On Stripping: My experience salvaging old miniatures

So my parents got me a Warhammer Dark Vengeance set for Christmas, and unfortunately it didn’t take long for me to get hooked. A few weeks after getting started with it, I decided to expand my collection and found out that these little plastic people are really expensive. I looked around for alternatives to buying new, and it turns out there are tons of used minis on ebay and elsewhere. The downside is that these are already assembled and painted in many cases, so you don’t get to customize them to your liking and you may not care for the paint jobs of others.


It turns out you can reliably strip the paint off with various solvents, going back to square one. I thought this was really cool, since it feels like upcycling and it gives you easier access to some of the older pewter figures. Be forewarned that newer sculpts tend to look a little more detailed and have some more customization, but I like the variety of blending older and newer minis and knowing that my army probably looks more unique as a result.

Now, the trouble with stripping is choosing the right solvent. You want the paint gone, you may want the glue and green stuff gone, but you don’t want the plastic or pewter to melt away or become pitted. With credit where credit is due, I found this link via some quick googling that gave me a great place to start. Trouble is, most of those products weren’t in many of the places I looked. I encourage you to check there, especially if you’re in the UK, since they have access to some other stuff (like Fairy Power Spray) that supposedly works really well. In my case, I did some of my own research with a few solvents that this guy didn’t cover, and I thought the info might benefit someone else, so I’m throwing it up here.

Without further ado, this is what I found out:

The test samples:

The Grey Hunters in their original state, painted sometime in the past.

The Grey Hunters in their original state, painted sometime in the past.

First up, what didn’t work.

Simple Green 


This stuff might be a perfectly good cleaner, but it didn’t do much for these purposes. With heavy toothbrushing I could get some paint off the pewter, but it did almost nothing to plastic.

Krud Kutter



Despite being too xtrem3 for the letter c, I wasn’t able to get much to happen to the paint with Krud Kutter either. Some of the glue seals broke down in this, but I do not know what the original owner used for glue, so I can’t make much of that.

Mean Green




Getting closer now, this stuff was decent. It takes an overnight soak to do much damage but I did get paint off of some plastic and pewter models using this stuff. You’ll have to give things a lot of elbow grease and it may take days to get the stubborn pieces clean. On the plus side, this seems to be fairly easy to find at super markets. I picked this up at a K-mart and later saw it at most of the other places I looked.

Graffiti Remover

Still too cool for the letter C.

The clear winner: Krud Kutter Graffiti Remover
I found this stuff at Home Depot, they probably carry it at comparable stores. It bills itself as being specifically able to remove acrylic paint from all sorts of surfaces, and when I dipped my figs in the stuff, the paint softened and came off of both plastic and pewter in under a half hour. This is definitely my new go-to.




Grey Hunters Stripped

The “after” shot. These have been stripped and reassembled with superglue and green stuff.



General Tips:

  • Use a toothbrush as your primary weapon, and have some toothpicks and/or pins around for the detail work.
  • Wear gloves of some sort, most of these are pretty hard on hands.
  • The solvents I used were all fine in cheap plastic sandwich containers, but certain solvents require glass (e.g. Acetone, though I haven’t tried it.). Be sure you have an appropriate container.
  • When you’re done, give everything a good wash in soapy water and a thorough rinse. Residues of the solvents can cause your primer to flake off. I learned this the hard way on some old Reaper minis I was experimenting with.

Hopefully this is of some use to you wargaming and modeling enthusiasts out there. Are there any other solvents or tips we should know about? Feel free to comment.