Cleaning Rubber Based Ink off Press, Or "How I Wanted to Quit Printing Before I Even Started"

Hi Ladies!


I own a C&P Pilot and am just starting printing on it. Previously I was working only on a proofing press, which was a breeze to clean up, since all you do is ink the form with a brayer. Then today happened.


Today I finally inked up my Pilot, ran a couple of tests just to see how it worked. When it came time to clean it, I poured mineral spirits on a rag, and wiped off the disc. Then removed the rollers, and this is when the theme song to Benny Hill should have started, because it was a disaster. Dropping the rollers, getting ink EVERYWHERE, all over me and the press, trying to clean them off without using the entire bottle of mineral spirits and then scrubbing the life out of my hands and forearms to remove the ink. It was horrible. So. I need gloves, right? But more importantly, is there anything that cleans rubber-based inks easier and less greasy than the spirits? I've been seeing some things about Crisco...which would be nice, since it's more of paste consistency.  I need to avoid using half a bottle of mineral spirits every time I clean the press. Today was very frustrating, so I'd like to sort this out so the joy of owning a press doesn't fade.


Also, if anyone wants to take the time to type out a nice step-by-step tutorial of how you yourself go about cleaning the rollers, disc, and one's hands, I would be eternally indebted to you.


Thank you!



Views: 3470

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Also, if you would all like a little laugh, I JUST found out that the disc is removable. That will certainly make things a tad easier...Here's to being a beginner!

Hi Samantha,

I'm new too, and this post on the Snap+Tumble blog is pretty helpful:

(Also, she has a tag in her word cloud called "Tips and Hints" which I found really helpful!)


Good luck and don't get discouraged!



Hi Samantha,

I hear you, it's hard to feel at all graceful when dealing with gremlin ink spots, they multiply fast! I've learned some good pointers to drop a little veggie oil (not too much, just about a couple tsp's worth) on the top of the disc and before it drips down, run the press several trips, enough to spread the oil around and let the ink loosen up on the disc and rollers. I actually don't remove the rollers, just use eco-wash or California wash as i slowly manually move the wheel up one full rotation of the rollers and wipe them down in sections. On my tabletop press, I do remove the rollers and just prop them up with my hands, though I've seen pics of some handy wood blocks with holes in them so the roller pegs just sit straight up in them. Once it's all cleaned off, I'll use a little rubbing alcohol to dry off the grease from the disc. I always use gloves, but ink inevitably gets on your hands while printing, I just use gojo soap with the gritty bits in it and hand soap to clean.


I'm sure there are plenty of ways to do it, but I hope this helps some.


Happy printing!


Thanks to both of you wonderful ladies!


Courtney - That site is wonderful! I LOVE her solution using the Rubbermaid box! I have a bunch of those in my house already! Perfect.


Jen - I will definitely try the vegetable oil trick you mentioned. Also, where do you get Eco wash and California wash? I saw it on one website, (NAGraphics) but it just listed it as a product. I want to be able to see the label and read about it before I buy, you know? Is there a website? They also listed something called Putz Pomade. Ever use that?


Thank you again! Happy printing!



Hey Samantha,

I don't have a pilot but an 8x12 C&P. I take the rollers off first when cleaning up, one at a time, clean one then go to the next one. (not sure if it is the same on a pilot). Also I used to use mineral spirits or roller wash but now only use Soy-Solv (found at Daniel Smith online) It cleans amazingly and I don't mind it on my hands (though you can always see what color I printed that day under my fingernails (; ). It can be greasy so use sparingly and I cut the grease a little with some denatured alcohol at the end. I used to hate cleaning, but with the soy solv, it's a breeze.

best of luck!!


Thanks, Kathryn!


That SoySolv looks great, so much easier to use probably, since it is in a spray bottle. I found I was wasting so much of the mineral spirits by pouring it over the rollers. (On that note, check out the site that Courtney put up, and look at the Rubbermaid container trick that printer uses).


And I guess I'll just have to get used to the ink under my nails, haha.


Thank you!



I take a rag properly soaked, but not drenched in California wash, put it in a ball.
Take the rag and quickly run it over my disc, then lay it flat on the disc.
I run my rollers over the rag on the disc, slowly, back and forth about 4 times.
I take another fesh rag, (fold it in 3 or 4) with California wash and wipe my rollers throughly without taking the rollers off. I unfold the rag as needed to get a clean part of rag while wiping my rollers.
The whole proceeds takes under 5 minutes. Twice a month I'll use putz pomeade to de-glaze my rollers.
I've never used vegetable oil, or crisco, just press wash, and so far my rollers are in great shape, my rubber ink colours are true to colour (residual colour never left from my rollers), and this proccess allows me to change ink colour from dark to light very quickly.

Taking the rollers on and off is unnecessary and also a pain, so try it this way. if you have any questions, I can certainly post pics for you. best of luck.

Sorry, I forgot to mention, I have a C&P 8x12.


If you have too much ink on your press one of the tricks to remove ink is too put a piece of paper on the disc and run the roller over it.  I use this technique at the end of a run to get as much ink off as possible before cleaning to minimize chemicals.  I use paper from the recycle bin at work which once the ink has dried it can still be recycled.   Once I have removed most of the ink with the paper, I take a rag (usually the one I used to wipe off the type) and wipe the disc down.  I then clean the disc with a rag with a little California wash.  It doesn’t take much be most of the ink have been removed by the paper.  The rollers I take off one at a time and run them again across a clean piece of paper then put them spanning a shoe box lid that I notched four Vs on the edge to hold the roller (I was going to have my husband make a wood version but it works so well I haven’t bothered), then run a rag with a little California wash over them.  I store the rollers on the shoe box lid because I oil the press before every session.  I have used other cleaners but like California Wash the best for the Gans rubber ink and NA Graphics Oil-based ink that I use.

Personally, I avoid any vegetable based, food-grade products for press cleanup. They can go rancid and you can get a buildup on your rollers that may end up being tough to remove.


For clean up, I use California Wash, and blue disposable paper rags that you can get through Xpedx, ( a printing industry supplier. It's so important to keep your rollers clean. You may have heard the term "glazed" rollers, which is what happens to the roller material over time if it's not cleaned well or cleaned with the wrong solvent. They get shiny and non-porous and slick. If they're like that, the Putz pomade can be used to de-glaze them. Or it may just be time to get new rollers. Good form rollers are essential for good printing. Proper and thorough clean up saves a whole host of issues down the road with printing quality and extends the life of your rollers as well.


Also, always wear gloves, have good ventilation and always dispose of your rags in a fire proof rag can and empty it regularly. Make sure the cover is tight. I've been in shops and art studios where rags are laying about or hanging out of the can, and it's an invitation to see your beloved print studio go up in flames.


Cleaning up the press is tiring, but a job well done always makes the next press run easier. Nothing like a shiny press at the end of a long day! 



Snap and Tumble is where I took my first letterpress workshop day..... she was so encouraging.

I have the same press and another press-woman showed me how to clean it.  I take remaining ink off the disk with 1/4 sheet of newspaper... and keep doing that until there is very little to come off. then i use shortening to break down residue..... and then de-grease that with Simple Green. So far its pretty cheap. Then a quick swoosh with Gamsol or any mineral spirit.  I don't remove the disc or the rollers because its not that messy a process.   If I'm going to leave the press for a while.... I leave a coat of "easy street" on it to keep the rollers conditioned.  I also spray the moving parts with barasol pretty regularly.



  • Add Photos
  • View All

LoLP Book + Shirts + More


  • Add Videos
  • View All



© 2017   Created by Kseniya Thomas.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service