01 February 2020

How-to : Removing paint from plastic figures

Removing paint from plastic figures

Ive used this technique with old models and figures, even those that have been covered in two or three coats of thick enamel paint. It works equally as well with hard and soft plastic plus its a technique that's not just limited to smallscale modelling.

You'll need the following items :

Household oven cleaner
Plastic gloves
Plastic bag
Plastic bucket
Detergent (washing-up liquid)

Household oven cleaner in a spray-can form is cheap and readily available in practically any supermarket. Its used to dissolve thick carbon and burned fat deposits from off the inside ovens and off frying pans. Luckily for us modellers it also dissolves enamel paints without affecting plastic.

In this example well use a couple of old soft-plastic polythene figures. They're all in good condition, but have been painted with thick blobs of enamel paint.

A word of warning oven cleaner is caustic and may cause burns to the skin or eyes or respiratory problems if not used correctly. I would stress that it be used with caution. Minors should never use these products themselves,they should ask a responsible adult to do it for them.

Start by laying out the plastic bag on a flat surface and place the model or figures onto the bag.

Put on your gloves. Make sure you use plastic gloves to protect your hands as oven cleaner can burn the skin. Don't use latex gloves as the oven cleaner may dissolve the latex.

Hold the oven cleaner spray in one hand, and spray the model liberally. With the other hand you can turn over the model while holding it over the plastic bag so as to get into every nook and cranny.

Close the plastic bag with the model inside and tie a knot, place into the plastic bucket and leave overnight. The plastic bucket is so that if any oven cleaner leaks out it will not stain the floor.

Rinse any over cleaner off your gloves and put them away and leave over cleaner to work overnight.

24hrs later, get out your plastic gloves again and take the bucket to somewhere you have access to a cold water tap and a sink.

Put on your gloves, take the model out the plastic bag you'll find a huge gooey mess. Throw the plastic bag away and put the model into the sink.

Turn on the cold water and you'll find the paint will fall off as you rinse it. Now with the toothbrush and with a little detergent you can remove any stubborn remnants of paint stuck in little nooks and crannies.

Give them a final rinse and leave to dry. Rise your gloves and don't forget to clean out the bucket or container.

Once dry that's it, finished. Shiny new figures, ready for painting.


  1. Thanks John very useful.

    1. Thanks GReg. It's an old article but I hope it helps out.

  2. And you don't need to wash your figures before painting

    1. Yep, leaves them lovely and clean and degreased.

  3. Works on metal as well. I´d add, do a test on one from the Batch. I´ve had some go brittle using the method.

    1. Not tried on metal figures Paul. I tried on a couple of metal hot-wheels cars, but the paint on those things is thick and as strong as hell

  4. I learnt it in your web...thank you John!

    1. Glad to hear it, thanks for the comment !

  5. Never heard about oven cleaner as a paint remover. I'll try someday. Couple years ago I accidentally discovered that isopropyl alcohol washes paint off and to this day works for me like a charm. Usually I'm not in hurry so figures can take bath for couple of days but rather no need for so long exposure.

    In polish miniature blogsphere big hit is something called Durostrip by Biotech. Smelles, biodegradable agent for paint removing. I didn't try this yet. Unfortunatelly I see it's on domestic market only.