Strip!

Simple Green and Simple Green! What is Simple Green?!

Among the models that I’ve been buying off eBay for my Valhallans was a rather interesting plastic one that came as part of a job lot. I can’t tell exactly what it’s meant to be, but it looks like a bald guy with cables coming out the back of his head, wielding what appears to be a plasma gun. There’s a large aquilla on his chest and he’s carrying some kind of ammo or power box.

Any further attempt at identification has been hampered by a bad repainting job – rather than strip off the previous paint a new coat of black primer has been sprayed over the top, rendering all detail lumpy and indistinct. There’s no way I was going to let this stand, so I did some research into paint stripping on plastic models.

Stripping paint off metal models is no problem – I’ve been using nail polish remover (acetone) for that with great success. Plastics are another matter entirely however, as any chemical strong enough to melt paint will usually melt plastics as well, so one needs to be very careful and run some tests. Or go to the internet which is of course what I did.

Searching for stripping info online was (as is normally the case) both enlightening and frustrating in equal parts. It appears that the gold standard for stripping plastics is a mysterious product called “simple green”. Americans seem to swear by it, and then refuse to listen when people point out that they don’t live in the States and therefore can’t obtain it…

Non-American: What can I use to strip plastics?
American: Use Simple Green! It’s awesome!
Non-American: What the hell is Simple Green?
American: It’s the best thing ever! Use Simple Green!
Non-American: I can’t get Simple Green where I live, what else can I use?
American: Simple Green! You can get it at your local Walmart!
Non-American: I live in [Country], is there something else I can use?
American: I don’t understand why you don’t just use Simple Green!
Non-American: I can’t get Simple Green!!
America: Simple Green!

…and so on.

Second rank suggestions include a variety of unpleasant substances such as turpentine, methylated spirits, oven cleaner and acne cream – all with provisos that they might melt the plastic anyway, so you should just be sensible and use Simple Green. But there was one suggestion that caught my eye – Dettol. I have some Dettol, so I thought I’d give it a crack.

Two days of soaking bits of sprue in Dettol resulted in no melting or other damage, so it passed the first hurdle. That tested I felt confident enough to dump the model in the stuff, so left it in overnight.

So the results – Dettol does in fact melt paint without damaging the underlying plastic. Hooray!

The downside – Dettol turns the paint into a highly adhesive, sticky mush, kind of like what you’d get if you mixed shoe polish and superglue. It sticks like crazy to the model, and to your hands, and to anything else you touch while frantically trying to get if off said hands. My bathroom taps now look like I’ve been enthusiastically smearing them with Kiwi, and my fingernails look like Marilyn Manson’s. It seems that the only way to shift this shoggoth-like material is with more Dettol, so my bathroom and hands now smell like the intensive care ward down at the hospital. But at least the paint is coming off!

I’ve left the model in to soak again while I’m at work. Maybe tonight I’ll be able to finish the job without ending up looking like a Hey Hey it’s Saturday sketch.

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