The Great Sticky Toy Experiment – or – How to Fix a Sticky Toy By PNL Toy Works Someone recently posted about a sticky toy that they purchased and was wondering how they might remedy the situation. Coincidentally, as a toy maker and customizer myself, I currently was facing the exact same situation with a few recent customs. I took it upon myself to experiment, record my findings, and share it with all of you. I call it: The Great Sticky Toy Experiment. If you just want to know “How To Fix a Sticky Toy” and not the story on how I arrived at those methods, then just scroll down towards the end of this post. How Does a Toy Become Sticky? First of all, how does a toy become sticky? Based on my research and experience, it can happen a number of different ways. Here’s a few common reasons: Varnish / clear coat applied too thick. Varnish / clear coat thinned with an improper thinner. Using very old varnish / clear coat. Excessive humidity during application. Using an incompatible varnish / clear coat for the medium in question. If there are other ways you have experienced, please add a comment. I believe the few recent custom toys of mine that became sticky, did so because either I thinned acrylic gloss varnish with water and shouldn’t have (rant below) or, more likely, I brushed it on too thick. I think it’s the latter because a few of the toys were not sticky at all…and those were the ones that I brushed last when I was running out of varnish in my pot so the coating was much thinner. The Test Subjects and My Methodology for Each Based on some comments from other ‘brainers, my past experiences, and some hunches – I came up with the methods listed below. Mr. Oni (Lower) – Lukewarm Water + Mild Dish Soap Mr. Oni (Upper) – Liquitex Matte Varnish, Brushed Mishka Eye – Sunlight Mr. Oni (Lower), 2nd Treatment – Mad Ape Ninja Clear, Airbrushed Note: I was going to use another sticky toy for the Mad Ape Clear but as you’ll see below the water/soap had no effect. So, instead of risking ruining another toy with a failed experiment, I used the Mr. Oni lower half again. The Results Mr. Oni (Lower) – Lukewarm Water + Mild Dish Soap: No effect. In fact, if anything, it felt even stickier afterwards. However, I believe this is because a sticky toy will accumulate more dust and particulates than a non-sticky toy and the water and soap simply washed away those particles. This is a notable finding which I used to my advantage later on. Mr. Oni (Upper) – Liquitex Matte Varnish, Brushed: Success! I knew this would be successful because I almost always use Liquitex Gloss first, then a 2nd coating of Liquitex Matte as per Liquitex’s recommendations. This is a great option for you non-airbrush folks out there. I will provide instructions below. Spoiler: PHOTO Mishka Eye – Sunlight: No effect. I had this sucker in direct, blazing sunlight for like 1.5 hours. Then indirect sunlight for like another hour. Nothing. I only thought this was a plausible solution because I applied the gloss varnish in a basement with minimal UV exposure. Nowhere on the packaging does it state UV is necessary to cure the varnish but it seemed plausible and another board member pointed this out as a potential solution, so I tried it. Spoiler: PHOTO Mr. Oni (Lower), 2nd Treatment – Mad Ape Ninja Clear, Airbrushed: Success! Mad Ape Ninja Clear to the rescue! After a light spray with the airbrush, left overnight to fully cure, the toy was noticeable less sticky. Another light coating did the trick, fully smooth, not sticky, minimal effect on visual appearance. I also tried this method on a few other toys with a similar stickiness issue and was a bit heavier handed on the spraying and they were perfect after one coating. I will provide instructions below. Note: I will be keeping one of the sticky toys fixed with Mad Ape Clear Coat to observe the long-term effects of this process. Spoiler: PHOTO Other Findings / Rants Acrylic paints can be successfully clear coated with Mad Ape Ninja Clear. I knew this was true but never tested it myself. I use a mix of Vallejo and Golden acrylic paints with Liquitex additives (flow-aid and slow-dri…no, that’s not a misspelling). Contradicting instructions can be found for nearly identical products made by different manufacturers. For example, Liquitex Gloss Varnish and Vallejo Gloss Varnish. From what I can gather (which is not TOO much since all these brands are on their proprietary bullshit) they are essentially the same product: Resin-based gloss varnish. Vallejo says right on the front “100% ACRYLIC RESIN”. Liquitex says on the side “Acrylic Polymer Emulsion”. Resin is a polymer, emulsion is just a fancy word for