Oil-based inks on rubber rollers

I have another newbie question relating to oil-based inks: can use an oil-based ink on rubber rollers? Does it damage the rollers in any-way. What do I use to clean-up after? (would California-wash be ok).


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oil based inks are fine, just can’t leave on the press over night, california wash will work, you are good to go. Dick G.


Thanks Dickg and Devil’s Tail Press. I was under the impression (incorrectly) that rubber rollers only took rubber-based inks (ie. rubber for rubber). I have California Wash, but will try Naptha.

Naptha is dangerous dangerous dangerous in an enclosed space. If you don’t want to blow up, use kerosene.

It evaporates so quickly that you’re going to need a whole lot of naptha to do the job. That means you’re going to be breathing in a ton of the stuff. But that’s not the scary part! The quick evaporation combined with a low flashpoint make naptha an extremely dangerous chemical to use as a press wash. It’ll creep along the floor, so a pilot light in a gas water heater could set it off.

I use a very little bit of naptha for final cleaning, but I do the bulk of my cleanup using a two-step process of vegetable oil for thinning of the ink, then an emulsion of kerosene, dish soap and water for washup.

Finally, I use a tiny splash of naptha to eliminate kerosene and oil residue.

This method limits your exposure to solvents, and it dramatically reduces the risk of fire.

i use coleman fuel or gasoline as long as you wear gloves and don’t use tons of it and keep your rags in a safety container you should be ok, that’s what printers always used. Dick G. (got the coleman tip from Devil Tail late last year, thanks Paul)


The vegetable oil is definitely optional, but I find it aids in stripping the ink faster, using less kerosene.

I’d prefer to use all vegetable oil and dish soap, but the kerosene has to be in there to get things going.

It’s easy to say “that’s what printers always used”, but it makes me wonder how many of them died of tradition.

keep working on me paul, after 49 years you finally got me on coleman fuel, i might go back to keroscene. good luck Dick G.


Hi, all—

In our shop, we use three solvents: mineral spirits, kerosene, and typewash. I like a 50/50 mix of kerosene and mineral spirits for washup (which, IIRC, is the recommendation of the Heidelberg instruction book, substituting white gas or Coleman fuel for mineral spirits). By itself, the kero is too slow to dry, and the mineral spirits evaporate too quickly to loosen the ink on the rollers. I never use typewash for washup, but to remove old adhesive or dried ink.

All cautions about solvents are good to observe. When I started in 1974, it wasn’t unusual for pressmen, including myself, to be smoking while working! And I remember, early on, stopping myself from cleaning out an air pump on a Kelly by running it with its hoses disconnected while trickling a stream of gasoline into it: it providentially occured to me that I might just blow myself up.

Best, Brian

I realize many posts are in a hobby environment and am not disputing comments on “what will work” to break down and clean ink…rubber based or oil. However one should consider the rubber compound. I know many will be thinking “I have been doing this for years with no problems” ok…I know people who smoked for years and never got cancer :) but they coughed all the time!
Commercially available rubber rollers are NBR or Nitrile Butyl Rubber. This compound has many attributes which makes it the leading choice for printing rollers (not UV which will be EPDM… or gummy bear rollers which can’t be taken seriously regardless), it is resistant to petroleum oils, aromatic hydrocarbons, mineral oils and many acids. However it is attacked by ozone, ketones, esters and and other hydrocarbons. Some of the juices mentioned contain high levels of these. This will mean you may experience slow drying and minute deposits of the chemical will remain in the nap of the rubber sometimes effecting print quality, and certainly impacting swelling and shrinking to the negative.
If you are printing one job a month fine…but if you are running a printing business, then use the appropriate materials. In the long run your quality will be repeatable and predictable while costs will be in balance.
Not blowing yourself up will be a plus as well.


Wow, thanks for all the info & discussion. I’m just a newbie/hobbyst, not a shop. So I won’t try naptha. I’ll stay with California wash and/or mineral spirits (which I already have).

Thanks again all.


Hey Paul

Considering the arguments you raised when I first proposed using Coleman Lamp Fuel as a type//plate wash I am somewhat amazed at how willing you are now to accept credit for it.

It’s all in the archives dude.



Question on the California Wash vs. Naptha. Do the additional ingredients in California Wash make it less volatile than straight Naptha?


There is a new press wash called Performa 1st & 50 UV Wash which claims to be the lowest VOC wash on the market.


Hi Paul,

We tried it and seems to work well on our presses. Only downside is that is seems to leave a bit of an oily residue so its not the best if your going from 1 color to another quickly. I do have the MSDS sheet if you are interested, I can email you.


Hi Paul,

We run Vandercooks, Windmills and C&P’s.
I will email you the sheets now.


Thanks for the article Paul. I guess that explains the orange scent which I find alot more pleasant then the other press washes.

Before using turpentine, read this and I hope you will reconsider: http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/healthguidelines/turpentine/recognition.html


Hi Adaley,
can you share the VOC level on the Performa product? I’ve tried to find the product, but it isn’t listed on their website. I would suspect that it is at least under 100 grams/liter if it is being sold in California, but I do know that there are some washes here that are really low. The lowest ones, from what I have seen, also tend to be oily and leave behind residue.
No one in So-Cal uses (or, is suppose to use) the California Wash because it is no longer compliant.
Paul is right, there’s always some sort of trade off; here in California you either spend a good hunk of coin on an oily product that you have to really work with, or a gooder hunk of coin for a product that is more efficient and usually safer.
Thanks for any input.

Hi rrd,
The VOC is 55 g/L EPA Method 24

Hi rrd,
The VOC is 55 g/L EPA Method 24

it is quite oily, so we use it and then finish off with california wash. This stuff def get everything off your rollers.