Boxcar Base cleaning issues

I’ve had a 6x9” Deep Relief Boxcar base for years. I’ve always cleaned it (along with my press, type, etc) with Odorless Mineral Spirits, with no problems whatsoever.

I recently purchased a new 9x12” Deep Relief base. Supposedly the exact same in every way aside from it’s larger size. Well, after only a couple of days of using it the surface was very stained from ink being wiped across it’s surface, to the point that it was becoming hard to see the grid.

I called Boxcar about the issue and they basically just told me to use California Wash, despite the fact that they don’t even seem to sell it. What about the fact that I’ve been doing everything EXACTLY the same as I always have, with exactly the same materials, in the same place, etc. Well, no good answer there.

So, I bought the way expensive California Wash. I’ve been able to get the base a bit cleaner, but still nowhere near fully clean the way my older base is with no problem.

As an aside, I just tried to clean the ink from my press and rollers with the California Wash, and the ink would barely budge. i switched over to the ol’ Mineral Spirits, and whattaya know? It came right off.

Anyway, there is something different about this new base, and Boxcar won’t tell me what it is. It’s already cost me extra money for the useless California Wash, and I still don’t have a clean base. There’s no way this one was made in exactly the same way as my older one.

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I find a bit of scotchbrite w/ mineral spirits cleans my base up and doesn’t seem to cause any damage.

I’ve always used mineral spirits when cleaning my press, plates and base.

I have two bases from Boxcar. One cleans up nice, the other seems to absorb some of the ink and seems to have a dirty haze on the surface. It doesn’t alter the function so I’ve never really thought much of it.

I think it’s an aspect of the anodized coating they run. Some of the bases I have get a bit dirtier than others.

Scotchbrite/mineral spirits, as Widmark says, gets them clean again visually.

Another thing you can do is put the base on a counter and scrub it with comet and a paper towel. This will not only clean the base but help to degrease it, making it much more attractive to adhesives and hold plates better than just hitting it with an oily solvent.
Scratch free comet, if you can get it, but I haven’t seen any ill effects and I use comet on my bases from time to time.

FWIW, California wash is a citrus based solvent that is wonderful at cleaning things and we use it frequently here at Haven Press. It’s out “go to” for ink cleanup on slabs and presses and bases and most things that require solvents.

If you want to try it, you can order it from GWJ company. It’s not cheap but a little goes a long way I assure you!

Good luck.

Unless there are now two versions of Cal Wash, I don’t know where you got the information that it contains Citrus based ingredients. Here is the MSDS for it listing all the ingredients.

Coleman fuel works really well.

Fudge, I mess up sometimes; sorry for that. I meant “Water Miscable” not citrus based. D’oh!

I was thinking also of citri-solv with regard to cleaning the base and guess I got myself a little mixed up.

I would think heavily on the use of citrus based cleaners before i cleaned aluminium with it , stored slightly damp or contaminated with citrus based cleaner would be asking for corrosion to begin ,I have citrus based solutions for the offset machine and they do whats needed but it doesnt do the aluminium much good over time . my knowledge of anodising is basic but i do know it is only removable with acid treatment ,therefore what spirit based cleaner you use is irrelevant to its hardiness ,being removable in that it is chase fitted means it can be cleaned outside periodically with stronger cleaners that contain no acidic substance .
On the different finish subject…
There is bright anodising that has a smooth chromelike finish totally wipeable and virtually stain resistant because there is no porosity , however there was a finish with a texture that to all intents and purpose feels smooth but is in fact almost keyed by a pitting effect and has a flat appearance rather than very shiny . I think the flatter surface is a better option and as the adhesive is aggressive for photopolymer it would enable easier removal after use ,the adhesion would still be sufficient .
A test for the surface finish is as simple as drag a piece of cotton wool over the surface of each base and see if your dodgy one is harder to pull the wool on the surface than the better base . if it drags then the cleaning is difficult due to filled pores on the surface appearing as dirtier than the norm .
all that said , as long as it is clean and dry enough you should have no real trouble from staining the next colour .

