Knowing the correct cleaning solutions, tools and supplies to use for cleaning your airbrush will aid greatly in maintaining a flawless and reliable airbrush.
Hi, I’m colt, the one behind Airbrush Insider. If your wondering what to use to clean your airbrush, you’ve come to the right place!
Today I’ll be sharing with you my complete airbrush cleaning arsenal that makes up my airbrush cleaning station. Everything from the cleaning solutions I use, to the brushes I use to scrub the internals of my airbrushes clean.
If your anything like me, you desire a smooth, and consistent airbrush during each and every stroke. The truth is, a lot of that consistency, and reliability comes down to the overall cleanliness of the airbrush.
So that you too, can maintain a smooth operating airbrush, I’ll be giving you a sneak peek into how I set up my airbrush cleaning station and the items that make it such.
As a dirty airbrush will act up and cause you frustration, as you likely have already experienced.
Granted, having good airbrush cleaning equipment and supplies is only half the battle when it comes to achieving a clean, well operating airbrush. I’ll throw in a link to my complete favorite method for cleaning an airbrush, that will help you achieve a well rounded airbrush cleaning system.
I won’t lie, It’s a little different from the majority, but trust me, it’s highly effective and less taxing on your airbrush over time.
Anyway enough of my rambling, lets get started!
Airbrush Cleaning Solutions
There is a plethora of airbrush cleaning solvents and solutions on the market today. Some are tailored for a specific medium or make, while others are more universal.
But for the most part you can’t really go wrong with the option you choose, just as long as it pairs well with the medium your using in your airbrush.
For instance, water-based mediums such as the majority of airbrush paints on the market today, are best to be cleaned up using a water-based cleaning solution.
At least when it comes to dealing with wet paint. Dried paint can be a different story, depending on the paint / medium.
Simply put, solvent based paints / mediums require a solvent based cleaning agent. While water based paints / mediums require a water based cleaning agent…
Water-Based Cleaning Solutions
A common “water-based” airbrush cleaner across the industry Is:
- Iwata Media – Airbrush Cleaner (Available On Amazon) – The # 1 Generalize Airbrush Cleaning Solution On The Market.
This is the stuff I personally use for the final flush of my airbrush and it works great! Granted, I’m using water-based paint most the time. Though I’m sure this will work great for other water based mediums as well.
Some Great Options To Clean Up Water-Based Airbrush Paints:
- Createx Colors 5618 – Airbrush Cleaner (Available On Amazon)
- Createx Colors 4008 Restorer – Airbrush Cleaner (Available On Amazon) – Meant for stubborn dried paint. Not meant to be used as rinse.
- Vallejo – Airbrush Cleaner (Available On Amazon)
At the time of this writing, I haven’t personally used much of these 3 options, though I have heard some great things about them, so I thought I’d throw them in for you to check out if you’d like.
The cool thing about water-based paints / mediums is, you can often times get away with using a few house hold products for airbrush cleanup, they are as follows:
- Distilled Water – Not as harsh as the airbrush cleaners on the market, but can be used to clean the majority of medium out.
- Rubbing Alcohol / Isopropyl Alcohol – Rubbing Alcohol / IPA can help break down stubborn medium.
- Some House Hold Cleaners – Best when diluted with water, House hold cleaners such as “Fantastik All Purpose Cleaner” can be great for aiding in stubborn paint and other mediums.
I personally use a home brewed airbrush cleaner recipe for my water based airbrush paints as It’s much cheaper, and you get more for the money compared to many of the other solutions.
That being said, I really like to perform a final flush using “Iwata Media – Airbrush Cleaner”, I’ll then leave a little sitting in the airbrush until the next session as it’ll break up any medium that got left behind during “my end of session cleaning”, Leaving the airbrush clean as a whistle the next time around.
Also, some water-based paint thinners can be used as a cleaner (Depending on the additives in the thinner).
For instance that home brew cleaner recipe (Discussed & Linked Above) is also used as my paint thinner for water-based mediums.
Solvent-Based Cleaning Solutions
Solvent based paints, and other mediums are quite simple when it comes to cleaning solutions. For the most part, you can use the same product used to thin the paint for clean up of the paint.
However, there are a few generalized options available to you when using solvent based mediums, those include:
- Mineral Spirits / White Spirits
- Lacquer Thinner
But do be careful using solvents, as solvents can be quite harsh on Seals and O-Rings in the airbrush. Teflon Seals / O-Rings usually hold up well to solvents, but Rubber ones do not.
Note, Solvents need to be used in a well ventilated area, and with the correct raspatory equipment for safe using.
Airbrush Cleaning Equipment
When it comes to cleaning an airbrush, your cleansing tool box is your most important asset.
So much so, that the cleaning equipment you choose to place in that tool box can either make cleaning the airbrush a breeze, or an absolute nightmare…
It’s very important that you utilize good cleaning equipment so not to damage the airbrush components, and to protect your health, and the health of those in the vicinity.
Cleaning Pots, otherwise known as Cleaning Jars are highly advised to have and use if you have any care for your health and the health of those around you when cleaning an airbrush.
You see, a cleaning pot provides a contained space to flush out your airbrush, without exposing yourself to the heavy amount of overspray commonly produced when spraying cleaner through an airbrush at full force.
