How To Clean Model Ships Quickly & Safely

How To Clean Model Ships Quickly & Safely

3rd Jan 2022

If your ship model doesn't have its own display case, and you notice it isn't as bright as it used to be, there's a high possibility it has been contaminated with dust.

Dust is the most dreaded enemy of any ship model. It accumulates fast and can be tricky to get rid of once it's there. It can get into every nook and cranny. And if you let it settle for too long, it can attract moisture, which can lead to corrosion, mold growth, and salt formation.

You worked hard to build your model - if it's something you're proud of, why not clean it routinely to prevent dust from dulling its appearance?

To keep your ship model from deteriorating, you need to clean it regularly. If it's your first time cleaning a ship model, don't worry. We created this guide to help you clean your model in the quickest and safest way possible. Let's start by explaining how often you should clean your models.

How Often Should You Clean Your Model Ship?

If you have your model ships displayed in the open with the rest of your furniture and decor, it'll be easy to gauge when you should clean your model. All you have to do is inspect it, see how much dust has accumulated, and decide for yourself whether it needs to be cleaned or not. Just run your finger across the hull to see how much dust has built up.

We recommend cleaning your ships at least once a month if possible. If you can prevent dust from accumulating in the first place, you'll never have to worry about deterioration. Plus, cleaning becomes easier the more frequently you do it.

What Do You Need To Clean Your Model Ship?

There are several supplies you can use to clean your model ships. Choosing the right cleaning tool mainly depends on how heavy the dirt build-up is. But, the specific area of your model ships you're looking to clean will also play a factor. We've listed the different items you can use to clean your models. We also explain how to use them without causing any damage:

Compressed Air

The same compressed air you use to clean keyboards is great for model ships. If your model ship has only accumulated a light layer of dust, you can use compressed air to easily blow off loose dust. Just make sure to keep the nozzle at a safe distance, so it doesn't get a direct blast of air. The nozzle should be one to three inches away from your model to keep any fragile parts from getting damaged.

An airbrush without any paint also works well for blowing away light layers of dust. You have more control over the strength of an airbrush. Thus, making it safer for cleaning your models. Make sure to dust your model in a different area from where it's displayed, or the dust just might settle back onto your model.

Soft Brush

If compressed air isn't enough to clean your models, use a dry soft brush instead. Paintbrushes and makeup brushes work surprisingly well for cleaning model ships with thicker layers of dust. Just use them to gently brush away any dust that is accumulating on your model.

You might need to use several paintbrushes to get the job done. A large brush makes cleaning larger areas of your model more efficient. For those hard-to-reach areas, a small brush works best. When cleaning a model, you should start with the larger areas first and then make your way to the smaller and more delicate areas. If you're working on a miniature ship model that is less than a foot long, a Q-tip can also do the trick.


A soft cloth is great for cleaning larger surfaces on model ships, such as the hull. But we wouldn't recommend using a cloth to wipe down any other part of your model as it can easily snag onto different parts. This approach may cause more damage than good if you aren't careful.

If you don't have any other cleaning tools available, you can choose to use a cloth to clean your entire model. Just know that it will take more time since you have to be more cautious and precise.

Cleaning Agents

You don't have to use cleaning agents all the time unless you're dealing with severe dust and grime. Cleaning agents are usually only used on old model ships that have been left on display for years or in very dirty environments. If you're here reading this guide, we hope you don't let your models get to that state! But, if this does happen, here is what you should do:

When you're trying to restore an old model ship, use non-abrasive cleaning agents. Before you start cleaning, you should do a test. Find a small inconspicuous spot on your model to test the cleaning agent and see if it's safe for your model. Remember, they don't always have an immediate effect. So try to wait a bit longer before using it on the rest of your model. If you don't see any signs of discoloration, stripped paint, and so on, then you should be good to go.

Try not to dampen your model too much, especially if it's made of wood. If the wood absorbs too much water, it may cause the wood to expand, which may damage your model's joints and seams. Metal parts, on the other hand, can be easily cleaned with some mild soap and water. Use a cloth and some brushes to clean the metal parts thoroughly without getting the cleaning agent onto the other delicate parts of your boat.

Non-abrasive cleaning agents are generally safe to use on plastic models, just keep an eye on the finish. Again, before you clean the whole model, do a test on a small area first. And if you do end up stripping paint off or messing with the coloration of your model, don't beat yourself up. Just grab somemodel set paint and give the ship a fresh coat.

Tips To Keep Your Ship Models Clean & Dust-Free

Once you've successfully cleaned your model, you can now put it back on display. To prevent dust, grime, and other kinds of dirt from getting onto your models, you should consider investing in a display case.

If you're on a tight budget, you don't have to get a glass case, an acrylic case works just as well. You can even build your own display case. There really is no better way to keep your models dust-free than by keeping them in their own glass case or cabinet. We even wrote a complete guide on how to display model ships!

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