Please DO NOT use Coleman fuel (which is essentially white gas) for cleaning …. it’s extremely dangerous as is gasoline, etc. It’s just not smart and i don’t want people to see it on here as a safe suggestion … it is NOT!! Blanket wash, type wash, california type wash, etc are all designed for the task and are reasonably safe to use.

Yeah, Peter, good word of caution and it’s generally a good idea to thoroughly check compatibility and even test in an area that is unimportant or on a piece of scrap aluminum or something first- but just so you know, that Citri-Solv stuff isn’t aggressive on aluminum and shouldn’t harm the base.
They make a lot of different products, but the one I’m talking about is “multi-use”.

Back in the old days white gas was about all that was used, blanket wash isn’t too bad but type wash and california wash seems to be to be very strong. I’ve used gasoline for at least 25 years, then (thanks Paul) switched over to coleman fuel, i don’t think any cleaners are safe to use, i always wear gloves and try to keep exposure to a minimum.

White gas was the colloquial name given to Naptha (which is the same thing as Coleman Fuel). This mis-naming caused many pressman to use common leaded gas (at least it was way back when), which brought with it many toxins that shortened many printers’ lives. To say nothing about the many shops that burned down because of spontaneous combustion caused by the highly volatile gasoline mixed with paper, oil, rags, &c.


to all

Spontaneous combustion is very important, I’ve heard of several disasters. Any suggestions on how to avoid the danger? I have some ideas, but not scientifically based.

Australia in general, bans smoking tobacco inside buildings; a cleaner emptied the ashtrays into the general-purpose bin, then some flammable stuff, next time he went to the plastic bin, it was 1/3 as high as it had been.

Also some other similar incidents.

One retired lino operator, years before the smoking ban, came to see me and shook his cigarette ashes into the receptacle for punched tape which I was producing from a Fairchild keyboard. I told him not to do so, but he did not understand; I should have got the foreman to try. Fortunately, there was no fire in the receptacle.

We disliked the Fairchild, it was about 16% bigger keyboard than a standard typewriter keyboard.



Trying to reduce the number of words, I may have misled; that second paragraph should start

Australia, in general, now bans smoking tobacco inside buildings; some years before the ban, a cleaner emptied the ashtrays … .



It’s quite possible Boxcar switched to another manufacturer or you just got a defective base, of surface to the base. Likely not a big deal as long as it is true to its measurements.


I started using Coleman’s Lantern Fuel as a plate/type cleaner when the industry abandoned those products. Lewis Allen mentioned his use of it for cleaning type in his Printing With the Handpress. If it worked well for him that is good enough for me. If you ever get a chance to see his printing you’d know why. Those are the folks I pay attention to.

My studio hasn’t burned down yet, been here twenty years now and I do smoke. Though, if you never hear back from me…


One seems to remember, from a long time ago, before there was, literally NOT 101 different cleaning agents, as now, all claiming to be the dogs danglies, blah blah blah/ “X” is better than “Y” etc etc. C.T.C. Carbon Tetra Chloride did the lot!! Dad used it for cleaning the machinery, Mum used it for the stains on “the brats” clothing, “and solvent abuse was not even invented”!!! Corrections to my memory, WELCOME? Oh and by the way C.T.C. was also a fire Extinguisher, YES/NO???

Carbon Tet, haven’t heard that one in a long time, the lino mechanic at the daily newspaper i worked at swore by that stuff, i can still smell it, strong stuff, they always poured it in the magazines to clean them. I heard about it being used in fire extinguishers but the way it smelled i can’t imagine it in an extinguisher. That stuff dried rather fast, we were told not to get it on your skin.

To dickg and Mick on Monotype and others

Carbon Tet was used as a dry-cleaning fluid to clean suits etc; I am fairly sure it was also a fire extinguisher, but I think there was a possibility there was a caution that it was poisonous, even the vapour.

We used Shell X55, a petroleum product, with it stored temporarily in a copper tank on top of a hairy brush. One night, somehow, the fluid in this device was set on fire, and the stereotyper said he had to chase the comp around the room to knock the brush out of his hand.

