Buying California Wash

In the past few months I have begun to set up a reasonably stocked and functional print shop in my studio in Philadelphia and ran into the problem I’m sure a lot of *small operation shops* have run into. Can anyone suggest a good source of California wash in gallon jugs in the Philadelphia/New Jersey area? And if I need to have it shipped directly can anyone give me an idea of what I’ll be running for shipping costs? I’ve tried Xpedx and their stock is limited to 5 gallon drums (not to mention they don’t restock very often), and I’ve looked at some sources that ship but won’t disclose the shipping costs up front so I’ve been aprehensive to just go for it.

Any and all suggestions/experiences would be appreciated.

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I think you would be better off buying from xpedix, you could check and see if they have any offset blanket wash, you don’t need california wash, i buy coleman fuel (white gas) and it works well.

I’m surprised by what you say about xpedx sizing. I am in Bellefonte, PA (near State College) and received a gallon of California wash quickly and cheaply from the Scranton, PA xpedx within the last couple of months. Seems like I paid less than $10 for shipping and around $25 for the gallon. Not as cheap as some other press washes, I grant. I do seem to remember a little confusion when shopping though. Perhaps xpedx has separate and distinct wholesale and retail websites? It’s also possible that they discontinued their 1 gallon units within the last couple of months.

It doesn’t seem to me that this California Wash is a good choice for a letterpress wash. It was designed to be used with a water component to break down glaze on rollers which comes from the dampening system of an offset litho press. You certainly would not mix this with water to use for letterpress cleaning.

Are there any features which would make it better than standard or odorless mineral spirits for cleaning ink?
It has a similar flashpoint to mineral spirits, so is not really less volatile.

Coleman Fuel, on the other hand has a flashpoint of 0 degrees F. This means that it is very volatile, and should not be used in any area where there is an ignition source. I guess Dick leads a charmed life, or is very careful.

I’m also right near Philly… but I always use odorless mineral spirits. Never had a problem.

As far as using mineral spirits goes I have always been under the impression that it tends to be harsh on the rollers themselves. I went to the University of the Arts in Philly and as far as I know they have been using california wash for years as roller wash. They recently switched to Genie wash which I haven’t looked into very hard because I’m simply not impressed by it.

And I’ll check the Xpedx website, the salesman helping me seemed to kind of brush me off as someone who wasn’t worth his time, I had been warned about him. I’ll have to give them another try…

I suppose you should check with your roller supplier to see if there are any adverse effects in using mineral spirits as a roller wash (make certain before you ask, that they don’t sell roller wash themselves). I worked in shops which used stoddard solvent and mineral spirits intechangeably.

Of course a big advantage is the cost of the product, which should be less than $10.00/gallon in most locales. If it endangers your rollers, however, it would not be a bargain. I have used it for over 40 years, and have not noticed any problems with me or the rollers (either rubber or composition). I guess you’d have to check with my wife, who may have seen changes in me over the past forty years, but not likely due to the use of mineral spirits in press cleanup.

John Henry

The main ingredient of California Wash is Naptha, a solvent you can buy at the hardware store. The other ingredients (Ether and Benzine) are carcinogenic. Coleman Fuel is also Naptha, and is also known as White Gas (which is not to be confused with automotive gasoline which has really nasty stuff in it). In my shop I use Naptha as a type wash, or a final roller wash if I have to turn the press around quickly. Primarily I use Kerosene as a roller wash, sometimes I will use a low-odor Mineral Spirits, but don’t let the low odor fool you, you are still inhaling nasty fumes. You can find information on any solvent by typing in the brand name followed by MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet), and you will get the breakdown of chemicals used in the product.


I just placed an order online for 1 gal of California Wash from xpedx last week. The part number is 93727 and it was $26.18. I found a $5 of $25 coupon code also: W12.