Cleaning Clayboard

This installment of Ripped from the List reviews one recent listserv thread that dealt with techniques for cleaning clayboard.

Question from Jeff: Does anyone have experience cleaning smudges off of clayboard? Specifically, I put a thumb print of newspaper ink into one of my projects.

Consie: Using a kneaded eraser to work at getting crud off the clayboard is a good first step. How successful you are at getting dirty stuff off, without messing up the image, probably depends on what kind of ink you have used. If it’s truly waterproof ink, then you are probably in decent shape. But DO make sure the ink is really, really dry/cured before trying to use some sort of wet solution to clean off dirt. I’ve had some significant success cleaning up the board and scraped areas of the smudgy stuff that is left from fairly aggressive scratching by simply using water to wash it off.

For really gentle washing, wet a Q-tip and kind of swab the area. For more aggressive washing, you can use a paintbrush wetted with water, and kind of swipe, swipe, swipe, and then clean up the dirty water with another damp but fairly dry brush. If the newspaper ink is kind of greasy, I think I might just try a little soap with the water on a Q-tip, but I’d test it somewhere first. Of course, you can scrape away the newspaper ink if it’s in a spot that is clear enough to do that—but my guess is that it isn’t, otherwise you wouldn’t be asking. That’s all the help I can give—I’ve not done any cleaning with nasty/toxic solutions; I’ve just stuck with the safe ones, so I hope this might work for you. Good luck.

Maia: I have had luck with one of those ink erasers; they are grey on one end, white on the other, made by Sanford Union, and the grey end is rather gritty. I get them at an art supply that caters to graphics/illustrators rather than fine arts. You can also get them online, right here.

Anne: Jeff, I’m not sure if this is helpful …but I have discovered that the cleanser (made for cleaning anti-reflective glass and plastic eye-glass lenses) also cleans my watercolor brushes beautifully…especially good for stubborn frisket on the synthetic brushes, but also good for paint stains in bristle brushes. Whatever you use, do an experimental removal on a similar smudge on a scrap first…good luck. 

Linny: Try Bestine solvent and thinner. Test it on a sample clayboard area first. I really don’t think it should harm it. It is originally used for thinning and reducing rubber cement. I use it to take off graphite stains on my drawing board surface (a melamine type surface). You can find it in art stores. 

Joan: Use a scrap piece of clayboard to experiment. Mr. Clean erasers in the household cleaning products aisle of the grocery store clean almost anything off of everything else. Because the ingredients or contents of these “sponges” are not listed on the label it is a guess whether they do any lasting damage. Dampen the sponge, wring it almost dry, gently wipe the smudge, using an uplifting motion. Another non-harmful way to remove some stains is to wad up a slice of white bread, the cheap kind that turns to goop when you mash it. It has been used for many many years to clean book paper. Just wad it up and use like an eraser. Blow the crumbs away. 

Frank: Jeff, don’t forget that claybord is designed to accept a bit of abuse. if the area has no detail, the straight edge of a razor blade can be worked lightly side-to-side, at a right angle to the line of the blade.

Geoff: I have no direct experience with Clayboard but lots with scraperboard (scratchboard). On plain white background I have sometimes used fine (1200 wet & dry) sandpaper but you have to be careful of getting the dust onto the inked areas; a soft brush can help with that. On a plain black area perhaps just recoating with a thin coat of black ink after using gan eraser, perhaps bread or kneaded rubber eraser, to take off the grease. On worked areas be very careful using an eraser as it can take off the surface of the ink, leaving it dull and pale. You may have done this though to remove the fingerprint before reworking that small area. In fact, it may even be easier to use a No.22 scalpel blade to scrape the area flat and clean before reworking it. I would avoid solvents or water on the clay surface.

Jeff replies: Thanks to everyone for their suggestions regarding the clayboard. I tried a little of all the suggestions and the results were not perfect but satisfactory. The only suggestion I didn’t try was using the white bread, I’m not certain, but I think white bread was outlawed in California several years ago…just joking. Thanks!

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