Admit it. Mistakes happen. You work diligently on a project and when it’s time to paint, disaster strikes. The paint runs; you go overboard and lose detail; you rush and something bad happens or the end result isn’t what you pictured. On the other hand, you look at an old project and think that you can do better if only I could start from scratch.
Ultimately, stripping the paint will give you the opportunity for a second chance (or third, or forth…) Parts made of metal can be stripped by nearly anything without any damage but what about plastic?
As modelers, we have several options available. Testers sells a product called ELO, or easy lift off. It’s been over twenty years since I’ve used it so I can’t speak for its performance based on my current experiences. I can say that it worked but it seemed to make the plastic brittle and it struggled to get paint out of tight areas. An 8 oz. can will cost around $11. The instructions specifically mention that parts should not be submerged which limits how much you can strip in one sitting.
Other options include oven cleaner and brake fluid both of which appear to be safe on plastic. However, brake fluid seems to work painfully slowly and for some reason, not on flat paint. Oven cleaner is rather nasty and since it is sprayed, is airborne requiring ventilation or some form of respiratory protection.
I will go as far and say that this option is liquid magic:
Castrol Super Clean Degreaser
I picked up a 1 gallon bottle at Walmart for $7.00 plus tax. I also picked up a thick higher quality food container large enough to suit my needs.
I started by experimenting with a few parts that could be sacrificed. I filled up my container and let the parts sit for a few hours.
Using a thick pair of chemical resistant gloves (Latex, or dish washing gloves will be fine) I pulled the first pieces out of the degreaser. The parts were still covered in paint. I used an old toothbrush to scrub the pieces. After a short time, the part was completely bare.
I was stunned by the results and started throwing everything I could find into the solution. Chrome plating is removed faster and more thoroughly than oven cleaner could ever hope to accomplish. Gloss paint, flat paint, automotive paint and decals are no match!
More remarkable than anything is the simple detail that the plastic is completely unscathed. I’ve soaked projects for a month (I forgot about it) and the end result is no different than if it had been soaked for a few hours.
Castrol Super Clean Degreaser’s ability to strip paint alone is not why I call it magic. It isn’t as nasty as oven cleaner (however it can burn your hands). It is very inexpensive and the volume available will fill large containers to work larger pieces. The icing on the cake is that it is reusable! I strain the paint and pour it back into it’s original container to save for another day.
In conclusion, there is no better alternative that will thoroughly strip most paints without damaging plastic. I’ve been able to salvage lost hope projects as well as give old models a fresh start. This is one tool every modeler should have in their arsenal!