How to Clean a Linocut Before and After Printing

Linocut art has been gaining popularity as more people look to create beautiful art with this method. Despite the many critics who believe it is not technical enough to be considered an art form, it is still going strong. 

Whether you create simple prints or more intricate designs, you’re likely to want to reuse your linocut, which requires a good cleaning. Your linocut must be clean to create the best prints, but how do you clean a linocut before and after printing?

Here’s how to clean a linocut before and after printing:

  1. Soap and water
  2. Vegetable oil
  3. Chemical cleaners 

So, let’s look at how to clean your linocut using these methods in more detail. 

Soap and Water

If you use water-based inkOpens in a new tab. or paint on your linocut, you can get away with only using soap and water to clean it. 

All you need is:

  • A bucket
  • Dish soap
  • A soft brush 
  • A cloth or paper towel
  • Warm water

So, let’s go through the steps together and clean your linocut with soap and water:

  1. Fill your bucket with warm water. The water must be warm, not hot, as hot water can damage the linocut. To the bucket of warm water, add a bit of dish soap.
  2. Put the linocut into the water and let it stand for about five minutes. Soaking the linocut will give it time for the paint to soften if it has dried. It will be much easier to remove moist or softened ink than hard, dry inkOpens in a new tab..
  3. Scrub off the paint or ink from the linocut. Gently scrub the color with your soft brush, working in small circles and being careful not to rip off the more delicate lines. A toothbrush also works well. 
  4. Depending on how much paint was on the linocut, you might need to let it soak in the water after scrubbing it. Repeat the process of soaking and scrubbing until all the paint is gone. It is crucial that you don’t rub hard and instead take time soaking and gently scrubbing as harsh scrubbing can damage the linocut. 
  5. When all the paint or ink is off, rinse it in clean, warm water to get rid of any soap suds. After a rinse, dry your linocut with a paper towel or cloth. A cloth or paper towel won’t dry it completely, and it needs to be bone dry before you store it away. 
  6. Leave it out in a shaded area that is well-ventilated to air dry. Once it’s dry, you can store it in a box or cupboard, and it will be ready to use the next time. 

Vegetable Oil

If you use oil-based ink or paint, soap and water will not be effective in cleaning your linocut. The easiest way to clean this type of ink or paint is to use a cleaning fluid that will break down the paint or ink, and then you can wipe it off the linocut. 

Vegetable oil is a fantastic option. It’s safe and cheap, and most people already have it at home, so you don’t need to rush out and purchase a special cleaner. 

To clean your linocut with vegetable oil, you will need:

  • Vegetable oil
  • Cotton wool pads 
  • Wipes

Here are the steps: 

  1. Pour a dab of vegetable oil onto a cotton wool pad and gently rub or blot it onto your linocut. Depending on the amount of ink or paint on the linocut, it could take a bit of time for the ink or paint to mix with the oil, so give it a few seconds. Don’t rub too hard because this can damage the linocut. After a while, you will notice that the paint or ink becomes more fluid as the oil breaks it down. 
  2. Using another cotton wool pad, you can easily wipe away the liquid paint. There will be an oily residue on the linocut when all the ink is off. You can rinse the linoleum with warm water or blot the oil off with some wipes or a towel to remove the residue. 

Chemical Cleaners

Another option to clean oil-based ink or paint off your linocut is to use a chemical cleaner. In the past, artists used harsh petrochemical solvents to clean their linocuts, but this was because the paints and inks were difficult to clean.

It’s best to avoid harsh chemical cleaners like white spirit since they are harmful when inhaled and terrible for your skin. They also leave an awful smell that is difficult to eliminate. 

If you would like to use a chemical cleaner, one of the safer options. You can use it as is or dilute it. You can use it for either oil-based or water-based inks and paints. You will need:

  • Citrus cleaner
  • Cotton wool pads
  • Water 
  • A cloth or kitchen towel

To clean off the ink or paint with a chemical cleaner:

  1. Pour a few drops of the citrus cleaner onto a cotton wool pad and gently dab it onto your linocut. When the paint or ink becomes moist or fluid, you can wipe it off with another cotton wool pad. You may need to apply more of the citrus cleaner onto the linocut if there are still some bits of stubborn paint remaining, and then wipe it off with a clean cotton wool pad.
  2. When all the paint or ink is gone, rinse the linocut under warm water. Lightly pat it dry with a cloth or kitchen towel. Leave it to dry as you would if you cleaned it with soap and water and only store it once it is dry. 
Mad Deer PressOpens in a new tab.

Final Words

Cleaning a linocut before and after printing is easy and can be done using things you already have at home. 

You can clean water-based ink or paint with soap and water and use vegetable oil to clean oil-based ink or paint. It is usually unnecessary to use a chemical cleaner, but if your ink or paint is particularly stubborn, try using a citrus cleaner as it works on oil-based and water-based ink and paints. 

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Last update on 2023-11-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


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Caraca's self-taught artist based in the UK, Ines explores unconventional materials and sustainability.

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