By George Bojaciuk
January 1, 2006 - Used with permission
We all have that one in-law that thinks your hobby is foolish and has on occasion used your prized convertible as an ashtray! My brother-in-law, Mortimer, is like that! Hopefully, after reading this you'll have a better understanding of how to properly care for your model cars and clean up any accidents. The care tips will also help your models live a long and productive life, giving you countless hours of eye pleasure! To deal with people like Mortimer, you'll have to wait for another article on dealing with in-laws!
Brushes - Why on earth would anyone need a brush? Ok, how many of you have lost parts to the dreaded dust rag? I have purchased several brushes whose only purpose is reserved for dusting. I have a 1" camel hair brush which I use for general purpose dusting, a large rounded brush for detail work on interior areas and a brush generally found with electric razors for the cleaning of dried waxes in hard to reach places.If you take a stroll down the makeup isle you'll be able to find all kinds of things appropriate for your models. Just takes an open mind, that's all. Make-up brushes are awesome for general-purpose dusting and cost pennies as compared to a 1" camel hairbrush. A neat trick for stubborn dust on the inside of the windshield, especially a hardtop model, is to brush the outside "glass" until a static charge is created. Then all you need to do is drag the brush over the outside of the "glass" and the particle clings, right out to the edge.
Vacuum - I'm not kidding! My wife finds it entertaining when she hears me vacuuming my little cars. Sometimes she invites the neighbors in to watch! Computer stores have these neat little battery-powered vacuums. Many, come with a few attachments. I do not recommend the brush attachments as they are very stiff and the thick diameter of the intake shaft prevents any usefulness.To get around this, go to you local health supply store, one that carries oxygen. Ask them if they carry oxygen bubble tubing. If they do, a 1-foot section will last you an awful long time.You will need to cut a short section of tubing at the widest part of the bubble - in most cases this will be right in the middle. Then cut the tubing at the thinnest part. This is the end that will go into the car. It will be about 6 inches of tubing. Attach this to the end of you vacuum unit and you're ready to go. Being soft and pliable, the tubing will not scratch paint or chrome. You can easily get into corners of the floor and get at any stubborn dust. I also do not recommend mini attachments you can get for portable, full size vacuum units. I had a friend who bought a detail brush kit for his Eureka and I watched him suck the console, pedals and mirror right out of a Camaro model! The look on his face was priceless!
Buffing rags - Any old rag will do...right? Wrong! You should be using only 100% cotton rags to buff your models. Some cotton rags like diapers are stitched with rayon. Rayon will scratch your model's surface. Art supply houses offer rolls of 100% cotton wipes, as do some auto supply houses. Remember; be sure it's all cotton!
Dust Off - This is the spray air in a can. This can be an effective way to shear parts right off your models. The burst of air from the can nozzle could probably be clocked right with the force of a hurricane! My one friend used this product as well, and now has quite a few good parts cars. I have seen other collectors that have mastered the trigger and can clean a model beautifully! Watching them operate the can is like watching a maestro conduct a symphony. I use Dust-Off when painting bodies. One gentle blast will get any errant dust off the surface.
Polish and Waxes We Use only waxes or polishes recommended for use on clear coats. They do not contain any abrasives that can scratch your model’s finish. This is extremely important if you plan on treating a black car to a buffing. So what do I use? If the car only has a few fingerprints, especially after eating cheese curls or something similar, I will wipe the car down with Final Inspection by Meguiars.
NEVER spray product directly onto a model! I will usually dip a Q-tip into a film container holding some solution. I blot off any excess and then gently apply to the surface. I avoid raised edges and silver painted areas as these can easily rub through. The solution dries to a fine haze. I then wipe the haze away using a 100% cotton cloth, wrapped around my index finger.