Has anyone heard what the early printers used? There is a possibility it was lye, the water which had been put onto wood ashes and dissolved something out of the wood ash; have you ever heard of type lice? Did the early printers wash the type in plain water after lye treatment?

A good friend of mine who cleaned clockwork, auto speedos, instruments using cogwheels and the like, with a substance similar to Shell X55 had his house burn down very quickly when the cleaning fluid ignited.


Alan, who has not looked at a form to see type lice, at the newspaper i worked at my friend was a makeup man, he had worked other jobs before coming to the paper, one of his first days the foreman told him to look at the type lice in the form on the stone, he didn’t get close and said oh yeah i see them, the foreman bent over to look my friend slammed the type closed and got the foreman with his own joke.

Our newest Boxcar base has quite a bit more tooth than the older bases. Not sure if the older are just more smooth from work. Rags & California wash are used for cleaning, a putty knife is used to lift edges of poly plates.

The new base has a thin strip along one edge that is holding a bit of color from an early job (chartreuse), the colors from subsequent jobs are cleaning off completely.

WRT “California Wash”: it was enlightening to read the MSDS and search on the CAS numbers… It seems to be ~75% Kero, even though that is listed as “Petroleum Naphtha” (which is listed later). Also noted that “P-mentha…” CAS 5989-27-5 is Limonene, the citris solvent.

macjava’s impassioned warning against Coleman fuel must be answered. Of course all the solvents printers use have degrees of toxicity and volatility. The unstated assumption is that the less volatility, the more you can safely use to accomplish the task. I think it is a false equation.
I suggest that small amount of white gas used carefully does far more effective work—to clean metal—than far greater amounts of California wash, and leaves no residue on type or plate or base. Cal Wash only exists to conform to my state’s stringent air quality laws, not at all related to the health or safety of the direct user (lithographic alcohol substitutes exist for the same reason) or effectiveness in use. It is certainly a less effective cleaning agent for rubber than any other blanket and roller wash, effectiveness being a measure of how much labor goes into removing both ink and residue of solvent.
The greatest danger in using white gas is the fact that it is denser than air, so its vapor will descend to the level of the pilot light of a water heater and ignite. All you garage printers take note. But that also means white gas fumes will work toward your ankles, and any shop pets, not your lungs.
I think there’s a reason white gas is still readily available and carbon tet and MEK are not.

I put my shop in my garage, i have a gas furnace that is mounted about 3 cement blocks high just so that don’t happen, even my wood stove is up off the floor a little. I don’t allow my pets in my shop as a rule, in the spring i do turn my shipping bench into a hatchery for my chickens, but they are 3 feet off the floor.

A lot of chemitry as used across the print trade are dangerous , unfortunately these vile substances are the only real agents that are properly effective , continued use of some are harmful by inhalation ,some are able to enter the bloodstream through the skin and directly affect renal functions . they are all harmless if used appropriately , wear gloves ,work in good ventilation and use anything that evaporates quickly ,outside .
Dont use a fierce stripper where your friendly stuff will do.

White gas=Coleman Fuel=Naptha

Kerosene is not Naptha

Naptha has been the main ingredient in type and roller washes for decades. California Wash is 75% Naptha with cancer causing chemicals added to slow down evaporation, and to make it compatible with printing systems that use water. I have attached a simple chart that shows the basic petroleum distillation process. The solvents that offer citrus as part of their selling point are simply using an oil that is derived from organic sources. It doesn’t mean that it is better or safer, in fact the ozone depleting properties of those solvents upon evaporation is a much discussed subject. Whatever solvents are used, they should be used safely, in well ventilated spaces, and the solvent soaked rags should be kept in fire safe containers, and not stored for any great length of time prior to disposal or cleaning.


image: Fractional_distillation.gif


MSDS indicates California Wash is 75% CAS 64742-47-8.

CAS 64742-47-8:
Low odor paraffinic solvent
Dearomatized kerosine
Deodorized kerosene
Aviation Kerosene

As per:


@AnonyMouse. I do not see in your link where there is any connection to the product known as California Wash. It looks like a description of low-range distillates. Please view the following MSDS sheet for that specific product:

Again, Kerosene is not Naptha, although it is a petroleum distillate.

