ENVS 200 – 409 & Simple Green

Original Silver Boat Paint Test Subjects

M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors often have their own personal techniques, tips, and preferences for cleaning figures. When the Silver Boat Paint figures, part of the Purple Claw Project, were first shared with the M.U.S.C.L.E. community the use of 409 to remove the boat paint was one of the methods suggested. It ultimately became one of the two initial methods tested (nail polish remover being the second).

The 409 “testing” was done rather haphazardly and poorly documented. However, there were some positive results yielded. The test figure (#22) ended up in better condition, but far from perfect – for a variety of reasons. At the time, it made the 409 cleaning method seem like a very likely solution for removing the silver boat paint.

The Cleaning Solutions

While 409 initially ended up being the cleaning solution used, a Google search of popular paint removal techniques for toys, miniatures, and action figures revealed another option – Simple Green. It appeared that Simple Green was a rather popular choice for removing paint from a variety of items.

With two similar cleaning products, 409 and Simple Green, it seemed prudent to simultaneously test their paint removal abilities.

Unlike the Baking Soda Recipie, there was no clear method or recipe that could be found. One learning from the initial 409 testing was that the constant changing of the cleaning solution was largely unnecessary. Having the figure and solution sealed by plastic wrap, or plastic bags, was also unnecessary.

Test Subjects: Figure #2 and #93

The previous testing had also seen some deterioration of the plastic container holding the 409 and silver figure. For this experiment small glass cups were purchased because they were less likely to be reactive to the paint and cleaning solution.

Each painted figure was placed into the glass cup and cover with approximately 3 ounces (90 mL) of cleaning solution. A small saucer was put over the figures to prevent anything from falling into the solution, plus it allowed for any gases that may develop to easily escape.

#2 in Simple Green (left) and #93 in 409 (right)

The figures were left to soak for four days. The only time they were handled in any manner was to move the cups for daily progress pictures. The figures were never touched and the cleaning solutions were never changed.

After four days the figures were removed from the cleaning solutions. The figures were then scrubbed with a toothbrush. More delicate and detailed cleaning was done with an eyeglass repair flathead screwdriver. This screwdriver was selected because it provided a flat edge for scraping, a fine point for digging, and was not so sharp that it cut or damaged the figure. Each figure was cleaned with the toothbrush and screwdriver for approximately 40 minutes.

Cleaning #2 with a Toothbrush and Screwdriver

The Simple Green figure (#2) was the first to be removed and cleaned. Upon completeion of the first figure, the 409 figure (#93) was removed and cleaned in the same fashion.

The original 409 test (on figure #22) shaped the somewhat pessimistic expectations regarding the overall effectiveness of soaking the figures. The results had suggested that 409 was effective, but still required extensive scrubbing and scrapping to remove the paint and primer. Because of these pessimistic expectations the Simple Green figure was chosen as the figure to be removed from the solution. The hope was that it would be immediately clear if there were any major similarities or differences between Simple Green and 409.

Noticeable Changes to #2 w/ Simple Green

Surprisingly, before the figure was even removed some differences between Simple Green and 409 were noticeable. The paint on the figure appeared to have changed significantly. Without touching the soaking figure it was not clear whether this discoloration was positive (i.e., cleaned the figure) or negative (i.e., damaged the figure).

When the figure was removed from the solution, it became immediately clear that the discoloration was a positive attribute. The silver paint looked nearly completely removed from the figure. The white primer remained, but even it had completely disappeared from some places on the figure.

The other immediate observation was that the plastic had not appeared to deteriorate in any fashion. The details, rigidity, and just about everything else seemed completely normal for a M.U.S.C.L.E. figure.

Cleaned #2 (foreground) compared to
Flesh, Salmon, & Orange #2 Figures

The figure was then scrubbed with a toothbrush and unbelievable amounts of primer were removed. It was immediately clear that the Simple Green was more effective than the 409. However, as the paint was removed, the figure, originally thought to be a Flesh #2, looked discolored. The figure now appeared to be an Orange #2. It was impossible to be 100% certain that the Simple Green had not discolored the #2 figure (See Conclusion Below).

The figure was cleaned to nearly original, mint condition – simply because the effectiveness of the Simple Green was so stunning and made cleaning so easy. While the simplicity of cleaning was celebrated it was tempered by the discoloration issue. Further testing need to be conducted to provide 100% assurance that the Simple Green had not discolored the presumed Flesh #2.

Minimal Changes to
#2 w/ 409

Upon completing the cleaning of the Simple Green figure, the 409 test figure was removed from its cup. While some paint had been eroded, it was not nearly as effective as the Simple Green. Again a toothbrush was used to clean the figure. This time it was obvious that the 409 was not removing as much paint nor as it removing it as easily as the Simple Green test figure. While the toothbrush allowed for some larger areas to be cleaned, the majority of cleaning needed to be completed with the screwdriver. The 409 had failed to deteriorate the paint and primer in many of the detailed, intricate areas – it had even failed in fairly simple crevices. The cleaning process was slow and monotonous.

