After Printing

The cru­cial steps between stop­ping the press, and tea and buns

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.