Cleaning Composition Rollers

I think I’ve got my last problem posted (‘Problems with roller core and trucks”) resolved, but now I have a general question. I checked with the guy who restored my press, a Victor 6x9, and he said that the rollers are composition rollers. I thought they were rubber, so good thing I confirmed! What is the best way to clean these? Since I thought they were rubber, I had bought a gallon of California Wash (which I can still use to clean the ink plate and pp plates). Would California Wash work for composition rollers? He suggested Laquer Thinner.


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The most appropriate cleaner for composition rollers is plain old mineral spirits. If you are concerned about the smell, use de-ordorized spirits.

The thing to avoid at all costs is anything containing water. This includes many of the “low voc” and “environmentally friendly” cleaners. A lot of these are water-based emulsions, which will disolve your rollers. I do not know if California Wash is water based or not, so I can’t advise you on it.

As far as lacquer thinner goes, there is no need for anything so harsh. It is a great solvent for it’s intended purposes, but it’s a bit too toxic for routine roller cleaning.

The “Cat” is right. Using lacquer thinner in humid weather can actually draw moisture to the surface of the rollers from the air, and in dry weather will tend to dry out the composition. Mineral Spirits or Kerosene are your best options (in my opinion). Both do a great job of cleaning up the ink and both (to a varying degree, dependent on actual formula) with leave a slight film of light oil on the surface of the rollers, preventing drying or taking on water by the geletin composition.

Thanks so much for the comments! I found Gamsol Odorless Mineral Spirits that’s in stock at a nearby fine arts store ( It’s a good thing I asked first… I wouldn’t want to ruin my brand new rollers with Cali Wash without knowing if it contains water.