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Cleaning dusty models

Q: What is a good way to clean dust off models without hurting the paint job? My models have decals without clear coat over them and I'm afraid to use water to clean the models for fear it will hurt the decals.

- Dylan Smith
Indianapolis, Indiana

Ken: Just like their 1:1 counterparts, model cars require maintenance to preserve their shiny appearance. Fortunately, the biggest threats to our model collections are dust and an occasional spider web. The trick, Dylan, is to establish a cleaning schedule so the layers of dust don't get too difficult to remove.

Begin by gently dusting the model with a sable brush you've set aside specifically for this task. A careful blast of air from a can of compressed air (sold in photo stores to clean negatives) or from your airbrush will also loosen heavier deposits of crud, which can then be brushed away.

Don't be afraid to add a little water to the surface, since cured decals typically aren't harmed by gently cleaning. Moisten a cloth and carefully rub off any grime. You'll be more apt to knock off a side mirror or antenna than hurt the decals. Cotton swabs (wet or dry) are good for cleaning hard-to-reach areas, too. Don't be afraid to try a mild soap in certain spots that are really dirty, but be careful - only use a dab of soap that can be easily wiped off with your moist rag. When using anything other than water, experiment on an inconspicuous area of the model first to make sure there are no adverse reactions.

Once your model has regained its original sheen, it doesn't hurt to protect the surface with a coat of high-quality wax. A mild automotive cleaner wax can be used to further remove any residual grime from the surface and a good Carnauba wax to finish the whole thing, decals and all. Once the wax is applied, the dust will yield without much struggle during your next scheduled cleaning.


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