Lint and Dust on Rubber Rollers

I can’t seem to find a rag or cloth to clean my rubber rollers that WON’T leave tons of lint and dust on them. They are so sticky! I clean with vegetable oil, and follow up with Simple Green. Any advice on what type of cloth to use? Or are there some special lint free cleaning rags?
Thank you!

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There are some lint free rags out there like they use on musical instruments and automobiles, but I would think that they would be a little too cost prohibitive to use in a shop.

I picked up a box of rags (these are paper rags) at home depot and have been pretty happy with the results so far. I’m using california wash to clean up with, however. Perhaps you need something a little stronger to clean with?

Best of luck!

I use blue shop towels (usually sold in auto parts store or in the tool departments of places like walmart or target). They come on a roll like paper towels and are relatively cheap.
I clean up with kerosene and as long as the towels are moist, they don’t leave any lint on the rollers.

Vegetable oil and Simple Green are probably the culprits here. Try a quick wipe with odorless mineral spirits at the very end to see if that removes the remaining lint and dust.

steal your husbands old t-shirts, cotton works pretty good. Dick G.

Jessica- Find a pair of panty - hose (they stretch better) that have a run and are of no further use. Cut the legs so that you can insert pieces of old cotton t-shirt inside them and pull into a tight ball. The cotton is absorbent and will hold your cleaning agent and the nylon stocking cover will help prevent lint from being deposited on your rollers. After many years of roller cleanup I’ve found nothing better. The nylon covers will work for a while…just keep swapping the cotton rags. Ke

Vegetable Oil, Denatured Alcohol and a box of cotton rags from the hardware store?


Do not use denatured alcohol it will dry out the rubber.

Simple Green should be the final agent, it leaves a residue and has water in which will cause rust to form on oscillator and drum. Having said that, I do use it to clean cruddy surfaces, but follow up with WD-40, then oil. Works but better than mineral spirits.

Like Paul @ Devil’s Tail, I’ve read about Simple Green And so am looking for a new product. Julie at Bumblbee Press told me about Amerikal. I will order a sample next week.


Paul,, you got me off the gasoline and on coleman fuel, i used keroscene many years ago and am thinking about using it again, and just using the coleman for washups when i have to ink up right away. Dick G.

I do read the MSDS for press room chemicals, and forgo most household chemicals, but just recently reconsidered Simple Green, which I only used on greasy parts not rollers. But the topic has drifted from lint-free rags. I like WypAll X80 a quilted paper blue wipe available from printers supply or online. However, panty hose sounds promising.

everyone has their own method, but mine is vegetable oil wiped down with a paper towel (squeeze a tablespoon or two on the plate and run the press a few cycles till it is evenly spread on the disk and rollers-then wipe it all clean), and then clean up by pouring everclear on a cotton t-shirt fragment. it works better than everything else (for me), and yes, I have tried everything else. I have had no problems with the everclear drying out my rollers, in fact they feel as clean and wonderful as they did the day I first unwrapped them new. I do use the black rollers however, and they are less sticky than the blue ones from na.

I am sure to get the same people telling you on here not to use this method for some reason or other. I had to get away from all those chemicals, and luckily I found this solution. hope it works for others out there as well.


Thanks everyone! I learned to use Veg. Oil and Simple green in school, so I kept it. I AM using old tee shirts, and I WILL try the panty hose. I think I’ll stay away from the mineral sprits though, since I print in the second bedroom of my apartment.

Jesse- just because you learned something in school does not mean it’s the best solution to the problem. There are many, many professors out there who have never worked outside of the academic community.

Veggie Oil and Simple Green are not the best way to clean your rollers….. nor are they any more “Green” than other methods. Denatured alchol is actually much worse, both for you, and the environment.

I’m not one to say that you are going about it the wrong way…… You can do it however you want to. It’s your shop. BUT if you want to keep your rollers in the best condition, and printing their finest, then ditch the “alternative” cleaning methods, pantyhose, and old t-shirts. Do it right: Invest $8, and buy some cheap shop towels at the hardware store. Then use deodorized mineral spirits for your clean-up. (it won’t smell up your apartment) Your rollers will thank you.



I love a good debate! Reading all of the msds sheets and posts, I can see good concepts presented from all points of view.

I think IF I were concerned about VOC’s or ugly chemicals, I’d look into using something like Akura or Faust water-based inks. I’ve had good experience with Faust, and it cleans up with water.

Of course, I’m an old school sort of printer so I just use mineral spirits and linseed oil based Charbonnell ink…… and make sure that I have excellent ventillation in my shop. According to both the EPA and OSHA, a small letterpress shop using such materials does not pose a significant risk to either the workers or the environment.

paul-it has worked for me for two years now (veg oil and everclear) regardless of what they are usually used for, they work great for cleaning the press. why do you resist it? neither should be used in the pressroom? why when they work so well? just because? stupid.

use what you want, but this is the cleanest chemically that I have found and my rollers ink better than they have with any other method afterwards.

Plus, when a project is giving you problems, you can spritz some of your cleaning fluid into your mouth for a pick-me-up!

