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91% isopropyl alcohol

Q: I've heard some talk in my model club about using 91-percent isopropyl alcohol as a paint stripper, but I've never used it for fear of the "unknown." Can you shed any light on the subject?

- Greg Platt
via E-mail

Ken: We'd be glad to, Greg. For many years, the basic paint strippers of choice were Easy-Off oven cleaner, Castrol Super Clean, and automotive brake fluid. Several other brands of paint removers developed by some of the model paint companies have popped up recently, but those listed above remained the Big Three until the discovery of 91-percent isopropyl alcohol.

Actually, "91-percent" has been around for a long time, but not until someone dunked a painted model car body into a vat of it did we realize its potential as a modeling tool. For all intents and purposes, that "someone" appears to be our own Kalmbach author and painting guru Bob Downie, whose name is typically associated with popularizing this new craze.

It's not just your typical rubbing alcohol (which usually contains about 70% isopropyl alcohol), and it may be difficult to locate, but the results are worth it. It won't harm the plastic, and it makes short work of some paints that Easy-Off or CSC won't even touch; however, there are some limitations.

Some Testor's paint can sit in 91-percent for days and not budge, but CSC will take it off in a matter of hours. Conversely, we've heard that 91-percent will strip Testor's and Dupli-Color lacquers but won't touch the underlying primer coats, which have to be removed with a separate swim in "Lake Castrol."

To sum all this up, Greg, 91-percent isopropyl alcohol is definitely a worthwhile and effective paint stripper, but like everything else in the real world, it has its limitations. It certainly won't harm most plastic model-car parts, but different paints call for different strippers. We suggest that you try it (and all the other popular paint strippers) yourself until you find the right product for the job. As always, experiment on a small section before dunking an entire body.


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