How “clean” do you clean your rollers?

I was just curious as to how clean others are cleaning their rollers? At the suggestion of other posts, I have been cleaning my rollers with the following steps:

1) remove as much ink as possible
2) run with roller conditioner (Easy Street) and remove as much as possible
3) run with small amount of vegetable oil and remove as much as possible
4) final wipe with Simple Green Degreaser

I guess I am curious because there is still minor amounts of ink on rollers (example: if I passed through with another rag with vegetable oil on it, there is still small amounts of ink). I figure that if my next color is darker, it won’t really matter. Anyways, just wondering to what extent others clean their rollers.

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“I figure that if my next color is darker, it won’t really matter.”

That’s not entirely true. Leaving any ink on the roller will taint the next color you are printing… i.e. if you are printing yellow and then move to a darker blue you will be tainting that blue. If you or your clients demand PMS (or other) color-matched systems you may be in for a surprise from one run to the next.

I would suggest odorless mineral spirits as your final wipe.

What press are you running?



This is a very strange concoction of stuff you are using. I have never used Easy Street but I do use a roller conditioner and deglazer once in a while. Vegetable oil should probably be left in the kitchen (it will gunk up your press parts), and Simple Green should likely not be used on rollers. Some of these alternative practices have damaging effects on rubber rollers and can weaken the plasticizers. They might seem to work well at removing ink but if you don’t know the chemistry, you can’t know their long term consequences.

The best solvents are either a good water-miscible press wash or, as Brad suggests, odorless mineral spirits (Vandercook recommended the latter).

Also, you mention removing as much ink as possible as your first step. You should let the solvents do the work and avoid excessive non-lubricated rubbing of the roller material.


I must concur with Gerald…. the use of non-standard cleaning processes can lead to roller deterioration, and possible inking problems. When the new “Green Printing” movement began, we experimented with veggie oil and “alternative” methods of cleaning up….. and none of them worked as well as mineral spirits or press wash.

Looking at your cleaning method, it appears that you are concerned about the environmental impact from the use of solvents. This is commendable. One thing to keep in mind though, is that the amount that we as an industry (or hobby) use is very, very small in the overall scheme of things. It is so small in fact that the EPA considers the use of mineral spirits as a solvent in letterpress establishments to be “….an insignificant point source of VOCs.” While I strongly believe that we should do all we can to minimize our impact on the environment, I don’t see mineral spirits as a real problem.

Hello SWDH,

Another vote for odorless mineral spirits. If you dispense small amounts from a plunger can and hang the dirty rags out to dry, I think you and the environment will not suffer too much. I finish with Anchor Wash R-228, a “one-step water-miscible ink glaze remover and rubber conditioner.” It’s great. It finds lots of ink that the mineral spirits missed. When a white rag stays white after using that stuff, I think your rollers are as clean as they can get. I make a first pass with the mineral spirits because it’s cheaper.


I’ve never used vegetable oil as a cleaner, but I have used Easy Street, and I believe it should be used after as much of the ink is removed as you can, and the Easy Street run in to do a final cleaning to remove ink and contaminants from rubber or synthetic rollers, followed by a good cleaning with suitable solvent.

When I started in printing there was a product called Putz Pomade which could be run on the rollers for a little while to remove any glazing and ink from the pores of the rubber rollers. This was generally used on Litho presses, but I have found it to work well for letterpress rollers as well. It had a fine grit in it which was somewhat abrasive, so it was critical that the stuff not be run for a long time. After the Putz, you would do a thorough wash with roller wash or mineral spirits.

Generally, if black is the next color, it will have the strength to cover almost any color which might remain in the rollers. It is common procedure, however, to wash the rollers and ink with a lighter color and clean it again before attempting to run that color on press , just to pull out any darker color which may remain in the pores of the rollers.

Aside from the occasional circumstance requiring a heavy cleaning or re-conditioning, I’d personally stay away from abrasive compounds for cleaning rollers.

For regular use - Instead of Putz Pomade you might look into a similar product, by the same company, called ClearGel. Use it as described above, as an intermediate step (first an initial washup to remove ink, run ClearGel, then a final wash). It does an excellent job of pulling ink out of the pores in the rubber that you can’t get, even with a through wash.

The product is also labeled as a “conditioner” to replenish plasticizers & keep your rollers in top shape. While I don’t use this at every cleaning, I do use it frequently & certainly after running dark inks.


Thanks, everyone for all the input!

I am using a Vandercook SP-15, and so far the “concoction” that I previously described has worked for the short term. However, it is good to get such thorough input in consideration of deterioration on rollers, inking quality, etc.

I mainly wanted to avoid the use of solvents due to an allergy to solvents that I developed many years ago from silk screening with oil based inks. Like many on Briar Press, I am printing in my home (basement) so I would like to minimize the amount of contaminents at home as well.

I’m still experimenting and expecting my gallon of California Wash soon, so I will report back once I get a good handle on what works.

I have tried it all and gans nature wash works best. it is basically white technical oil, a vegetable oil that is colorless. From gans

For oil based inks, spray 4 squirts, let it run and spread all over rollers and inking plate. wipe down. repeat. Then clean with simple green. For rubber based inks, just do the first part once and then clean with simple green. Your rollers will be better than new.

-and your rollers should be completely clean or you will possibly alter the following colors, muddy them or tint them the wrong direction.

We simply just use Kerosine. I have no idea if the long term effects can be bad for our rollers? There really is such a small amount of it that transfers from our rag to our rollers. We then leave them to dry for a while before printing the next colour. So far so good and no complaints.

We also are most naughty and dont always take our rollers off the press. Are we committing mortal sin? We do give them a super good clean on the press but I really struggle to remove the rollers on and off our C&P Oldstyle - my husband is far better at it, im just not strong enough!

So generally we only remove them when he is available and we have been printing a dark colour and want to make sure that every little bit is spick and span before printing a much lighter colour. We do make sure however that the rollers are never left sitting on the ink disc, we would hate to get flat spots!

Would love to hear thoughts on processes, we don’t want to be damaging our rollers but have just been working from the advise of an old letterpress printer who taught us the ropes.

1- Use a water miscible wash (solvent mixed with water) to remove both the solvent-soluble and water-soluble particles that are near the top of the deposit layer. This leaves the insoluble particles.
2- Use a non-grit roller paste to remove the insoluble particles. Be sure to use a paste that is designed and tested for the type of rollers you have. Never use a paste with grit, for this will damage the rubber.
3- With the layer of insoluble particles removed, most of the remaining soluble particles will be exposed and can be washed out with a second water-miscible rinse.
source: —>support —> roller care and maintenance.

For Strong dirt, you should use volatile, residueless cleaners.
In order to preserve the surface structure of the roller, cleaners containing ester or ketone, and especially methyl acetate or acetone, must not, under any circumstances, be used.

I am glad this topic showed up. I posted a question here of the same general nature a while back. Since that time I have had some one at a shop that recovers rollers locally tell me that toulene (spelling?) is just the thing to get rollers really clean. Should I be worried they are recovering my roller cores?