Old ink on rollers

Hi everyone. I just acquired an old style C&P Pilot and need to clean it up a bit. The rollers are on it, but have ink on them. I have no idea how old the ink is or what kind it is… All I know is it is sort of dry. Sort of meaning wet enough to smudge on anything that comes in contact with them. Any ideas on how to get it off? Am I going to be able to re-use these? also have ink on the disk. Will CA wash get this stuff off or will I need to go heavier-duty?

Thanks for your time

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If the ink is still soft enough to smudge you’re lucky. I’d try kerosene with sheets of newspaper cut to about the width of the ink disc and a bit longer. Put a sheet on the disc, run the rollers up to the bottom of the sheet, dribble a little kerosene on the paper, and run the rollers up onto the kerosene, then back and forth several times. Try to get the kerosene distributed across the sheet so the entire width of the rollers gets wet. The ink should dissolve and be soaked up by the newspaper. Repeat with another sheet until most of the ink is off both rollers and disc, then finish with a rag and more kerosene. If you’re careful handling the newsprint you can wash a press up this way without getting ink on your hands and clothes. Just don’t overdo with the kerosene. It won’t hurt the rollers.


Hi Bob,

Thanks for the advice and detailed step-by-step instructions! I will give this a shot and let you know how it goes. The newspaper trick sounds like it could have many applications…


What is so mysterious or wrong about taking a rag and putting solvent on it and then wiping the roller? I certainly used the newsprint method when I had a C&P but it still needs to be finished up with a rag. The pores of the roller need to be cleaned, and rolling over paper just won’t do it.
The only printer’s ink that doesn’t dry quickly is rubber base, but within weeks it would be fairly dry on a roller, so perhaps it isn’t a regular ink on your rollers. Whether you need something stronger than CA wash is something you just have to try. Maybe stronger solvent or abrasive methods like powdered pumice or putz pomade will be needed. Kerosene is a relatively mild and safe solvent, but not ideal for rubber rollers, even though many printers still use it because it was the right solvent for composition rollers. There are rare times when against the stated rules you may need to use type wash (or a kerosene and white gas mix) on a roller, but as a repeated practice it will damage a roller.

I figured the process would end with finishing it with a rag regardless. These rollers are just a bonus if I can get them clean. I was planning on buying new ones, as I always seem to have to do when I get a press, but it would be great to save that money if possible. If that means possibly decreasing the life of the rollers a little bit, that’s a chance I’m willing to take right now. I think the press came from a school and I have no idea when it was last used or what kind of ink it is…

I have had some putz on back-order from NA for a while and will give it a shot when it comes, which I totally forgot about until you wrote that in your comment, so thank you p.i.!

thanks for the comments


I have always used Kerosene on my rollers, both composition and modern rubber materials. I have never had probels with roller deterioration from the kerosene, and they seem to keep their ability to accept ink very well.

There was a good discussion of this on Briar Press a while back see: http://www.briarpress.org/6482 .

Everyone has their favorite methods, materials and techniques, and I doubt that any is perfect, but whatever you do, do it safely.

John Henry

If these are rubber rollers you can use van son rapid one step glaze remover, this should take about any ink off the rollers, always wear gloves. Good Luck Dick G.

Yeah, I was just going to recommend a glaze remover and appropriate safety gear. I agree with DickG!

Hi Everyone - just an update: I used the Putz Pommade and it cleaned them up pretty well, save for a few globs that needed to be scraped off. I finished it off with kerosene and now they seems to be as clean as possible. Unfortunately, now that the ink is off of them I can see how unevenly worn they are, and all the pits and scrapes are painfully evident…

I printed a run of business cards with them and they held up surprisingly well, considering, but I don’t think they will ink evenly for larger coverage jobs. Alas… you live (and try to save money) and learn.

I do appreciate everyone’s advice, it will all come in handy as I do more press work late at night and forget to clean up after myself…