You need not apply Herculean pressure onto the surface of the model. Light, gentle pressure will get the haze off. An alternative product is Dry Wash and Guard made by Enviro-Tech International. Roger Hardnock turned me onto this product. It’s a dri-wash product that contains paint friendly polymers. Rub in on, let it haze and then wipe it off.
Sometimes there are stubborn glue marks or even scratches on the surface. To remove the glue marks, I use a product called Bare Metal Plastic Polish. Many years ago I did an article car for a magazine. In the final assembly I touched the front fender with my finger. It had superglue on it and I left a huge glue mark on the fender. I thought the model was lost. I had nothing to lose and tried everything. The only thing that worked was the Bare Metal Polish. It dissolved the glue mark and polished the paint underneath.
For final waxing I use a non-abrasive Carnauba wax. It’s applied with Q-tips and then gently wiped off. Again, use the same guidelines for waxing. Avoid high spots and silver painted trim. Also avoid mirrors, photoetched parts and the edges of chrome body trim. During the entire cleaning/waxing process, I wear the supplied cotton gloves. Not only do they make me feel pretty, they serve the function of preventing oils from your hands, marring a clean surface. When I’m finished, I put the gloves in a Zip-Lock bag to protect them from dust and most importantly, debris that might be around the workbench. Last thing you need is a fine metal shaving to get imbedded in your gloves and scratch your finish, inadvertently. I also suggest that you do the same with your buffing rags. Another good polish is Novus and it comes in 3 concentrations. I would only suggest that a novice use #1 and #2.
Solvents and other nasty things -
Most Care and Handling booklets tell you not to use solvents of any kind. They mean it! I’ve heard of people on the board using Acetone and all kinds of other things to clean model cars. Two words to those folks… “You’re nuts!” I have repaired many models for friends who decided to take glue marks off with acetone. ACETONE WILL SOFTEN PAINT….period! Paul Kravchak uses it to remove tampos. He is a trained professional and exercises extreme care knowing that the underlying paint can come off. So unless you’re prepared to send your model for a repaint, stay away from acetone. There will be someone out there who is reading this, who will say that he’s used acetone for years. Well, you’ve been very lucky!
Waxes with cleaners are deadly to a model! Avoid them! They leave fine scratches on a surface of a model. Over time, continued use will dull the finish right out.
Avoid the use of water on a model. I say this because certain municipalities have different restrictions on water quality. If you have a high acid content, number one-you should be drinking bottled water, but the acid will attack the model over time. Metal parts will form a crusty, orange coating, commonly known as rust. I know of at least a few collectors that have wiped down cars with water only to find that the steering shaft rusted solid within the plastic collar, making it useless. Yes, they did use a lot of water, but the point is don’t use it! Water quality comes into play when you start to notice the metal bubbling under your paint. High acid water gets to the metal through pores in the paint and over time reacts with it, like acid rain.
Most model chrome is typical automotive chrome and can be cleaned easily. Sometimes a simple wipe with a soft cloth will do. Be careful not to use any petroleum based products on the “other” chrome found on models. This “chrome” is known as vac-metallized and any petroleum based cleaner or wax will remove your metallized coating. This coating is common to promo models, model kit chrome and some cheaper diecast models.
Sunlight, extreme heat and cold are a model’s enemy. Never store your models in an uninsulated attic. Temperatures can reach highs that will melt rubber tires, distort plastic and cause paint to eventually bubble. To the converse, attics can also reach low cold temperatures, too. This constant expansion and contraction will eventually destroy your model. Direct sunlight will fade colors on the interior and exterior. Also avoid exposure to high intensity halogen lights. Some pigments in paint do not take kindly to this exposure and fade quickly.
I hope this article answers some of the many questions I’ve seen on the board about caring for your models. In no way is this article the definitive answer. These techniques have worked for me and I’ve proudly displayed my models for years and they look like the day I first put them out. Like your booklet says, “…follow these directions and your model will be the source of pride for years to come.”
George Bojaciuk is the author of Building and Detailing Scale Model Muscle Cars