The first listed item in the “California Wash” MSDS is:

CAS 64742-47-8

(It is erroneously labeled Naphtha.)

Naphtha ( CAS 64742-95-6 ) is listed later in the sheet.

At one time I found that a roughly 50-50 mixture of Coleman fuel and kerosene made a fine washup solvent — relatively slow to evaporate, did a good job of cleaning the type and the press, and dried essentially oil-free. I could wash up with it and by the time I was ready to put a different ink on the press the rollers and ink disc were dry enough to accept the ink nicely. I’m probably going to go back to it, as here in Costa Rica what passes for mineral spirits is something else — I had to try three times before I finally got actual mineral spirits. I’m not sure how I’ll find Coleman fuel!


@AnonyMouse. I guess you had better quick call Varn and let them know they don’t know what they are selling. If you read the following description of the properties of this particular chemical you would realize that it is far enough up the distillate chart to be rather toxic, and flammable, enough so as not to be considered a very green or friendly product.

Considering Varn/Day/Flint list the flashpoint of California Wash at 106F, I don’t think anyone *there* has any illusions as to flammability.

You all make the same valid point ,none of it is healthy , i was fortunate enough to be taught among men that were mindful of our future health and the ground rule were simple . If it was marked harmful by inhalation then use it away from everyone else and with a mind to your own care . If it was marked flammable you went to an area away from anything flammable with good ventilation or through draft so you had a fighting chance of not blowing yourself up ..
we used to clean the gripper assemblies of the offset machines with stripper and boiling water ,the results were fantastic but the addition of boiling water turned the stripper into a gas nearly as dangerous as mustard gas (Phosgene) i think is the airborne particulate that is released by heating it ,the reason for the hot water was to break down the sticky concretion that built up on the grippers from the sugary crap offset spray powder that we used . cold water wouldnt shift it because of the grease and oil and ink mixed in with it ,white spirit wouldnt shift it without water and white spirit we know wont shift dry ink .
Its a process that worked in those circumstances , thanfully we no longer use the same offset powder so dont need to play suicide jockey but care in the use of it and managing your use of it will see you come out of the trades still able to take a proper breath of air , un like the mono micks of the world who due to the environment he worked in ,no proper ventilation clouds of stinking castor oil from the caster etc has lungs that have about ten percent of the proper capacity .
I smoke more than is good for a smoker even , i have reasonable lung capacity for my age ,still much younger than the old wheezing wise one , because i do take care of what i am exposed to , the old guys say i go over the top with my warnings of the stuff they handle but then I only have to listen to them breath to make my decision ,
I dont have a ban the stuff attitude , mine is one of use what does it best and fastest to get the job done , the faster its done the less time you are exposing your health , a few minutes of most cleaning jobs wont harm the careful .
NEVER mix two different cleaners together regardless of what they are ,a citrus based cleaner will contain agents that react with many other chemicals , caustic gases can result and these are the things you are trying to avoid to be safe .
It is not only print chemistry that these thing are problems with ,many house hold cleaners and toilet cleaners are the same ,chlorinated gases are released from descalers when mixed with bleaches . Like everything around us we have to decide iif its appropriate and keep to the common sense approach when using it .

Going back to the OP and ignoring all the nonsense about solvents. If you buy into the non-magnetic aluminum flatbase system because it costs less, you get what you pay for. You want quality control!?! Really!


With respect, (possibly) ALL the nonsence about solvents, it CANT all be nonsence surely, in every 10 posts there must be at least one helpful/ informative grain of truth or fact? And as a lifelong fan of Woodie Guthrie and His (one of many) terrific Song(s) about your Grand Coulee Dam, helping to make Chrome, Manganese and WHITE ALUMINUM>>> I have always believed that aluminium that was magnetic as in, and I quote “buy into non-magnetic aluminium flatbase” etc had/has not yet been invented, And one suspects that, “MOUNTING BASE” that was NOT flat might be tricky??? What chance for a new devotee?

I think a millionth of an inch may be accurate enough with a bit of make ready ………………………..