View Full Version : Fast n ez way to clean airbrushes!

02-02-2008, 04:30 PM
A friend of mine is a pro airbrusher and I was whining the other day about all the work that goes into airbrushes. Especially at 2;30 in the morning after haunting all night. She simple buys a sonic cleaner and drops the "guns" into the cleaner when she gets home. Maybe once a month or so, she will take them apart for a real good cleaning. I bought a sonic cleaner today at Harbor Freight for $30.

Any other thoughts?

Jim Warfield
02-02-2008, 06:48 PM
My Dentist used to clean between my teeth with a sonic device but then I would hear strange conversations from the next galaxy, plotting against us all!
Now they pick and pry just like 150 years ago, I don't know what happened to "Sonic"? Maybe the aliens got to them? Everybody has their price.

Greg Chrise
02-02-2008, 09:56 PM
I just never let mine get too dirty and created a little trick of going outside with a can of carburetor cleaner with the little red plastic tube. The tube fits just in the back where the needle has been removed. Still hooked up to air and shoot it in and air trigger it out. Then repeat the process in the sink with dish washing detergent. Done.

I have has the same air brushes for years and years of various qualities and orifices. Same for real artist brushes, I have had the same ones for easily 20 years just adding to the collection and losing few over time.

In comparison, I met one sign guy who was doing some really great work at a time when I was trying to get super detail out of a micron level air brush. It turned out he also had been doing this for years and had a cheap single action airbrush he bought back when they were $19. It was disgusting looking and you couldn't tell there was an air brush in that glob at all.

Lots of my airbrush collection came from people buying them and not cleaning them then the second time it is dead so they are officially out of the air brushing hobby.

Then there is the guy who puts out so many square feet he just throws them away and picks up another like some kind of military reload. But, I guess he is making enough money to do that.

I will caution you on submerging and leaving them submerged. There are seals at the back end of the paint trough inside the air brush. For auto paint we switch them out to telflon. Once clean, I put a little vaseline on the needle and always get some strange comment about why I have such a thing in the studio. The main purpose is to keep these seals from drying and sticking to the needle and tearing a bit when you grab it after some time.

That sonic thing seems a little whimpy to me. Oh sure, lets just sit here in a gentle vibration of ultasonic frequency like an air brush spa or something. Whats next? Give them a little milk bath and some cocoa butter? A little airbrush fragrance? New airbrush smell?

Then you can make little airbrush houses with beds and tuck them in and sing songs to them. put on little plays. Hello mister double action! Ola senoir single action how are you today. Oh senoir, your needle looks a little abraided, what happened?

damon carson
02-13-2008, 06:28 PM
Jim what is with you and the aliens? Have you had too many Close Encounters or just be probed once by the 3rd Kind? LOL!

scattered screams
02-13-2008, 06:38 PM
Im think using that cleaner could cause fish eyes, I been painting cars for about 5 years now. And I use thinner to clean my guns.

Greg Chrise
02-13-2008, 10:00 PM
Is....Drumroll please.....
Acetone in an aerosol can!

Yet in most instances on here we are not using car urethanes or enamels, but acrylics or mineral based make ups.

When doing automotive airbrush work (using urethane, enamels or even stripping paint) the big trick is to add a little bit of what ever catalyst the clear coat uses. This hardens/quick cures the work and because you just made it all the same medium, there is no reaction, lifting or odd coverage from contamination.

I was using acrylics for air brush work years before it all of a sudden became okay and now there is this new and improved same thing in a bottle that makes it okay. You work in thin layers and intercoat with clear with catalyst and seal in the goodness but, you have really burned in the pigment into all the thin layers. The proper way to clear airbrush work looks wrong it is dusted coats to begin with. Only after they dry do you flood the work for thickness.

There isn't anything weird in carb cleaner. Some brands have maybe tolulene but, it is just another thinner. It wouldn't be any different than spraying xylene or enamel reducer or epoxy thinner or MEK through any air sprayer. Only this is like having an air gun with thinner in it, to clean your air gun.

Most times you air brush on the go and in weird places and the carb cleaner cans are handy. I have begun carrying it arround for even the hoppers we use to spray acrylic concrete.

I also follow any such cleaning with soap and water. The first blasts of paint are always on a test piece and not just pattern testing but it is flushing the needle for some small amount of time.

We have even got gold leaf to stay in clear coats with the adhesive that normally uses. Fish eyes also have to do with putting on too much at one time, not allowing it to fully cure and then putting on yet more and the reaction magnifies in badness. In car paint volume is necessary or you get lots of dry spots. In air brushing, the paint film is some percentage of a mill and even then you let it cure 30 minutes to an hour and a half or force dry it with a hair dryer before the next layer is on. Too many coats and too many colors not really cured out begin to get muddy and dull looking which is even worse.

That means sand it off and start over. Nothing to do with how the gun was cleaned.

Greg Chrise
02-13-2008, 10:04 PM
For an paint gun thinner is just the cheapest way. For an airbrush it only takes one squirt and a can lasts weeks.