mixture, and both are self-proclaimed acrylic. AND YET, Vallejo says you can use water to thin but Liquitex explicitly states not to. Now, you jaded old farts are probably thinking “oh that’s just because Liquitex wants to sell you their thinners and shit blah blah blah” but Vallejo sells thinners and shit too, so WTF? Both parties have declined to comment. How to Fix a Sticky Toy! Before you begin, accept the fact that you may ruin your toy. (Also, please don’t blame me if something goes wrong! There are a lot of factors that can affect your outcome. This method has worked a few times for me. Good luck!) Wash your hands thoroughly. Gently wash your toy in lukewarm or cool water. In the sink under running water is ideal. No soap is necessary. Do this quickly, but don’t rush. You can touch and gently rub the toy to get off any very dusty spots - but do not push too hard, scratch, or use any tools. 3a. Note: If you are working with a multi-piece toy, you’ll first need to disassemble the toy with a heat gun. There are some tutorials on that already, Google it. Shake off the toy to remove excess water. (Do Not Towel Dry) Blow dry the toy on the cool setting for about 3-5 minutes to get all remaining water to evaporate. (Do Not Towel Dry) Place the toy on a chopstick or something similar so no sticky parts are touching anything. There’s always a hole in a one-part sofubi toy or each piece of a sofubi toy. I also have small dowels with little clips on the end to grab male ends of toys. Get creative! Allow to fully air-dry for additional 24 hours. Make sure it’s not a really dusty area because the sticky toy will grab anything that floats by. Fix The Sticky!!! Two options, detailed instructions below... 8a. (Option 1) Brush by hand with matte varnish. This is a great option for novices or folks without an airbrush. (Warning: This method will definitely affect the visual finish of the piece. It will be more of a satin finish, somewhere in between glossy and matte…but it should fix your sticky finish which may be more important.) ALWAYS TEST ON A SMALL AREA FIRST. Do this whole process on a small portion of the back of the toy or somewhere not so noticeable to see how it works. Grab a clean paint brush appropriately sized for your piece. I use Liquitex Matte varnish. Put some in a small dish / palette and gently brush a thin coating of the varnish all over your toy. Don’t load up the brush too much! Work quickly (but not hastily), in small patches, until the piece is completely coated. Pro-tip: Blow air (from your mouth) to eliminate surface bubbles as you are applying the varnish. Allow to fully dry for 24-hours. (Don’t forget to clean your brush right away too.) After fully dry: Inspect to find any spots you missed. They will be extra shiny, since it’s the gloss coat showing through. Touch them up the same way you applied the initial coat. Hard to reach places may require a smaller brush. Allow to fully dry again. That’s all folks. 8b. (Option 2) Airbrush with Mad Ape Ninja Clear. If you’re already experienced with an airbrush then you probably don’t need too much guidance here. This might also work with V-Color clear coat or other similar clear coats but I did not experiment with those. I highly recommend wearing a respirator, it’s the right thing to do for your health. Nitrile gloves can be useful as well. Get your airbrush station all set and load up your airbrush with thinned Mad Ape Ninja Clear. (It needs to be thinned a lot. Always test it first to be sure that it is thinned appropriately.) Spray it on the toy just like you would apply a normal clear coat. Again, I recommend testing on a small not-so-noticeable area first. Allow to fully dry / cure. That’s it, pretty simple. You might need to do more than one coat if you are applying light coats. Warning: I guarantee if you skip directly to step #8 that you will be incredibly angry at the amount of dust and hairs and shit that have accumulated on your sticky toy that are now forever entombed in the newly applied clear coat. Final Warning: This isn’t a miracle fix and none of it is ideal. If you have to do this then that means something went wrong with the original coat of varnish (clear coat) and the really best way to fix it is to completely strip the toy and start over, but sometimes that just isn’t realistic. Who knows, maybe 2-years from now toys that go through this process will grow weird varnish crystals, or turn yellow, or start stinking like meat. Bottom line is, layering coats of varnish on top of improperly applied varnish maybe ain’t the best idea…but for now, it’s all we’ve got. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.