Some printers may not have the option of testing out everclear, as it is illegal in 14 states, including California and New York. But hey, if you’re in the rough and tumble midwest or south, maybe you should give it a try. Don’t take a match to it though!

Very interesting idea though. For my purposes, I’m sticking with press wash. And by my pricing, it’s cheaper than everclear! But I’ll have to cut back on making “printer’s punch.”


sure paul, if the shoe fits.

I didn’t come up with the formula. A friend’s wife with various degrees in chemistry looked at what the inks (mainly oil based inks, but did use rubber based in the past) the rollers, etc were and came up with this for me. She is a professional art restorer who seems to know here stuff.

Everclear is basic grain alcohol. Grain alcohol has been used for a cleaner for a little bit of time now. And using vegetable oil isn’t that far off from the $50 a gallon white technical oil that I had been using to clean the press previously.

I do live in the south where it is not illegal. I can’t imagine putting it through my body by mixing drinks though, talk about cleaning yourself out!

I had some health problems that forced me to stray from the more toxic stuff. I am very happy to be in better health now and using a formula that works so well for me. I hope that I could help others with what I had found.

It is cool to simply dismiss anything new and refuse to try things because they sound weird. that is how growth happens after all.

Again, use whatever you like. I am just sharing what works for me.


Thanks for the advice. I’m so sorry that my question about cleaning my rollers invited such sarcasm and animosity between printmakers. I was really just asking a pretty simple question and now I think I’ll just continue on the way I’m doing things.

Jessica, if you look through past threads on this site you will find that there are several that don’t end in a pool of sarcasm and animosity (you may have to use the search feature though).


Paul, why not use keroscene, i’m not trying to beat a dead horse, but it was always used long ago, then a quick wipe with gas, (2.51 a gallon) i know gas can be bad, you finally talked me into coleman fuel, not quite as bad, i don’t agree with you 100%, but i respect your opinions and believe you have researched this probably more than anyone, i used press wash for a long time but it got really expensive. This vegetable oil to clean rollers, i think it would just make the rollers more tasty to the mice? i lost a good roller to mice a couple of years ago. Keep posting Paul. Dick G.

I respect Devils Tail, DickG and Winking Cat’s opinions. They obviously know their craft. I have followed their recommendations in the past and ended up using low odor Mineral Spirits because that is what I had on the shelf in the garage.

It just works! Really well!
Thanks for the advice guys!

I also used kerosene and naptha and they worked good too, didn’t really notice a difference between the three.

Jessica -

First question - rubber or composition rollers?

If you’re using composition rollers, ask Dave Hauser of Tarheel Rollers what he recommends for a solvent. I used to use kerosene when I ran composition rollers, but it can leave a greasy film on the rollers that can play heck with some inks.

In either case, wiping your rollers down with a water-soaked cloth - red rag (aka “shop towel”), tee-shirt, old stockings, what-ever - will remove the lint and leave no residue.

For that matter, just about any cloth and any solvent will wipe the rollers clean. No need to wipe them dry and leave any lint behind at all. The solvents evaporate. So does water…

I’ve been printing for over 40 years and run hand-fed platen presses, Heidelberg Windmills and Vandercook proof presses. Like our devilish friend Paul, I use red shop towels from Home Depot. For solvents, I’ve used benzine, gasoline, kerosene, acetone, blanket wash and Calfornia Wash. These days I prefer Mineral Spirits. For tough jobs - or dried ink, I use Lacquer Thinner.

BTW - I also soften the ink on the rollers of the Heidelberg and Vandercook with a little bit of kitchen Crisco. Like vegetable oil, it softens the ink and makes cleanup go faster with less solvent and fewer rags.

- Alan

Years back the large printing and litho houses used to buy 55 gal. drums of [I hope I recall right, it was about 50 years ago] a # 5 and #7 distilate. I think it was the #5 which was much like mineral spirits and the other was a bit more volitile and dried the rollers/press up nice after a wash-up with the #5.
I dont know if it is still permissible to use these types of solvents today. This was back in the 1960s and on the smallest duplicator presses up to the 76” multi color units and also on the letter presses.
I have used acetone for a type wash for a long time. It was alot cheaper in a 5 gal can than commercial type wash and if one did some silk screen work might use the acetone for it, also.

Jessica is seemingly long gone but likely her sticky rollers are due to the solvents she is using. I’d suggest, like others, odorless mineral spirits for cleaning the press rollers. It’s relatively cheap, available, etc. But watch out for the new environmentally friendly version; it’s milky white, and, as could be expected, sucks. Leaves a white residue. Hope this does not catch on enough to replace the good old tried and true.

In regard to rags, it really doesn’t matter what you use as long as you wipe the lint off afterward. When the rollers are dry, rub the lint off with your hand, amazing how well that works. Spray with some compressed air and you are home free.

Rags for plates and type? well, that’s another story.


How does everyone dispose of those blue quilted rags that have been used with kerosene?

Looked at this last night before printing our first boxcar press plate. Needless to say I used Mineral Spirits, a Cotton Tshirt that was tucked inside some Panty Hose. Worked like charm.

@Nando248 If you are using really rags that aren’t disposable, I hear that some local laundry companies offer a rag service.Pickup and deliver depending on where you are located.