Possible Decomposing Roller Gunk?

I recently acquired a manual Vandercook SP-15 and am starting the cleaning process. There is a substance all over the press that I can’t remove, and I’m hoping to find some help here. Is this from the rollers decomposing? Something else?

As you can see in the photos it’s on quite a few items. Any suggestions for cleaning and removing would be greatly appreciated.

Jessie K

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We had the same gunk all over our Vandercook Universal I when I rescued it after having been left dormant for 10+ years. I do believe it’s from the rollers - one of the more seasoned veterans here can probably say what type of roller.

Elbow grease, acetone, Simple Green, etc. and it did eventually come off (sometimes with a bit of the paint as well). I tried a lot of things and remember there wasn’t one cleaning compound that really made it easy. Acetone works great on bare metal parts but ruins the original paint so it has to be used sparingly on these items. Simple Green worked better on the painted metal parts. Even with these compounds you have to scrub (I use Scotchbrite pads). We weren’t aiming for “pretty” - just clean metal and surfaces to facilitate good printing.

Paint stripper will help with this job. The kind of paint stripper that causes cancer and will soon be banned. Use it outside and wear a respirator!

I used acetone to clean the same issue on my Vandercook. Use proper gloves, face mask, and ventilation. Keep the chemical away from paint since it will remove it quickly.

jessiak, Yep coposition roller uze, this is one of the many reasons not to have comp rollers at all. If you don’t want to use paint stripper, a heat gun will soften up the uze and you can scrape off with an ink knife. You can use a hair blow dryer on high setting too, it might take longer. best ajmes

Having just been through this I agree with the paint stripper suggestion. Get a cheap stainless paint scraper to clean up
the flat stuff but do the cylinder by hand.

I have had some success with a generous application of offset powder. Corn starch or flour could also work. It sticks to the goo making it less sticky and easier to remove.

YUP! Melted composition rollers. Nothing NASTIER!!!!

A long, slow, messy process to try to get it all off. My “best” technique (used on a showard press) was to literally set it on fire and burn it all off!!!!! Pretty drastic but I eventually reduced it all to ash and then steel-wooled the bare metal to clean and shine-up (with 0000 steel wool and kerosene) again.

I considered it the green-ooze from Hell.


If the composition is the traditional hide glue and glycerin, it will dissolve in water, but not in organic solvents. It’s worth a try before getting out the nasty stuff.

What he said. That glycerin seeps out of old rollers and is very difficult to get off. I remember using a razor blade and a sharp inc knife on out windmill after it had been sitting for a year or two. Nice to know water will do the trick.

Sounds like old urethane roller goo, not composition. Best thing I’ve found to clean and remove it is acetone.

when your done I have the SP15 rollers all new in rubber. click on my name. send a message.

Liquid nitro….freeze it off…you can hire specialist operatives will save a lot of frustration and time.

This is not composition it’s polyurethane as th groves said

Nasty nasty stuff