Help support TMP

"Lead Rot - The Plague that will kill your miniatures!" Topic

23 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

Please don't make fun of others' membernames.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the Hobby Industry Message Board

Back to the Consumer Affairs Message Board

Back to the Basing Message Board

Back to the Painting Message Board

Areas of Interest


Featured Hobby News Article

Featured Link

Featured Showcase Article

Red Sable Brushes from Miniaturelovers

Hobby brushes direct from Sri Lanka.

Featured Workbench Article

15mm Base Contouring Round-Up: Four Materials

Can any of these products cure the dreaded "wedding cake" effect?

Current Poll

11,439 hits since 27 Sep 2008
©1994-2023 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Travellera28 Sep 2008 10:57 a.m. PST

Before I start I just want to confess that I am a novice when it comes to anything connected to metals anf the science that surrounds this subject. However, since many of us may not be aware of the danger that are out there, I take the risk of writing this post without any first hand knowledge.

I just read another interesting post from today "Corrosion and Steel washers". Which adds a new dimension to my nightmares. I would be grateful if any TMP member with more expert knowledge could assist in educating us all on this scary subject.
My first casualties were 3 regiments of RAFM French & Indian Wars miniatures that got the plague that reduced them to a pile of lead dust…

To avoid this to happen (as far as I have understood):

-Do not store your miniatures in hardwood cabinets or IKEA type cabinets that give away formaldehyde.
-Temperature must be above 13 degrees celsius
-Prime your miniatures, even underneath before attaching them to a base.

if the miniatures contain lead, there is a higher risk. If antimon or vismut is added to the tin, the risk is reducedd. Can we ask all manufacturers to declare their raw material content?

Mark Wals28 Sep 2008 12:07 p.m. PST

I found that fire is a lot more destructive. However prior to that I only had one cause of rot in my collectioon. I aalways primed my figures though.

Mark Wals28 Sep 2008 12:09 p.m. PST

That should be case rather than cause.

Personal logo Virtualscratchbuilder Supporting Member of TMP Fezian28 Sep 2008 12:26 p.m. PST

I've never had a case in tens of thousands of figures over 30 years. I've been using steel washers for the past 12 also.

John the OFM28 Sep 2008 12:49 p.m. PST

If your figures are from the early 80s, then lead rot is understandable.
I have a lot of crumbled fogures from that era. Irregular in particular was suscveptible. It all depends on the alloy used, and the cheaper ones really … rotted.

Now, alloys are available specifically formualated for casting figures, and to avoid rot. When you melt scrap metal, you are taking a chance. You can't just go out and procure a bucket of used tire weights anymore.

kallman28 Sep 2008 12:49 p.m. PST

Yep I have only had a few of my many thousand of minis ever have a case of lead rot. It appeared to be more of an issue during the change over from all lead/tin to the so called white metal which seemed to tarnish just sitting in the blister. Now of days I just do not have a problem with lead rot. It could be that I do prime most of figures soon after I buy them even If I am not going to paint them any time soon.

Richard196728 Sep 2008 1:21 p.m. PST

Back in the late 80's, I stored some lead miniatures in a small cedar box, and went of to join the army,when I came home a few months later for leave I was the proud owner of a box of lead dust.I never knew that this would happen.I read somewhere that certain types of wood cause the lead to breakdown,I also collect German WW2 medals, and it is also known in the collector community not to store the medals in certain types of wood cases, because of the corrosive powers of certain woods.

Zephyr128 Sep 2008 1:24 p.m. PST

Before priming them, I'd suggest washing them off in a baking soda/water solution to neutralize any acid residues. There was also a post on this forum with a link to a Navy study of lead rot (but I have no idea how far back in the archives it is.)

John the OFM28 Sep 2008 1:31 p.m. PST

That is completely the opposite of one "cure"
I read about ages ago, and that was to wash them in vinegar. Somehow, a lead acetate coating was considered a GOOD thing.

But, today, any miniature from a reputable company SHOULD be using designed alloy, instead of tire weights, or battery lead. Nithing I have purchased in the last dozen or so years has come close to rotting.

