Dettol, the wonder paint stripper!

As I have promised, here is my method of getting paint off plastic (or any) miniatures using Dettol (Brown) Antiseptic. Before you go splashing this stuff about there are a number of things you need to ensure you have in place both equipment wise and attitude wise.

I have seen several videos on You Tube and descriptions on forums, there seems a lot of emphasis on 'time' in these. The first thing you need to get in your head about using Dettol is patience. The point of using it is to not destroy the detail on your plastic miniature, if you want a fast acting instant stripper you can use something like nail polish remover - an Acetone free one - and sit there and scrub away. Be cautioned though, you may with nail polish, lose some detail, not through scrubbing, but from the reason why it's so quick - it melts the paint off!

Personally, I am more interested in resurrecting or rescuing miniatures that have an awful/gone horribly wrong, old or worn/patched paint jobs. I, from time to time, get miniatures off Flea Bay - particularly those that are out of production (OOP) - and there are some pretty bad gunked up examples to be had via this route. So, I approach cleaning them up with patient frame of mind, I want the best surface to start to repaint from and if this means I have to soak a batch of figures for a day or two then so be it. The other reason for letting them soak is - I am lazy and the longer they sit in the Dettol the less effort is required in getting the paint off and the more miniatures get cleaned up in one sitting.

Here endeth the lesson in patience.

OK, what you need:

dettol_bottle.jpgMake sure you get the right Dettol, you can see the label in the picture, it HAS to be the BROWN Dettol, no other type works as it does not contain chloroxylenol and Pine Oil (one of these is important for stripping, I reckon its the former but I aint a chemist). Anyway, get the brown stuff with the label as pictured. I put the back label on as well as they may change the label but the contents of the stuff should stay the same. Oh, and you will be using it neat, hence the importance next two points.

Gloves, more gloves and a few more gloves. Not wooly ones but rubber ones. This stuff really really does nasty stuff to skin - I must have poked a hole in the thumb of a glove I was using recently, my thumb went numb and really dried out very quickly, you can see in the cautionary photo of my thumb how dried it went, and this was only after a short period of Dettol being in contact with the skin. It took a day or two for the irritation to go away despite copious amounts of Mrs Simpkins' best hand cream being used. So, if I have not mentioned it before, use rubber gloves.

wrikle_thumb.jpg Some form of eye protection - I've seen what it does to skin and when you are flicking a toothbrush about causing all that spatter, taking one in the eye just does not seem too sensible.

A soft toothbrush or two - you can get packs of own brand quite cheaply. Best type are small 'children's first' tooth brushes. These are small headed and soft.

Pointy Impliment - I have a metal dental pick but a tooth pick or other small pointy implement comes in handy. Main use for picking out recesses full of goo - you will know what I mean the instant you see them if you use this method.

An air tight container capable of containing the volume of Dettol you are going to use. I only really use a litre so I use an air tight 2.5 litre sandwich box. Obviously if you are doing large models like tanks then you will need a bigger container. Air tight is the key as neat Dettol stinks. I actually have two containers for Dettol - more on that later.

A large container for warm soapy water. This is for depositing the 'stripped' miniature in when you've got the paint off. The soapy water seems to work better than just water at stopping sort of a residual gunk layer appearing when a Dettol soaked miniature is bunged in it. Don't know why this is the case, just seems to happen.

It is also handy to have a funnel an old (obviously empty) pop bottle and some coffee filters available. I run the used Dettol bath through this after a stripping session, gets all the paint bits out of the 'used' Dettol and captures any bits like heads, pistols, knives etc that may have fallen off miniatures during the stripping process. You can store the used Dettol safely then in the pop bottle until you use it again - I did mention it stinks - so screw the top on. Quick note on this, you may find that the coffee filter stops filtering after a bit, so you may need to change it, it generally takes about three filters to filter 1 litre of used Dettol. Just 'in my experience' that's all.

Right then, once you've got the gear in place it's time to get dunking. I use about a litre of neat Dettol at a time (dont add ANY water). I can buy 500ml bottles from most supermarkets for about £2.00. I am sure there are places where you can get huge bottles from but personally I'm happy with what I can obtain without effort. Fill up your container with undiluted Dettol, get a batch of miniatures, dump them in and shut the lid. Go off and get on with your life for a day or so.

before_the_bath.jpg As I have said, I am in no rush. I find that the longer the miniatures are left in the Dettol the easier and more efficiently the paint comes off. Generally I leave them for a day or two.

Stripping time, make sure that you cover the surface that you'll be working on. I get a large cardboard box and cut out one side and put the Dettol container in this. the remaining sides stop the 'spray' from going everywhere when you get to work. With a gloved hand get out a miniature, you may be able to slough off the paint gently with your fingers if you've left it long enough before you use the tooth brush. Gently brush the miniature, dipping both it and the brush head in the Dettol frequently. In a very short time, you'll have most if not all the paint off - depending in the type and amount of paint on it. When you are happy, bung it in the warm soapy water and thats it.

When you're done with all of the miniatures you wish to strip, take your container of soapy miniature filled water to the nearest 'useable' sink (this usability is generally dictated by the presence of a significant other rather than the physical properties of the sink) and do a few rinses - top tip, use a flour sieve to pour out the water through - catch those pesky small bits that may fall off before they vanish down the plug hole, top top tip get the sieve in the dishwasher before your significant other spots it being used in a manner it was not intended for but is obviously ideally suited.

after_the_bath.jpg Once all this is done, dry off and inspect. You will notice that some miniatures are really free of paint while others still have bits on. It's hard to tell sometimes when you're brushing them as the Dettol gets black and dirty and it also foams up so you miss bits of paint or there are so many layers of paint that it wont all come out in one go. So I have a 'clean' second bath of Dettol. I only put miniatures that have already gone through the first bath in to this, just my organised mind really, but this bath seems not to go black as fast so I only filter this after every few batches. I leave the miniatures in this, again for a day or two and repeat the process.

I am very happy with the Dettol method, it's easy, it's fairly safe health wise and it does no (in my experience) damage to the miniature no matter how long you leave the miniature in (plastic or metal ones I have use it with at least). Well not true - Citadel Fine Cast, I have not tried using Dettol on these yet, but I have heard that it's not good - but can't confirm this as I am not going to use a fine cast to find out as they are OVERPRICED and therefore I'm not risking one!

So that's my experience with Dettol, now I am not saying you should use this method - and here is the disclaimer - use this information about my experience at your own risk, take care to protect and cover your skin, eyes and working surface.