How Do You Remove Ink From a Linocut After Printing?

How To Remove Ink From a Linocut Print

Linocut prints are a great art form! You create your cut, and they can make as many prints as you want. You’ll want to know the best ways to print and handle the materials. That way, you can create as many prints as possible without damage.

So you’ve learned to print with linoleum and made your first artwork, but how do you remove ink from a linocut print? Here’s how you can remove ink from a linocut print:

  1. Soap, water, and an old toothbrush
  2. Vegetable oil with a scrub or cotton wool
  3. Citrus-based cleaners with cotton wool
  4. Cleaners for grease (with oil-based inks only)

In this article, I will explain the various options for cleaning your linocut print and why you should clean it. It’s essential to keep your prints clean to maintain them! Here’s what you need to know: 

Options for Removing Ink From Your Linocut Print

When removing ink from your linocut print, the first consideration is whether your ink is oil or water-based. 

Water-based inks come off quickly with soap, water, and a toothbrush. Meanwhile, oil-based inks have stronger molecular bonds holding them together. They require stronger cleaners. 

It should say which ink is on its packaging or bottle. Once you know, proceed with cleaning the ink using the correct materials. 

Soap, Water, and an Old Toothbrush

The best way to remove ink from a linocut print if you’ve used water-based ink is to apply warm, soapy water and scrub its surface with an old toothbrush. 

I say old because it needs to have soft bristles to avoid damaging the linoleum. Otherwise, it could cause wear that the ink could seep into, causing it to show up on your final print. 

Avoid getting the water on the untreated back of your linoleum. It won’t destroy it, but it will cause your linoleum to wear out faster. 

Vegetable Oil

If you used an oil-based ink, vegetable oil is a cheap, available option for cleaning a linocut print. 

Apply it to your linoleum using an old, soft-bristled toothbrush or cotton wool, and scrub until the ink comes off. It’ll take a moment for the ink to dissolve, so be persistent. 

Using vegetable oil to clean your linoleum print will leave a slightly oily residue. However, this can be easily wiped away or even gently cleaned with some soap and water. 

Citrus-Based Cleaners

If you’ve used oil-based ink, citrus-based cleaners such the Citra Solv Natural Cleaner & Degreaser (available on Amazon) are excellent options for removing ink from a linocut print. 

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Last update on 2022-09-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

You need to spray the cleaner and scrub your linoleum with an old toothbrush or cotton wool. It’ll dissolve the ink’s molecular bonds and remove the ink. 

Make sure, however, that you aren’t using a cleaner that’s too acidic or a brush or cloth that’s too rough. It can degrade your linoleum and cause it to wear out faster. 

Grease Cleaners

Products such as WD-40 (available on Amazon.com) are both a lubricant and a grease cleaner and can be used to remove oil-based ink from your linocut print.

Last update on 2022-09-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Simply spray the grease cleaner on, wait for a minute or two, then gently scrub and wipe the ink off your linoleum. 

Don’t use a grease cleaner with water-based ink, however. Oil and water repel each other, so soap and water aren’t great at cleaning oil-based ink. The opposite is true, too. 

What You Shouldn’t Use To Clean Your Prints

Just as some options are great for removing ink from your linocut print, there are some you should avoid. 

Some substances commonly used to clean other art supplies will eat away at your linoleum’s plastic surface, damaging it. So, it’s essential not to use the following cleaners on your prints. 

Alcohol of Any Type

Whether it’s rubbing alcohol or another type, it’s not a good idea to remove ink from your linocut print with it. 

Alcohol is acidic and will damage the surface of your linoleum. In addition, it’ll soften your linoleum’s plastic and even create soft “pores” where ink can get trapped, affecting the look of your artwork. 

It’ll also cause your linoleum to wear out faster, so if you want it to last, don’t use alcohol! 

Mineral Spirits or Paint Thinner

Paint thinner is not suitable for removing ink from your linocut print. Many paint thinners contain similar chemicals to cleaning alcohols.

Paint thinner is also caustic and, like alcohol, will soften your linoleum and eat holes in it if you let it. In addition, it’s also toxic to humans. So, don’t use it. 

As for mineral spirits, it’s just a paint thinner made of petroleum distillates. It’ll create the same results as paint thinner and should be avoided. 

Turpentine

Turpentine is a solvent used in painting and helps dilute and dry paints. So you’d think you can remove ink from your linocut print with it, right? 

Turpentine will damage your linoleum just as easily as alcohol or mineral spirits. It’s so acidic that it’s diluted with milk when it’s used to restore linoleum floors. 

Diluting with milk, however, won’t help you clean your print. Don’t use turpentine on your linoleum print. Instead, use the safer options above! 

Do I Need To Remove Ink From a Linocut Print?

There’s not a lot of ink on your linoleum after one use, so why do you need to remove ink from a linocut print? 

You should remove ink from a linocut print because ink buildup creates messy and unclean edges, transfers dust or hair, and leaves flecks of dried in your artwork. If you care about your work’s quality, clean your print after every use. 

Dirty Presses Create Messy and Unclean Edges

The ink that dries on a linocut print looks flat and smooth, but it isn’t. Instead, it contains small crevices, bumps, and edges that show up on your artwork when you apply fresh ink. 

New ink might apply unevenly or with holes. Also, your artwork might be missing details from your print because they’re gunked up with ink. 

Old Ink May Transfer Dust or Hair

Even if you keep a spotless house, you and your family members always shed hair and skin cells. They float in the air before coming down as dust. 

This debris can stick to old, uncleaned ink on a linocut print. Then, when introduced to fresh ink, it transfers to your artwork and dries there. This danger is four-fold if you have pets. 

WATCH – How to Clean Up Oil-Based Printmaking Ink

Catherine Cole

There Might Be Flecks of Dried Ink in Your Artwork

Dried ink is pretty fragile, especially when it’s stretched thinly across the details on a linocut print. When pressure exerts on it before or during the printing process, it can fracture and break. 

These specks of hardened ink are then transferred to your artwork. If they’re floating in ink, it’s difficult to remove them without harming your finished product. 

Overall, it’s best just to clean your print after each use. 

Final Words

Remove ink from a linocut print using: 

  • Soap and water 
  • Vegetable oil 
  • Citrus-based cleaners 
  • Grease cleaners 

Don’t use alcohol, mineral spirits, paint thinner, or turpentine. 

Always clean your lino cut! Otherwise, it’ll create messy edges, transfer dust and hair, or leave unwanted ink specks on your art. 

WATCH – Cleaning After Printing a Linocut

Mad Deer Press

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Ines

Ines is a self-taught artist based in the UK. Originally from Caracas, she has dabbled in the world of arts and crafts in a diversity of ways participating in city intervention projects, sustainable practices’ open exhibitions, and her illustrations being featured in anniversary editions of literary magazines.

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