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"Will Washing Metal Figures Affect Paintwork Later?" Topic

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Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP09 Sep 2017 7:42 p.m. PST

I have literally a mound of figures that got wet and muddy with the recent flood at our house.

What's the best way to clean them up? I'm open to any and all suggestions.



robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP09 Sep 2017 7:51 p.m. PST

If we're talking about raw lead, in my experience, washing metal soldiers will not affect later painting--if you make sure they're thoroughly dry before you prime. My inclination would be a colander, an old toothbrush and a hose outdoors.

Muddy painted castings are another matter.

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP09 Sep 2017 7:52 p.m. PST

Raw metal, mostly.



bsrlee09 Sep 2017 8:19 p.m. PST

Just avoid anything that has 'silicone' in it like furniture polishes or cleaners, that WILL stop stuff sticking. Regular soap or detergent will be fine.

Cyrus the Great09 Sep 2017 8:31 p.m. PST

Get a big colander. Put the figures in the colander and wash them with the garden hose. Keep them in the colander and then put the in a bucket of bleach and water for 30 seconds. Pull them out and rinse with the garden hose and dry them in the sun. You'll have no problems later. I speak from experience, I've been flooded out twice. I did this with painted figures as well, no problem.

VCarter Supporting Member of TMP09 Sep 2017 9:02 p.m. PST

Glad you're getting into recovery.

Painted figures can also be an issue. When I've had a similar situation, I found it was best use future wash as part of the process. When I just used soap and water the figures dried with a white frosting.

gavandjosh0209 Sep 2017 10:04 p.m. PST

Had to do this years ago when the city flooded. I found that some washed in-painted figures developed "lead rot" not long after. Perhaps prime after you wash + dry.

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP09 Sep 2017 10:30 p.m. PST


You mean raw metal figures got "lead rot" later, after being painted? I don't think I have ever seen firsthand what "lead rot" is, though I have seen some photos of it.


cavcrazy10 Sep 2017 5:06 a.m. PST

Does anybody make just lead figures anymore? Did you lose any figures in the flood? If so I have plenty of unpainted AWI and SYW, as well as some plastic Napoleonics in 28mm I can send you.I hope you and yours can get past this tragic event and get back to normal real soon.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP10 Sep 2017 7:35 a.m. PST

Lead rot--AKA the "creeping crud." I used to go over this with Baron Vietmeyer, who was an industrial chemist when he wasn't inventing CLS. Lead oxidation. Never knew a case among castings who got the old IR plastic-based primer, but I don't know where you'd find that now.

For painted castings, I'd say thoroughly dry--maybe even mildly bake. (I used to have some luck positioning castings above pilot lights, back when gas stoves had such.) And afterward, give them a VERY good clear coat. Every case of "the crud" I know, someone was careless with or neglected the clear coat.

To stop existing crud, brush the affected area with lighter fluid and an old toothbrush. Repaint as necessary and seal.

Personal logo StoneMtnMinis Supporting Member of TMP10 Sep 2017 8:24 a.m. PST


Since the lead content is greatly reduced in figures now as opposed to figures from the "good old days", lead rot is basically a mute issue. Just clean the figures with water and dry, then soak for 30 to 60 minutes in distilled white vinegar to slightly etch the metal to give your primer better adhesion.

Now if you are concerned with pollution or contamination in the flood water, then add a good anti-bacterial dish soap to the wash.


attilathepun4710 Sep 2017 2:50 p.m. PST

@Cacique Caribe,

I'm a former museum curator, and I also have numerous metal miniatures, some of which date back to the 1970's. None ever developed "lead disease," in spite of living many years in damp environments; however, I was always careful to clean and dry them thoroughly and quickly, and then to apply proper metal primer before painting. But I have seen lead disease develop on painted lead ship model fittings that had not been primed; it is insidious and ugly. So, in your situation I have the following recommendations:

1. Do clean and dry your metal miniatures as soon as possible (as others advise above). I would add household ammonia to the water and detergent, as it will not harm unpainted metal and enhances the degreasing ability of the detergent. Do not use ammonia on any painted miniatures. Also, never mix ammonia and chlorine bleach, since that will release chlorine gas.

2. Thoroughly rinse to get rid of any residual detergent, then dry as quickly as possible. You can speed this up by dipping the miniatures in a volatile solvent such as denatured alcohol or acetone (available from hardware stores). If you're scared of using volatile solvents, you could speed up drying with a hair blow-dryer.

3. I disagree with the suggestion above about applying any vinegar. StoneMtnMinis may have gotten away with it, but any acid exposure may increase the risk of developing lead disease.

4. It is advisable to apply metal primer as soon as the miniatures are completely dry. Normally I prefer to apply primer with a brush because I think it more likely to reach undersides and penetrate crevices. But that is probably not practical in your situation with so many to do at once. Tamiya does make spray metal primer intended for models, but Krylon and Rustoleum both have metal primer in spray cans. Some care will be required in spraying to avoid clogging details; anyway, two light coats from different angles are more likely to achieve complete coverage.

5. Once the primer is dry, you should be able to store your minis as long as necessary before painting them. In view of the waterlogged condition of your area, I would add silica gel desiccant to your storage containers--that is the stuff in those little packets inside pill bottles and boxes of electronics intended to absorb atmospheric moisture. You can buy the packets from Amazon or Walmart or get it in bulk from various sources online. It eventually gets saturated, but can be recycled by heating in an oven.

6. You can get more details and explanations by reading my TMP post of 15 May 2017 in a thread entitled "Treating Lead Rot."

You certainly have my sympathy, along with all the flooding victims, and I wish you the best of luck in dealing with the aftermath.

gisbygeo11 Sep 2017 7:39 a.m. PST

DO NOT store lead figures in polyethelene containers, it leaches (acetic?) acid and causes/accelerates lead rot.

Back in the old days of enamel paint I had some hoplites who had a problem. I tremcladded the affected area and they are fine, 17 years later.

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP11 Sep 2017 8:34 a.m. PST

What's a polyethylene container? Rubbermaid?


goragrad11 Sep 2017 9:27 a.m. PST

On the subject of lead rot, the old Asgard minis are very prone to it.

I have gotten a number of lots of them in recent years that were never primed and some of the figures as pretty much gone. Just got a batch of Parthians that are so bad that the bases of the horses (over 80) broken off as the legs became too thin to take the stress of shipping.

Presumably CC if you had any of those it would already be evident, so probably not a problem.

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP11 Sep 2017 10:03 a.m. PST

Whew. Thanks.

I've never stored them in anything but those plastic containers. Many of them in zip loc bags inside the boxes. And I've never seen lead rot.


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