You’ve fin­ished your glo­ri­ous work at the print­ing press; sure­ly it’s time for tea, buns and a rest?  I’m sor­ry to say there’s more work to do.  We’ll look here at the major steps that will assure you a tidy and clean print shop and an eas­i­er life.  Remem­ber that the soon­er you clean after print­ing fin­ish­es, the quick­er the job is!  This guide cov­ers hand-pow­ered press­es only: more indus­tri­al press­es have almost-auto­mat­ic clean­ing mechanisms.

Printed Sheets

You first need to make sure your print­ed sheets are safe.  You need to be away from the press (so as not to suf­fer acci­den­tal spills from clean­ing); free from dis­tur­bance (so as not to cause set-off on the backs of sheets); and per­haps some­where that is not cold so that dry­ing is not inhibited.

Cleaning Equipment

At the least you’ll need a sol­vent and rags.  While there might still be spe­cial­ist clean­ing prod­ucts, I’ve been using white spir­it or lighter flu­id.  Lighter flu­id is espe­cial­ly use­ful for small­er press­es where the noz­zle can be used to good effect.  Fol­low any safe­ty instruc­tions that come with the prod­uct.  I know some print­ers use veg­etable oil to act as a vehi­cle for ink, mak­ing it eas­i­er to clean a press.  My expe­ri­ence is lim­it­ed in this area but I found it left a dif­fi­cult residue on rollers.

On rags, cot­ton is real­ly the most use­ful mate­r­i­al as it is absorbent.  Be sure to buy rags that have all but­tons, zips etc. removed and that have been washed a num­ber of times so lint has been removed.

Also use­ful would be brush­es of var­i­ous sizes: from tooth­brush size to shoe brush size but take care to make sure the bris­tles aren’t so stiff that they might dam­age the type.

Cleaning the Forme

You need to first clean the forme.  Remove the chase from the press and set it down on a sol­id sur­face.  Using a sol­vent damp­en a rag and wipe it over the sur­face of the type tak­ing as much ink as pos­si­ble away.  Use a clean, dry cloth to wipe away any excess.  If you splash the sol­vent around and then wipe, the inky sol­vent has a ten­den­cy to get between fur­ni­ture and type and lead to dirt and so inaccuracy.

For dried-on ink, apply the sol­vent to a brush and then brush light­ly on the type.  Allow this to sink in and wipe away with a cloth.  Repeat this process as need­ed until the ink is cleared.

Once clean you need to decide on the next step: fur­ther print­ing of the same forme will demand that you store the whole thing on a chase rack, or even back on the clean press.  You might keep that job by remov­ing the fur­ni­ture and chase and stor­ing the type on a gal­ley.  Oth­er­wise you’ll have to take the type out and dis­trib­ute it back in the case.

Cleaning the Press

Known also as wash­ing-up, this process is cru­cial to the qual­i­ty of your next print run.  It’s espe­cial­ly impor­tant when chang­ing colours or work­ing in white or metal­lic inks.  Very high qual­i­ty print­ers demand that the press is cleaned, worked in white ink, and cleaned again when chang­ing from a dark to a light colour.

Use as dirty a rag as pos­si­ble and damp­en it with the sol­vent, mak­ing the rag wet but not so much that sol­vent is drip­ping from it.  With the rollers clear of the ink disk or drum, wipe this up first: fold­ing and re-fold­ing the rag and also advanc­ing the disk or drum so that all areas are covered.

Turn­ing your atten­tion to the rollers, advance the press until the first roller touch­es the ink­ing disk or drum.  Re-fold­ing the rag rub this across the length of the roller.  Advance the press grad­u­al­ly to expose the oth­er areas of the rollers and con­tin­ue the process.  Do this for each roller.

At this point you should have removed the bulk of the ink from the press and rollers.  Start now with a clean­er rag and repeat the process until the press is clear of ink.


Your press will always repay being looked after.  Take this oppor­tu­ni­ty to clean the oth­er parts of the press with a light­ly oiled rag; remem­ber that she might also need a lit­tle oil­ing here and there.  Final­ly you might cov­er your press up: Adana machines came with a plas­tic cov­er.  Your press will look like new next time you start work.

Now have a cup of tea and a bun.