The 409 did remove and loosen some silver boat paint and primer, but not nearly as well as the incredibly effective Simple Green.

#68 & Simple Green

Irrefutable evidence has been provided that 409 is vastly inferior to Simple Green for removing boat paint from M.U.S.C.L.E. figures. Sadly the cleaning power of the Simple Green potentially discolored what was originally thought to be a Flesh figure. Without further testing of the Simple Green it was possible that 409 was the safest paint removal choice.

Another Simple Green experiment was immediately set-up. A Flesh figure (#68) was soaked in Simple Green for 5 days. When it was taken out of the solution it appeared unharmed in anyway. In fact, it actually appeared to be cleaner than when it had gone into the Simple Green solution.

It can now be said with 100% confidence that Simple Green does not discolor M.U.S.C.L.E. figures.

#68 Before Soaking with Control Figures (left)
#68 After Soaking with Control Figures (right)

It should also be noted that both cleaning solutions left odors on the figure. The 409 left a harsher “chemical” smell to the figure. The Simple Green also left an odor, but far less “chemically” smelling – almost bordering on pleasant. Further experiments will explore whether the 409 and Simple Green smells can be safely removed from M.U.S.C.L.E. figures.

Ultimately both 409 and Simple Green removed the silver boat paint from figures without damaging the figures. Yet when the two cleaning products are compared, Simple Green is far superior in all respects for removing the paint from a M.U.S.C.L.E. figure.

Anecdotally, it appears that Simple Green is currently the most effective and least damaging known method for removing paint from a M.U.S.C.L.E. figure.

#2 Cleaned with Simple Green
Before (left) and After (right)

#93 Cleaned with 409
Before (left) and After (right)

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  1. #1 by Eric on January 24, 2011 - 3:34 pm

    Amazing transformation and experiment, I can’t wait to see if there is anything to do about the smell. 🙂

  2. #2 by Orgg on January 24, 2011 - 9:32 pm

    So when does the Claw undergo the Simple Green Treatment?

  3. #3 by Uoozuman on January 24, 2011 - 11:54 pm

    Great write-up! Gonna give it a try!

  4. #4 by jphat79 on January 25, 2011 - 2:28 pm

    are there more than 5 silver figures? it would be nice if you kept one for memories

    & congrats! huge score!

  5. #5 by Chad Perry on January 25, 2011 - 2:32 pm

    I think the total was 6, maybe 7 – I’d have to look again.

    And I think if I’m able to perfectly save a Purple #153 from silver boat paint, then the cleaned test figures will be good enough for nostalgia’s sake. 🙂

  6. #6 by SmokinGun on January 25, 2011 - 10:54 pm

    Amazing that Simple Green does a great job getting rid of stubbord boat paint. As far as the minimal damage like the fade. Its possible that the primer had damage the figures over time. I hate to see the damages on the purple claw. It might look like a grape claw once cleaned. A very scary thought.

  7. #7 by Brandon on January 26, 2011 - 3:04 am

    That is really excellent news! Now I plan on giving all my figures a good cleaning. Glad to see that all your work appears to be be worth it.

  8. #8 by Chad Perry on January 26, 2011 - 10:30 am

    SmokinGun :

    As far as the minimal damage like the fade. Its possible that the primer had damage the figures over time.

    Where did you read anything about fading? The Simple Green did zero, absolutely no, damage to the figure.

  9. #9 by SmokinGun on January 26, 2011 - 9:25 pm

    Im judging the picture with all 4 #2 figures. It definitely looks faded.
    I was pointing out the primer may have did fading damage to the figure. Im not saying Simple Green made any damage.

  10. #10 by Chad Perry on January 26, 2011 - 10:08 pm

    Again, there wasn’t any fading. I think the colors look a little different because the Orange figure in the foreground is hit with a little more flash.

    Plus, based on other figures that have been brought out from under the boat paint and primer – there is no fading.

    It’s just the picture in this case.

  11. #11 by Uoozuman on February 6, 2011 - 2:56 pm

    Gave Simple Green a try on some messed up dekakeshi I got in the mail, and it worked wonders – no fading or discoloration at all.

    I also kinda like that strange smell – lol

  12. #12 by Chad Perry on February 7, 2011 - 9:58 pm

    Uoozuman :

    Gave Simple Green a try on some messed up dekakeshi I got in the mail, and it worked wonders – no fading or discoloration at all.

    I also kinda like that strange smell – lol

    I’m very happy to hear that. I think Simple Green is just amazing.

    I’m also glad to hear someone else liked the smell!

  13. #13 by stoneyface on February 9, 2011 - 11:52 pm

    simple green has now been added to my cleaning repertoire! awesome job

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