best cleaners…

hi all, just purchased a c&p craftsman that needs a lot of love.
was wondering if people could recommend what is best to use to:
* clean rust off the press?
* clean the ink plate?
* recommend any other solutions/cleaners that i can’t think of right now?
* best places to purchase them? (online or in california)
thanks much ~ looking forward to hearing all your responses!
yours truly ~ newbie christina

Log in to reply   17 replies so far

”* clean rust off the press?”
One part lemon juice - one part vinegar plus steel wool and elbow grease will remove rust. Don’t let the solution stay on the metal for a long time; over a day or so. Wipe off the excess after the rust is removed with kerosene or mineral spirits. This will keep it from re-rusting…to a point.

”* clean the ink plate?”
Dried ink can be difficult. Use the strongest ink solvent you can find and use steel wool and plenty of elbow grease in a well ventilated area. Kerosene or mineral spirits will work, but it’s not as strong as good old fashioned type wash which you probably cannot buy in CA

Once you begin to use the press, a very good method of washing the ink off the press is by using Crisco. Crisco works very well to break down ink on the disc and rollers and then you can use newspaper to gradually clean it off the ink disc. I put Crisco on just like ink and let the press run to work it into the ink and to get it spread over the rollers and disc. Then shut the press down and place a piece of newspaper on the ink disc and rub it down so that the ink will come off on the paper due to the burnishing action. Then you roll the rollers back on the ink disc (by hand) over the newspaper to remove some more that way. Repeat with newspaper until most of it is off. You can get most of it this way, and then use mineral spirits, kerosene, or water miscible press wash with a rag to get the rollers and ink disc really clean.

Some folks even use gasoline as press wash, but I prefer not to. It would however, be really effective on an ink disc that has dried ink. Use with an elevated sense of caution and care…
Some people use Johnsons Paste Wax on metal surfaces that have had the rust removed and is not ultimately going to be painted.

You should be able to purchase kerosene, mineral spirits, rags and steel wool (Medium #1 works well for me) at any Home Depot or paint department.

Lemon juice, vinegar, and Crisco can be purchased at your local grocery store.

Water miscible press wash is recommended for rubber rollers but not absolutely necessary, (but I like it) and can be purchased at a Graphics Supply Outlet that services the offset printing industry, and should be available in California.


wow - thanks for all the info dave!! :) i appreciate it - definately need a lot of work on the press, but i’m ready to give it love and attention.

You’re welcome!
Hard work and elbow grease sounds like what you’re going to need a lot of. You may find a wire brush handy also for some areas. You could even use a drill motor with a wire brush made to be used with one if some places are really tough…I’m imagining a very rusty press, but hopefully that’s not the case.
If most of the paint is intact, soap and water works wonders for dirt and grease. Simple Green cleaner if you can find that near you, or Dawn dishwashing liquid…is my favorite.

After reading what I wrote about Johnsons Paste Wax, I’d like to point out that it should not be used on an ink disc. If you ever choose to use that for anything, it should not be used on an ink disc. The disc should be bare metal. Small point but I needed to add that.

Good luck and sounds like you’re going to have a nice old press after you’re done!
Get it cleaned up, find all of the oil holes and keep it oiled, buy some new rollers and away you go!

Have fun!


On the ink disk, if the problem is dried ink, use an available paint stripper on it. I have used “Easy-off” oven cleaner with outstanding results as well.

Dave J is correct, lots of elbow grease is required. Wear rubber gloves and eye protection when using strong solvents, chemicals or steel wool.

John H

I should probably put out a warning here. The Lemon Juice/Vinegar is my absolute favorite solution and works like a charm. But I have found that there can be a problem with it. I only discovered this after years of using it.

Apparently, if you get this splashed on your clothes and it is allowed to completely dry and the fabric is not washed for a while, the mild acid that is created by this solution (and why it works so well) will literally eat the cloth. This will only become noticeable after the item is dampened and washed later. I have pitted t-shirts and pants to testify to this. This will not be seen while the clothing is still dry.

So if you use it, be very careful and try to wash whatever you were wearing as soon as possible. It seems to take a long time to actually deteriorate the fabric. I am talking here of leaving the clothing for a week or more before I washed it.


