s a much cheaper alternative.

And that alternative is non-other that school children’s loathed disinfectant Dettol.

As said I don’t take credit for the idea. I read about sometime ago on other model making blogs but it doesn’t seem to have had much attention in the railway space.

A step by step guide is described over on Realm Of Chaos.

Dettol Model Paint

Here’s part of old Ratio signal box I soaked to remove the paint. After a few hours and a scrub the pain came off, ready for re-painting.

But basically:

  • Dunk the model in undiluted Dettol for approx 4 hours.
  • Remove the model from the Dettol and scrub it with a toothbrush and one if the thick washing liquids.
  • Rinse clean in cold water.

That’s it. Simple. Effective. Cheap.

With fresh Dettol and reasonable soaking time old paint comes off easily and cleanly.

One word of warning however, as I learnt with a Ratio signal box I wanted to repaint (see right), soaking in Dettol will also breakdown glue. This isn’t actually bad as it means the model can not just be repainted but also glued again so correcting any gluing errors.

Read the full guide on the link above but let me know how you get on and if it works for you.



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  1. clive enguell - November 12, 2016

    I have seen this idea in the last few days on the site of a keen modeller and converter I came across. I have a few items that need stripping so I will certainly give it a try. I hope they don’t smell too strongly afterwards!

    • Clive, as hinted at it’s an old technique and has been around for a while in modelling circles. Let me know how it goes.

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