A reader named Nick noted that getting undesired paint off one’s models or model parts is always a challenge, and I replied with some theory and happy memories. Well, I made a bit of a study of the subject in the last several days and here’s the results: Science In The Public Interest!
1) Testors E.L.O. – Easy Lift Off. This product, available in metal tins from Your Friendly Local Hobby Shop (YFLHS(tm)), is sold as a remover of paint and decals, leaving the underlying plastic ready for a rinse and repainting. I tried it on Testor’s own Spray Paint and some Gunze Sangyo water-based paint, some months old, on a test model. It worked just fine- the paint to be removed wrinkles and detaches from the underlying plastic, you wipe it off, the plastic parts are un-harmed and ready to go. This is a thicker product that the old pale green liquid, which I’m told (at YFLHS) isn’t available any more. Can’t see how it could be reused, but the advantage of thick is that you can brush it on and it stays put. Vertical as well as horizontal surfaces. Working time for this on recently painted stuff (less than 1 year old) was about 5 minutes, maybe less. Very quick.
I also tried ELO on a very old brushed-on coat of glossy white on a previously owned and partially painted model that I’ve had for at least a decade (and is likely to have been sold in the 1970s-) the Revell Boeing 2707-200 SST, 1/200. Five minutes of brushing regular paint thinnner around on the white paint hadn’t had much effect, and five minutes of brushing ELO around on a larger area didn’t have much effect either. But I left the ELO and went to work and when I came back, the old paint looked wrinkled and ready to come off. This was slightly deceptive, more ELO rubbed over the wrinkled paint didn’t notably loosen it, but the larger area I treated on this second go-’round was also wrinkled the day after I treated it.
I didn’t have time to to spread the ELO and wait for the paint to soften, but not let the ELO dry, so I tried picking at the wrinkled paint with my thumb nail and pretty soon I’d removed most of it. I’m confident a further treatment will take off the rest. In the interests of science I tried scraping at the untreated paint on the other side of the model. I wasn’t completely disappointed to see that picking at the dry, untreated, paint had no effect on it. The picking only removes paint that’s been treated with the remover. Its good stuff and it works very well. I recomend it, and I’m sure glad I’m not going to have to sand off all that old brush-paint. Pix soon. The areas picked clean after one treatment came very clean, showing just bare plastic. (Fingernails are softer than typical model kit plastic). Some light discoloration was present on areas I’d treated twice and rubbed vigorously, but I expect this to lift when I do the final clean-up. There was no apparent damage to the plastic on any place I’d removed paint.
Regular paint thinner. I’ve removed recently applied oil-based enamels with paint thinner- certainly things painted the day or the week before come clean easily. Further back in time, the old paint becomes harder to remove and if its old enough, even soaking the part for days in a jar full of thinner may not do the trick (and may make the plastic brittle). As noted above, I tried brushing paint thinner around on my decades-old brush-painted surface and saw no response. It certainly leaves your brush very clean, however. And, maybe, took a little of the shine off the brushed paint. I once decided to strip the big AA-6 APEX missles from Hasegawa’s MiG-25 Foxbat kit, and put them in a jar with paint thinner, and the prolonged exposure embrittled the wings and fins before it loosened the uneven white spray paint and red brushed oil-based enamel I was trying to remove. Result? My MiG-25 never carried any armament, in the 25+ years I had it. A pacifist, or an accurate scale model of Lt. Belenko’s MiG as he flew it to Japan- he had no weapons on the aircraft when he escaped the Soviet Union.
Windex or other amonia and water surface cleaners. I discovered that Windex softened and removed Gunze Sangyo acrylic paint on a Blue Angels build up of Revell’s 1/48 F/A-18A kit. (Monogram made the better kit, btw…) With oil enamel, I sometimes used Windex to clean off dust and finger prints before masking and painting, and so I tried on the F/A-18, before masking and spraying the yellow wing and tail surface tips. UNFORTUNATELY, the paper towel I was using dragged and quickly showed I was removing paint!!! So I stopped.
I’ve used Windex to remove Gunze Sangyo paint from time to time in the succeeding 20 years, and to check it, I stripped part of a horizontal stabalizer on a model built at a party that hangs from my basement ceiling. Encore’s molding of the old Frog Spitfire Mk I, nice, but too many rivets, main gear legs too short and no ‘gull wing’ or other subtle stuff.. Painted purple and dark blue, with metalic blue trim, I was able to swish the tail in a small container of Windex and after the Windex took on the color of the paint, I wiped the paint off with a paper towel. Works great
As noted earlier, Windex or other water + ammonia based products strip Future floor wax in seconds. I had a practical example today when I stripped the Future off a door decal on the Dragon 1/400 A340 I’m trying to get finished for AI2008- I’d put the door on the wrong place and the wrong side of the plane, so needed to pull it up and put it in the right place on the other side. I’d Futured it perhaps a week ago, after it dried for a day or two. Windex stripped the Future promptly, and gentle prodding with a soft brush eventually lifted the decal, using plenty of Windex and some time to soak.
Tamiya acrylic Thinner. I’m going to try this smelly stuff on some old Tamiya paint, which I’m sure it will remove because I’ve done it before. I’ll also try it on Gunze Sangyo and PollyScale.
Denatured Alcohol. I’ve been told this will lift Polly Scale- time to try it, and try it on other paints as well.
Is this fun or what? Updated 6/17/08