How Often Should I Clean My Airbrush
You should clean your airbrush with a rinse and needle wipe down between every colour change and at the end of an airbrush session, and conduct a fully-dismantled deep clean at regular intervals dependent on how often you use your airbrush.
As there are different levels of cleaning an airbrush, ranging from quick and simple through to thorough and more complex, each type of clean will need to be conducted at different intervals.
The intervals in which you will need to clean your airbrush are:
- During airbrush use, if required;
- Between paint colour changes;
- Occasional deep cleans dependent on frequency of airbrushing;
When Should I Clean My Airbrush
There are three main times that you will have to clean your airbrush; during airbrushing, during colour changes, and occasional fully dismantled deep cleaning.
Airbrush Clean During Airbrush Use
If you experience airbrush tip dry, which is when paint dries and accumulates on the tip of your airbrush needle during spraying, you will need to clean this immediately or risk a worsening spray pattern from your airbrush or paint spatter on your work.
👍 For more information on exactly what airbrush tip dry is and why it happens, plus multiple ways to fix and avoid it, check out this detailed article.
Airbrush Clean During Colour Changes
When changing paint colours in an airbrush you must, at the very least, rinse out your airbrush fully to remove any old paint so that it doesn’t discolour and taint the next colour you airbrush with.
In an airbrush that has a needle for allowing the paint flow properly into the high pressure airflow the needle may also need to be wiped down as it will often hold a surprising amount of paint on it.
Airbrush Clean After Use At The End Of A Session
At the end of your airbrushing session for the day the airbrush will need partial disassembly and cleaning so that no paint is left to dry inside the airbrush and paint tubes, and this should never be put off.
Failing to clean out your airbrush and leaving the paint residue for the following day or week can make the cleaning job immensely harder.
Deep Cleaning An Airbrush
An airbrush deep clean requires a full dismantle of the airbrush including the needle and nozzle cap, and the nozzle itself, and all parts must be thoroughly washed with suitable airbrush cleaning fluid and then inspected closely to ensure no paint residue is left anywhere.
How To Clean Your Airbrush At Certain Times
Different points in your airbrushing work will require a different type of clean as discussed in the last section, and the basics of each clean are detailed below including links to further in-depth instructions.
How To Clean An Airbrush Needle Tip
To clean the tip of an airbrush you must expose the end of the airbrush needle and remove and wet paint using a cotton tip or rag soaked in airbrush cleaning fluid.
Airbrush cleaning fluid in this context may mean anything from a proprietary cleaning fluid product, to paint specific thinners, general purpose thinners.
You may also find that the paint is already dry on the tip of your airbrush and in this case you may benefit from using your fingernails to gently scratch the paint off the tip before using airbrush cleaning fluid to finish the job.
👍 For a detailed article on how to clean an airbrush needle during spraying, and how to avoid airbrush tip dry altogether, check out this article.
How To Rinse An Airbrush Between Colours
To rinse an airbrush between colours you must spray out any unused paint from the cup and paint tubes, clean the cup out if using a gravity feed airbrush, detail clean the cup and airbrush tip with a cotton tip soaked in airbrush cleaning fluid, and flush the airbrush fully with more of the same cleaning fluid.
👍 For full details and picture examples of how to rinse out an airbrush between colours check out this article.
It should be noted that while you will get away with this level of surface clean some of the time, in a gravity feed or side feed airbrush it will likely leave a not-unsubstantial amount of paint in the paint tubes and airbrush which may significantly alter the next colour you spray.
Where this is the case you will need to do a slightly more thorough clean…
How To Clean An Airbrush Between Colours
To properly clean an airbrush between colours you must remove all unused paint from the airbrush including spraying out the remainder from the paint tubes, clean the paint cup with a rag soaked in airbrush cleaner, then remove the needle from your airbrush and thoroughly clean it and the airbrush nozzle with a rag soaked in airbrush cleaner, before reassembling your airbrush.
The airbrush needle can hold a lot of paint residue which isn’t evident until it’s removed, and this paint residue can discolour any subsequent colours used, or even harden inside the airbrush causing the airbrush operation and spray pattern to degrade.
How To Clean An Airbrush After Use At The End Of A Paintwork Session
To properly clean an airbrush at the end of a spray session you must flush out all remaining paint from the airbrush, remove the needle and fully clean it with airbrush cleaning fluid and a rag, clean the paint cup and airbrush nozzle with the same rag and airbrush cleaning fluid, and then reassemble the airbrush.
This is the same process as described in the prior section for cleaning between colour changes.
👍 For full details with step-by-step picture examples of how to clean your airbrush in this manner check out the second half of this detailed article that explains the process fully.
Note that cleaning out your airbrush at the end of a session should never be put off, as it will almost always make the cleaning job a lot more difficult when you eventually get to it as paint residue dries inside the airbrush internals.
How Often Should I Do A Deep Clean On My Airbrush
A full deep clean of your airbrush is a good idea anytime you see even a minor degradation in spray pattern quality, if you’ve left you airbrush overnight or longer before cleaning, or perhaps every fifty airbrushing sessions.
Fifty sessions is a slightly arbitrary amount, but I find that at around that point, give or take, I run into something that causes a degradation in the spray pattern or airbrush operation and requires me to do a deep clean, even if it’s just precautionary.
Can I Leave Paint In My Airbrush And Clean It Later
You should never delay cleaning or leave paint in your airbrush for any longer than is absolutely necessary, and definitely not overnight, as you run the risk of paint residue drying inside the airbrush internals which will make it extremely hard to clean properly later.
You may get away with delaying cleaning your airbrush occasionally but sooner or later you will definitely run into problems of your airbrush getting blocked and clogged at various points, your airbrush spray pattern degrading, and the subsequent clean being extremely hard to do properly.
However, if you’ve inadvertently found yourself in this situation, all is not lost…
Are There Any Airbrush Cleaning Tools To Make The Job Easier
You can use a specialised airbrush cleaning brush to fully clean out the paint tubes and internals of your airbrush, which makes the job of removing paint residue much quicker and more thorough.
It should be noted that using these tools is not an excuse for leaving your airbrush full of paint overnight, but rather a way to do a proper deep clean of your airbrush if and when required.
Final Thoughts On How Often You Should Clean Your Airbrush
You should conduct a partial disassembly clean between colour changes and at after use at the end of an airbrushing session, however a full disassembly deep clean is not usually required unless you run into some kind of airbrush operation problem.
Leaving your airbrush with paint in it overnight is one such problem and a full deep clean is highly recommended for best operation and peace of mind that you won’t have paintwork problems moving forward.