Garryowen Supporting Member of TMP28 Sep 2008 1:53 p.m. PST

I have been collecting figures since the early-60's. In those days, lead rot was a serious problem. We primed with something called KoT primer that you could get in the more serious hobby shops. I never had any problem. KoT fell by the wayside to my knowledge.
For several years I used polyurethane varnish to prime wargame figures. No problem with lead rot.
For my 54mm and larger figures that I paint for show, not to play with, I prime with Floquil. primer, usually in a spray can, but also by brush. No lead rot with Floquil.
Floquil in the spray can is rather expensive for wargame figures.
More recently I have been using, I think Citadel primer, or some other wargames primer, but had some trouble with it leaving a dust on the the figures and a bit of texture. I though the can was too old maybe.
Most recently I have been using Krylon Primer.
While I have never had any problem with lead rot, myself, I am wondering, are these things we buy today as "primer" really anything different thatn paint? If they are not, then I do not see what protection they are against lead rot.
Some of the old timers may remember Fred Vietmeyer, best known for his rules, Column, Line and Square. Fred worked for International Harvester, as I recall. He was involved with coating metals. He researched this subject a lot and came up with the Kot primer as being what we needed to put a barrier between the paint and the lead in the figure.
Does anyone know if any primers avaialable are true metal primers, rather than just paint?

Dropship Horizon28 Sep 2008 2:07 p.m. PST

I must admit that I was always worried about my minitures succumbing to 'lead rot' after reading about it in Military Modelling back in the 1970's.

Out of thousands of minis that have passed through my collection over the years (and I still have a ood numberof my original pre-80s Hinchlife, Minifigs, Garrison and Citadel, I have only had 1 Citadel Viking showing signs of deterioration. Like Zephyr says, I wash everything before it's undercoated – and yes, I used to use Vineger too!


Bobgnar28 Sep 2008 6:19 p.m. PST

A vinegar wash is good to rough up the surface to hold paint better. This was a suggestion back in the early days when paint for figures was not as good. I still do that, soak for a couple days, then wash well, prime and paint and dip so maybe the vinegar is not needed, but figs do seem easier to paint after such a bath.

Sysiphus28 Sep 2008 7:31 p.m. PST

So the MinWax "DIP" cures as well as coats…HOORAY!!!

Makes my Hittites good for the next 1000 years.

IttyBitty28 Sep 2008 8:09 p.m. PST

Navy site:


Toy Soldier Museum:


Travellera29 Sep 2008 1:24 p.m. PST

Thanks all for your input. Seems hopefully that we can avoid the lead rot horror with miniatures of today….but can we be sure….

Farstar29 Sep 2008 4:29 p.m. PST

A lot of the miniatures currently in production have little or no lead, so it isn't an issue. Those manufacturers who do use lead should, at this point, know what mixtures and methods to avoid.

So its really down to us old collectors to take care of the suspect parts of our collections.

Sterling Moose29 Sep 2008 7:06 p.m. PST

I have the cure. Send all your minis to me and I'll make sure the pandemic ends (though I will have to quaranteen all figures sent for at least 50 years – you never can be too sure you know).

PeterH30 Sep 2008 12:36 p.m. PST

"I do prime most of figures soon after I buy them even If I am not going to paint them any time soon."

Me too, but I don't spray the bottoms. I've been basing on plastic game pieces (bingo chips) and pieces of Plastruct or Evergreen sheet plastic in the case of mortars/crew, mgs/crew.

I thought lead rot was caused by interraction of the metal to the air, and so if you primed/painted the figure and stored it in a cool, dry place you'd be okay forever.

Farstar30 Sep 2008 1:01 p.m. PST

"I thought lead rot was caused by interraction of the metal to the air, and so if you primed/painted the figure and stored it in a cool, dry place you'd be okay forever."

Lead rot (and its cousin zincpest) is a bi-metallic reaction that occurs in a couple specific composition ranges of zinc and lead, and is accelerated by exposure to off-gas products associated with wood products, foam rubber, white glue, and blister pack plastic. Certain combinations of these work faster than others, and fresh air and moisture seem to accelerate the process under most circumstances.

I've seen lead rot on RAFM, Ral Partha, Minifigs, Grenadier, and "TSR" miniatures from the 70s and 80s. There are probably others.

Asterix25 Nov 2009 8:03 p.m. PST

Some good suggestions as to how to avoid lead rot, but what do you do when a figure is "infected?" I have some toy soldiers from the 1960's that I have a real lead rot problem with. I have cleaned them, primed and painted 'em but in a few years (five or so?) the problem resurfaces {pardon the pun}.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP26 Nov 2009 5:23 a.m. PST

I've been collecting "lead" miniatures for over 40 years and I've never had a case of lead rot.

The Dozing Dragon Sponsoring Member of TMP29 Dec 2009 10:30 p.m. PST

I've had a number of cases, mainly old Citadel stored with others that were not effected…go figure (no pun intended!) I have read about the PVA connection a number of times with trepidation as most of my painted collected is attached to bases with said glue….time will tell.

Mal Wright Fezian30 Dec 2009 9:01 p.m. PST

I purchased my first metal figures 4 decades ago. There must be something about the weather here in Australia, because I've never experienced lead rot.

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.