Don’t believe me?
Try filling your airbrush cup full of water then spray it wide open. The amount of overspray produced is extensive, especially at higher PSI (which is Ideal for flushing an airbrush).
But just because a cleaning pot is a necessary tool for your airbrush cleansing arsenal, it doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot, or even any money.
I personally use one I found on amazon for quite cheap, it works well and comes with a plethora of other cleaning tools, some of which are listed below. See current pricing of the Airbrush cleaning kit I use here (On Amazon).
The alternative option is to make your own. Now, I haven’t personally made my own airbrush cleaning pot, but many on the internet have and they demonstrate how to do so. Maybe one day soon I’ll make my own and show you how I did it? But for now I’ll keep using what I got.
Okay, this is where my style for cleaning an airbrush begins to come into play.
You’d be surprised how helpful a simple spray bottle filled with your preferred airbrush cleaning agent works for flushing out any paint or other medium from within the airbrush. I used to have a bottle full of cleaner that I’d pour into my airbrush, but now I only use the spray bottle.
I’m just using a small one, like the one found Here (On Amazon) but I use it more than any other cleaning tool I have. It’s especially great for cleansing the airbrush in preparation for a color change, as it makes the change faster and more effective.
Using a spray bottle puts force behind the cleansing agent being used, which often times greatly aids in removal of stubborn paint / medium.
Brushes can greatly aid in agitating stubborn paint and other mediums. The following are a few I personally employ when it comes time to clean my airbrush.
Small Paint Brush
The long, soft bristles of a paint brush make for a great agitator in the bottom of a paint cup on Gravity & Side feed airbrushes.
When using my gravity feed or side feed airbrush I’ll pour a sizable amount of airbrush cleaner into the cup, then begin to agitate the paint in the bottom of the cup and around the mid shaft of the needle.
A small paint brush works great for this, as it fits well in the paint cup, and the bristles can reach into places your fingers would never get to.
Along the same lines as the “Small Paint Brush” an interdental brush shines when it comes to cleaning out the nozzle, and other very small orifices.
Though the interdental brush is designed of oral use, it works great for airbrush use as well.
The beauty of interdental brushes in relation to cleaning an airbrush, is they are specifically designed using skin safe material. Meaning the bristles and shaft of the brush are soft and will not damage components on the airbrush.
Plus, they are small enough to fit into spaces the majority of other options listed on this page can’t.
Small Pipe Brush
Otherwise known as straw brushes, kind of like a pipe cleaner but made using nylon, steel or stainless strands aside from cotton. Small pipe brushes are great for cleaning the main cavity of an airbrush.
However, its vital you opt for Nylon strand pipe brushes. Steel or stainless will damage the finish of the airbrush as they are very abrasive.
Here is the set of Pipe Brushes I personally use (On Amazon). They work wonderfully for cleaning the inner cavity of an airbrush, plus you get a set without the bristles for dealing with clogs.
Airbrush Cleaning Supplies
Disposable cleaning supplies can be a great addition to using a brush. I personally find paper towels, and cotton swabs to be very helpful for minor clean up such as spills, drips, and so forth.
Paper towels are a must have addition to any airbrush artists cleansing tool box…
I personally like to use paper towels to wipe down the exterior of my airbrush as wells as inside the paint cup, around the exterior side of the air cap / nozzle cap and so on.
Plus I like to use a damp paper towel for cleanup of my paints, because as you likely know, the bottle cap on a bottle of paint can become plastered with paint, and if left it will dry with the likelihood of falling into, and getting mixed in with the paint, later clogging the airbrush during use…
Cotton Swabs can be great for reaching those hard to reach areas your fingers wont fit into. Especially if your using these ones with a pointed tip.
I like to use cotton swabs to fine clean the paint cup on my gravity feed airbrushes. I don’t commonly use a side feed or siphon feed airbrush (At the time of this writing) but I’m sure you’ll find cotton swabs to be handy if using either.
Tooth picks can aid in reaching the inner side of the nozzle and other smaller orifices. However, you’ll likely need to use a small portion of a paper towel to aid in cleaning.
Oh, and when using tooth picks you must be vary careful around the nozzle and other fine machined components as they are very precise and must stay that way in order for the airbrush to function properly.
So don’t go forcing the tooth picks into the nozzle as they won’t fit like the needle will, but they come close enough for cleaning.
At the end of the day, there are a plethora of different cleaning solutions, tools, and supplies that can aid you in the airbrush cleansing process. Above are some of the items I’ve personally used that work well for me.
But if I have to say what my number 1 tool was for cleaning my airbrush, aside from my cleaning agent,
It would be a tough debate between my spray bottle (filled with cleaning solution), and my small paint brush…
Anyway, I hope you were able to find some value here! If you have any further questions regarding the airbrush do be sure to take a look around the website. Airbrush Insider is dedicated to helping all in the airbrush community!
This is Colt signing off!
Check Out Some Of My Favorite Airbrush Equipment:
- The Airbrush I’m Currently Using!
- The Air Compressor I Currently Use, And Why I’m Never Going Back To A Traditional “Airbrush Compressor”!
- My All Time Favorite Airbrush Paint’s For Ease Of Use & Versatility!
Next Recommended Resources:
- How To Clean An Airbrush The Right Way