Greg Chrise
02-13-2008, 10:23 PM
An airbrush has some very small nooks and crannies that can only be properly flushed with some pressure. A regular paint gun has pretty big nozzles which come right off and can be dunked. You don't want to dunk an air brush in thinner and rubbing alcohol is a waste of time.

Soap solutions common for an ultisonic cleaner are real bad for urethanes. Thinner is right. Not being able to dunk for extended time, one must spray.

No paint reactions, screwed up airbrushes or paint guns, no fish eyes or lifted detail work in like 15 years.

What Old Skool really is...is trial and error. No paint manufacturer is going to recommend you do anything out of the norm with their product. They intend for you to purchase it and to gather profit in the store allotted formulas and they will not recommend you do other wise and warrantee nothing.

To be a successful air brush artist you do thing like use paint with 1:10 ratio solvent. Oh this is beyond the realm of the paints medium and stability expectations. Okay, the thinner goes away if allowed time to. So you have to do many many coats to get a color but, this is how you get fine detail and perfect lines as you traced over everything 20 times in 5 different dimensions of shadow and you are a genius. To the end obsever, they wonder how you made one pass and it is so perfect, has dimanesion, tone, back shadowing.

Another episode of How'd they do that?

No diffent than on the concrete detail, we are using glazes and antique washes we made ourselves out of junk paint and tint and clearing it in. Instead of doing a 3 inch by 7 inch design we are doing 1800 SF. It is easier on something really big as by the time you have put on a coat and done lunch 2 hours has passed and you can do more. Or in some cases one application is one and the whole next day must come before you do more.

Little airbrushing combined with artist brush techniques might take me a week of only 15 minutes a day. I'll hold on to it for 24 hours before the clear guy gets it.

People never let stuff cure. They have to do it now and get the money. Over all there is more problems with actually touching your work with your hand (or some other doofuss touching your work) than any crap or boggers that sprays out of any gun.

Yeah, maybe WD-40 is evil?

Greg Chrise
02-13-2008, 10:40 PM
It has more to do with the quality and freshness date of your paint. Any liquid like motor oil, brake fluid or similar petroleum products made into paint mediums even in a sealed can absorb moisture even from condesation from the can.

You have no way of knowing if this can of crap was in a warehouse for 4 years and your local paint store "just" got it and so it must be fresh. You have to know your tapping in to the mother load ad keeping it flowing or buy direct to avoid warehouse itus with any material. Especially smothing that is supposed to be fine as air brush medium. There is nothing fine enough to screen it out. It not only will have moisture dispersed evenly through it but, the paint at molecule level is turning to crystals which won't ionized and rebond together later.

Oh, sure blame the spraying guy for how he takes care of his gun! He must be the doofus. We are a large company with 20 level of quality contols, we have your money and can't possibly be the problem. Yes we bought a rail road car of that stuff and it has taken about 5 years to get rid of it but, the problem can't possibly be with the manufacturer. Did you read the instructions?

If the paint is not already heavilly laden with moisture, contaminants from their tinting machine being oiled or half crystalized, the solvents kind of burn off and remedy a lot of this as well as reclean your clean gun if you just do a few test passes not on the car. Once fluid has passed, it is as clean as it is going to get.

If you did put this first pass on the car, it will travel from coat to coat as each burns into the other untill it is an obvious mess.

Jim Warfield
02-13-2008, 10:45 PM
I tried cleaning my large nozzle by just blowing alot of air through it butt it picked up some randon poo-poo and stained my undies! Perminently!
It did have a "Muddy" look to it, the firsr layer hadn't quite dried yet, butt I went to Charlie's anyway!
What with the hog manure on other guy's boots, nobody suspected me of anything.

Greg Chrise
02-13-2008, 10:52 PM
I probably don't want to know how you blew air through it.

And that stain on your pants in that other thread is probably something from Charlies. Everything there is good, stick to your ribs and stick to your pants good. Or maybe they just bought my opinion by making coffee all hours of the day and night.

02-17-2008, 07:54 PM
I have always tried to stray away from using WD-40 in my guns when using them on people. Just not sure I want to be pushing that in with the makeup into their skin. I have gotten by with just soaking them overnight, every night. It seems to work good enough....

Greg Chrise
02-17-2008, 09:22 PM
WD-40 is a no no. It destroys any seals in any kind of gun and does contaminate everything.

Jim Warfield
02-18-2008, 12:15 AM
How do sealions fare? Same as the seals?

Greg Chrise
02-18-2008, 02:35 AM
WD-40 will destroy sea lions.

Jim Warfield
02-19-2008, 08:14 AM
I imagine the sealions keep slipping off the rocks.

Greg Chrise
02-20-2008, 12:51 PM
WD-40 will pretty much destroy any seal, even a seal of approval.

Althought not completely neccessary, it is fun to dress in appropriate attire and announce in an authoritative voice proclaiming "I will destroy you!"

Hold your aerosol can up to the stick or squeak gods and pray for penetration.

If you want to really be slick, it is better to use a spray can of silicone lubricant.

Penetrating seals is just wrong.