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How To Clean Airbrush: Color Change, Quick Clean & Deep Clean

Keeping your airbrush clean is the key to making sure it functions perfectly.

In the following, you will learn everything you need to know to properly clean your airbrush as well as different methods for cleaning your airbrush between colors and for deep cleaning it after a painting session. 

Supplies Needed

  • Airbrush Cleaner (for quick and deep clean only)
  • Airbrush cleaning pot
  • Paper towels
  • Pipe cleaners (for deep cleaning)
  • Old paint brush (for quick cleaning only)
  • Small cleaning brush (for deep cleaning)
  • Water
  • Scrap paper
  • Rags
  • Container for pouring airbrush cleaner in (quick clean and deep clean only)
  • Container for soaking airbrush parts (deep clean only)

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Instructions for Cleaning When Switching Colors

When switching colors you can either change the colors by simply putting one color in directly after the other, or rinse your airbrush with water when switching between dark and light colors.

This method works well with water-based paints.

1. Remove Paint

Empty excess paint from the paint cup.

2. Add New Color

Put the next color in without cleaning the old paint out. 

3. Spray the Airbrush

Spray the airbrush a few times into either an airbrush cleaning pot or into rags or paper towels to get the rest of the old paint color out.

The first few sprays may be all of the old color, and as you keep spraying you might see a muddied color that is a mix of the old color and the new color.

To avoid spraying muddied colors onto your project, keep spraying the airbrush until you get a pure version of the new color.

Switching From a Dark Color to a Light Color

Switching from a dark to a light color might make it take longer for the muddiness to go away.

In the case of switching from a dark to a light color, rinse the paint cup with water first, then spray clean water onto paper towels or rags until the airbrush sprays clean.

1. Rinse Paint Cup

Rinse the paint cup with water until it runs clear.

2. Scrub the Paint Cup 

Use an old paintbrush to scrub the paint out.

3. Spray the Airbrush

Spray water through the airbrush into rags, paper towels, or a cleaning cup until it sprays clear.

4. Add the Next Color

Put the new color in the airbrush, and do a practice spray. If the color is clean and vivid, then you can start painting!

Quick Clean Instructions

You can also use a quick-clean method. This method is a good choice when you need to switch colors and are using solvent-based paints.

For Gravity Feed Airbrushes:

1. Take Off the Paint Cup Lid

Remove the cup lid.

2. Pour Out Extra Paint

Dump out excess paint from the paint cup.

3. Clean the Paint Cup Out

Pour a small amount of airbrush cleaner into a container. Then dip a rag into the airbrush cleaner and wipe the cup out.

Spray cleaner through the airbrush until it sprays clear. You can spray the airbrush into a spray out pot, into paper towels or a rag, or onto scrap paper. 

For Siphon Feed Airbrushes:

1. Remove the Paint Bottle

Take the paint bottle out of the airbrush.

2. Attach a Bottle of Airbrush Cleaner to the Airbrush

Fill a clean bottle with airbrush cleaner and attach it to the airbrush.

3. Spray the Cleaner Through the Airbrush

Spray the cleaner through the airbrush until it sprays clear.

Deep Clean Instructions

Whenever you finish an airbrush painting session, you should do a deep clean of your airbrush. This helps to keep your airbrush in optimal functioning condition. 

1. Disconnect the Air Source

Remove the air source from the airbrush.

2. Remove the Back Handle

Take off the back handle.

3. Loosen the Chucking Nut

Loosen the needle chucking nut.

4. Remove the Needle

Carefully take the needle out.

5. Clean the Needle

Apply airbrush cleaner to a rag or paper towel and carefully clean the needle with airbrush cleaner, wiping away from you and in one direction toward the sharp point.

6. Loosen the Needle Cap

Unscrew the needle cap.

7. Take Off the Nozzle Cap

Remove the nozzle cap.

8. Soak the Airbrush Parts

Soak the nozzle, needle cap, nozzle head cap (if applicable), and nozzle cap in airbrush cleaner for a maximum of 10 minutes.

9. Scrub the Airbrush Parts

Dip a small scrub brush in the airbrush cleaner and scrub the nozzle, needle cap, nozzle head cap, and nozzle cap.

10. Clean the Paint Passage

For a gravity-feed airbrush, push a pipe cleaner or cleaning brush into the paint passage near the front of the airbrush. 

For siphon-feed airbrushes, push the brush or pipe cleaner into the bottle joint near the front of the airbrush. 

Twist the cleaning brush or pipe cleaner to scrub the paint passage until you have removed all of the paint.  

11. Clean the Exterior of the Airbrush

Wipe down the outside of the airbrush with a rag dipped in a small amount of airbrush cleaner. 

That’s a Wrap! 

There are three primary methods for cleaning your airbrush, the color change, the quick clean, and the deep clean.

For the color change you can dump any excess paint from the paint cup and simply put a new color in, or you can rinse the cup out with water and spray water through the airbrush until it sprays clear.

This method works well with acrylics. 

For the quick-clean method you simply remove excess paint from the paint cup or bottle, and then spray airbrush cleaner through the airbrush until it sprays clear. 

To deep clean your airbrush, you can disassemble the machine and soak removable parts in airbrush cleaner for 10 minutes.

You will want to wipe paint from the needle and from the exterior of the airbrush, and use a pipe cleaner or a small cleaning brush to scrub the paint passage.

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