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What Is Airbrush Cleaner? How To Use It & 6 Substitutes

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Airbrush cleaner is specifically designed for use in cleaning your airbrush.

While there are many great airbrush cleaners to choose from, you can also clean your airbrush using common household ingredients, such as alcohol or Windex.

What is airbrush cleaner? Airbrush cleaner is a solution made from various chemicals that is made to clean the paint from your airbrush. It mostly consists of water, concentrated detergent, and alcohol. Airbrush cleaner can be used when switching paint colors, at the end of each painting session, or for a deep clean.

Many common airbrushing problems can be solved by simply cleaning your airbrush.

In the following you will learn how airbrush cleaner works and how you can use it to ensure that your airbrush functions smoothly.

Understanding Airbrush Cleaner

Professional quality airbrush cleaner is designed to remove paint from your airbrush.

What Is Airbrush Cleaner Made Of?

Airbrush cleaner is made of different chemicals that help to remove paint. Water, detergent, and alcohol are common ingredients found in airbrush cleaner. 

Why Airbrush Cleaner Is Important

Airbrush cleaner is important because it helps you to keep paint from drying and clogging your airbrush.

When Should You Use Airbrush Cleaner?

Airbrush cleaner is a good choice for cleaning your airbrush between colors.

You can also use it to soak your nozzle, nozzle cap, and needle cap when deep cleaning, although you want to avoid soaking your entire airbrush in airbrush cleaner (or in any liquid).

Is Airbrush Cleaner the Same as Thinner?

Airbrush cleaner is not the same as thinner, although you can use thinner to effectively clean your airbrush, particularly between color changes. 

Will Airbrush Cleaner Work With Different Types of Paint?

Airbrush cleaner will work with different types of paint. Most airbrush cleaners will work well for water-based paints such as acrylic

How To Use Airbrush Cleaner

You will want to refer to your airbrush manual for disassembly instructions and follow those steps.

You can then use airbrush cleaner to clean any part of your airbrush that comes in contact with paint. 

How To Clean an Airbrush Between Colors

Dump leftover paint from the paint cup. Pour the airbrush cleaner into the paint cup and use a paint brush to stir the cleaner in the cup, loosening any dried paint.

Dump the dirty cleaner into a disposable container. 

Pour fresh airbrush cleaner into the cup, and then spray it through the airbrush.

You can then backflush the airbrush by holding your finger or a rag over the tip of the airbrush and then pressing down on the trigger. 

Continue cleaning until the airbrush sprays clear. Spray the airbrush until no more cleaner comes out, and then pour your next color into the paint cup. 

Best Airbrush Cleaner

There are many good quality airbrush cleaners to choose from, but you can also easily make your own from household ingredients. I personally recommend the following:

Iwata-Medea Airbrush Cleaner

Iwata-Medea Airbrush Cleaner (8 oz.)
  • A high-strength, general-purpose cleaner, great for cleaning any airbrush or any artist tools where...
  • Works well on all models of airbrushes, synthetic and natural-haired paint brushes, and is excellent...

This is a general purpose airbrush cleaner that works well to remove acrylics, gouache, watercolors, inks, or dyes. It is fast-acting, odorless, and environmentally safe. It is the one I use most often.

Vallejo Airbrush Cleaner

Airbrush Cleaner 200ml Bottle Vallejo
  • Lubricates the interior of the airbrush without damaging the mechanism
  • For cleaning the airbrush between colors

This cleaner is great for use between colors, and it works to safely lubricate the inside of the airbrush.

Evo Dyne Airbrush Cleaner

Airbrush Cleaner (16-oz Per Bottle), Made in The USA | Multi-Purpose Airbrush Cleaning Kit – Compatible with Acrylics, Watercolors, Inks, Dyes & More for Better Enhanced Designs by Evo Dyne (1-Pack)
  • Airbrush Cleaner: The Large 16-oz Evo Dyne Airbrush Cleaner is an Artist’s Best Friend & ideal...
  • Multi-Purpose Application: Safe to use on, & engineered for Any Airbrush, including Synthetic...

This cleaner is nontoxic and works on acrylics, watercolors, gouaches, inks, and dyes. It comes with a 60-day money-back guarantee. 

DIY – How To Make Airbrush Cleaner

A simple DIY airbrush cleaner recipe is 2 parts distilled water to 1 part Simple Green cleaner and 1 part Windex window cleaner.

This airbrush cleaner works well for removing acrylic paints from your airbrush.

Make sure that the Simple Green and Windex don’t contain any ammonia, as some airbrushes have metals that can react with ammonia.

Simple Green AllPurpose Cleaner Spray and Refill, Green, 3 Piece Set, Original, 1 Count
  • All-purpose concentrated cleaner removes dirt, grease and stains
  • Cleans counters, carpet, floors, fabric, equipment and vehicles

List of Airbrush Cleaner Substitutes

There are many inexpensive substitutes for airbrush cleaner. You will want to make sure that the substitute you are using works for the type of paint that you are spraying with. 

Windex

Windex can be used to clean your airbrush – just make sure that it doesn’t contain ammonia. Ammonia can have a corrosive effect on certain metals and alloys.

Alcohol

Isopropyl rubbing alcohol can be used to clean up water-based paints, but it won’t make much of a dent on solvent-based paints.

Dilute the alcohol with water at a 1:1 ratio before cleaning your airbrush with it, and rinse your airbrush with distilled water after cleaning. 

Water

Water works well for cleaning water-based paint, such as acrylic, from your airbrush. Distilled water is the best choice, especially if you have hard water in your home. 

Automobile Windshield Washer Fluid

An automobile windshield washer fluid (this one is a great value for the price) can be used to effectively clean your airbrush.

Automobile windshield washer fluid consists of water, a chemical called methanol, and detergent. Pour it into the paint cup between color changes and run it through, then add distilled water to rinse it out. 

HS 29.606 Bug Wash Windshield Washer Fluid, 1 Gal (3.78 Liters)
  • Formulated with advanced technology for a streak-free cleaning power
  • Instantly removes bugs & road grime

Mineral Spirits

Mineral spirits (find it here at a fair price) can be used to clean solvent-based paints from your airbrush.

U.S. Art Supply Odorless Mineral Spirits Thinner, 125ml / 4.2 Fluid Ounce Container
  • U.S. Art Supply Odorless Mineral Spirits / Thinner - Is a Premium highly refined solvent...
  • Excellent cleaner for paint brushes, tools and equipment immediately after use of oil-based...

Lacquer Thinner

Lacquer thinner is good for removing paints such as lacquer or enamel from your airbrush.

Related Questions: 

Can I Use Mineral Spirits To Clean My Airbrush?

You can use mineral spirits to clean your airbrush. They work well for removing oil-based paint from your airbrush.

Is Flow Aid the Same as Flow Improver?

Flow aid works by decreasing the surface tension in water-based paints. It uses chemicals to change the consistency of the paint without affecting the color or finish. 
Flow improver is made specifically for use with airbrushing and is designed to keep the airbrush tip from clogging up with dried paint.

That’s a Wrap

Airbrush cleaner is best used for cleaning your airbrush between color changes and for cleaning any part of your airbrush that comes in contact with paint.

Many common airbrush problems can be solved by cleaning or deep cleaning your airbrush.

You should avoid soaking your entire airbrush in airbrush cleaner, as that can lead to more problems.

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