Any acidic compound you get on your clothes will react with the basic soap in your washing machine and basically burn holes in clothing. I learnt this the hard way after I spent an entire day at work carrying old car-batteries… you might try to wash tainted articles of clothing with just cold water, no soap, to get the acid off without burning holes in them, but I haven’t tried it myself.


thanks for all the tips everyone! i’ll gladly ruin some old clothing to get this puppy up and running. i got the serial number yesterday - i was so excited! it’s a c&p craftsman with ink fountain and most of the c&p feeder made from 1937. i’ll post some pictures of the beginning and progress of cleaning as it goes! :)

For the ink disk and any other place with dried ink:
A buddy of mine introduced me to Zep ERASE. Believe it or not, this is a Graffiti Remover in a spray can. We cleaned the dried ink off of the rollers on a Ryobi 3302 offset with it. ALL the rollers. Didn’t hurt the rubber rollers on our machine, but test it on yours to be sure. Don’t know how it will work with composition rollers. Also used it on NON PAINTED surfaces and the ink just wiped off. You can order it on line or from your Zep Dealer. I just bought a case to use on the job.

I’ve got to concur with the use of acids to remove rust. I tend to like phosphoric acid from the painting store, but vinegar also works.

I don’t agree with the use of Crisco to clean your rollers, though. I respond to a lot of ink problem e-mails, and many of them are related to the use of veggie oils. They are simply not the right solvent for that purpose. To clean you rollers either use a good grade of press wash, or mineral spirits.


Thanks for the great “heads-up” that it is the soap that reacts with the dried acidic compound to create the burn holes. I’ll remember to rinse everything in plain water when I finish using those mixtures the next time.


Not really wanting to get into a debate over Crisco, but I find that it’s a cheap and effective way to break down the ink to remove it easily with newspaper….then deep clean the disc and rollers with press wash so that none (Crisco) is left on anything….
I don’t do it because I think it’s ‘green’ because I’m likely the farthest thing from a tree hugger. In fact I have a magnificent idea of burning a pile of bald tires in my back yard to make my own special brand of rubber based ink…but I digress (and that’s a politically incorrect and really bad joke that I don’t expect many folks to find funny).
Crisco hurts not a thing if you remove ALL of it…and…
IT’S CHEAP and makes my press wash go further.
I will continue to use it but if hurts my precious rubber rollers over time or gives me inking problems I will discontinue it’s use and report back with my findings and become a staunch anti-Crisco advocate.


Dave…. I have no problem with you using Crisco for whatever non-cooking purposes your mind can think up. It’s a free country, and your personal preferences are fine with me. As long as they don’t hurt anyone other than you and your consenting adult partners, I’m cool with it.

My comment was intended to advise our Newbie friend as to how to clean her rollers so as not to encounter an oil polymerization problem accellerated by ink driers which will ultimately damage many of the newer roller materials, especially the softer synthetic rubbers used on smaller presses. …. and certainly NOT any sort of condemnation of your chosen lifestyle.

I realize that and I confess my rant was sarcastically tongue-in-cheek strictly for entertainment & the bewilderment of some.

Water miscible press wash, kerosene, and mineral spirits is excellent stuff.

…and it worked well! I almost snorted root-beer out of my nose when I read it. I am sure that somewhere out there, one of my Mother Earth News buddies is reading your post right now and pondering how to de-vulcanize those tires…..

When it comes to odorless mineral spirits…is there a specific brand better than others? Some are pretty cheap, others get pricey.

Brand is probably not so important, though known name brands will be more consistent in composition, albeit more expensive. That said, avoid like the plague “paint thinner” which tends to be a dumping ground for whatever suitable solvent is at hand at the refinery…

White kerosene has been my solvent of choice for over three decades. I think that “white” kerosene may be a little more refined than regular kerosene. It is the stuff that is generally used to fuel space heaters so it is not as smelly as regular kerosene. I live in rural Iowa and simply go to town once or twice a year to refill my gas can (dedicated to the white kerosene) at one of the local gas stations. Here in rural Iowa, most of the Mom-and-Pop gas stations have a separate pump either on the side of the station or out back that dispenses white kerosene. Just a tad more expensive than gasoline to refill your own can that way.

I suppose you could also buy it in hardware stores, but then you are paying for their can too.

My shop is in my basement. Although not entirely odorless, the white kerosene is tame enough so that I don’t get complaints from my better half about odors creeping upstairs.

Aside from the cleaning capability, anything wiped with the kerosene will have a thin coating of oil on it once the kerosene has evaporated. This is especially nice with type and things that might overwise oxidize because of the warm and humid summers.