Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Windex/Ammonia Bad for Airbrushes?

Ok, so here it goes. This is an argument that has irked me since the get go. I use windex to clean my airbrushes.  I spray it through and it gets the paint out.  I don't soak the whole brush in it.  That is bad to prolong an airbrush in ammonia base product.  But I can 100% say that it's ok to spray windex through your airbrush.  Why? Keep reading.

So in my last airbrushing video since the writing of the blog, I showed people how to do color changes and cleaning your airbrush between sessions.  I used windex in that video to do it but also touched a little about the argument on using ammonia based products for cleaning the airbrush.

Of course, there's at least ONE person who bought into the arugument that using windex is bad for the airbrush.  The ammonia in it will mess it up.  I never had a problem with it and I will not go advocating that you can use pure ammonia to clean the brush OR tell you to go soak the airbrush in windex but to use it as a "Shoot Through" cleaning solution works wonders for me.

And wanted to get solid proof that it's OK.  Now I know ammonia and vinigar doesn't react well with brass which is what the main component of the body of the airbrush but with the dilution in windex it really shouldn't be a problem as long as you don't prolong the exposure. Of all the years I've used the airbrush I have used windex to clean the brush and most of them are of the Badger brand (I even used it to dilute paint but THAT is a no no).

So here it is.  In plain daylight.  From the man that designs and manufactures airbrushes, at least the Badger brand. (Emails blurred since it's our personal email addresses we were using):


So it's coming straight from the horses mouth so to say.  BUT if there's still concerns about using ammonia based products for your airbrushes then just go buy airbrush cleaner (which a few of them have ammonia in them FYI).

ADDITIONAL NOTE:
This does NOT however changes the fact that inhaling the spray coming from spraying windex is still VERY bad for you.  Don't do it and wear a mask at least even when spraying acrylic.  I usually don't but I've also been doing this for years so I have things in place to keep from inhaling the stuff too much.

Does this help alleviate some fears about using Windex to clean your airbrush? Let me know what you think.

For now, I'm out! :)

16 comments:

  1. Great post, you can't ask for any better testimony on that one.

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  2. Ya, ammonia is also the most common cleaner in most ultrasonic fluids too. And I've never had brass disintegrate on me. And I'm familiar with many grades of brass from its uses in firearms and knife making that I used to do.

    If exposed to it for days or weeks theres obviously going to be issues, but as a cleaner used on high quality brass alloys its rather ridiculous to claim it will cause damage on a short term exposure intermittent exposure.

    Unless someone out there has access to commercial/industrial grade ammonia this really shouldnt be an issue.

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  3. quick question: what about using 70% isopropyl alcohol for spray through cleaning? safe to use (inhaling concerns aside)? will it work as well as windex? I've got a bottle of it laying around and no windex at hand, hence the curiosity :)

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    1. The problem with IPA is that it gumps up a lot of the Acrylic Paints out there unless you dilute it a bit and I sometimes worry it will still do that. I haven't tried using IPA to do color changes and cleaning so I can't really recommend it.

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    2. fair enough. windex it is, then ;) btw, are these the same squeezie bottles you use: http://www.usplastic.com/catalog/item.aspx?itemid=23355&catid=875 ?

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    3. I think so. I think those type of squeeze bottles are pretty generic everywhere.

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  4. I use the same kind of bottle (after having watched some of Chung's videos) and I got mine here:
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003OBYWQA

    ...and actually, one of them is full of 70% isopropyl that I use very frequently. I find that it cleans gunked paint that the windex missed. YMMV, and Chung's got way more experience than I do. Two warnings if you DO use it, though: 1) I've heard that it can be bad for your seals/O-rings (never had a problem personally), and 2) Remember that IPA vapor is probably pretty flammable. Oh, and 3) Avoid higher concentrations (90%, etc) as it seems they ARE more likely to turn the paint gloppy.

    Also, FWIW, the ubiquitous "HOW To Airbrush" guide from TCP/Master says that "a 50/50 mix of Windex and water works for a water based airbrush cleaner."

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  5. Interesting that you say the higher concentrations of IPA are more likely to create clumping. My experience seems to be opposite. 70% glumped terribly, but I've had no similar issues with 91%. I've also used it successfully as a cleaner. It seems to work much faster than glass cleaner with ammonia, but I haven't found it as cheaply.

    Chung,
    I'm curious, why wouldn't a person want to use glass cleaner to thin paints? I typically use Future anyway, but I'm curious. I don't use it as a thinner in my airbrush, maybe that's the only no no? I've found Windex to be great thinner when brushing on Tamiya paints by hand. Very smooth finish.

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    1. Odd, I thought I answered this one. But for the sake of keeping it on the record, I've used to thin with windex too but after a while talking with folks and with Ken that it breaks down the pigs/binder rather than keeping the paint intact so I just weened myself out of doing so. The main thing to remember is if it works for you, then go for it. :) I really can't say if it does or not but I do know that it breaks down stuff in my airbrush to clean it well so I just kinda stop using it to thin.

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  6. Chung, one question though. If you thin with Windex, won't it give everything a bluish tint - particularly the lighter colors like white/skin/bone/yellow?

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    1. Don't think with Windex. Thin with proper thinners. But no, it doesn't leave a blue tint even it you do. But don't do it! lol

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    2. Then I mean... don't thin with windex.

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  7. Ah, got it. Sorry. CLEAN, not THIN. Maybe I should read better.

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  8. Hey, I'm just starting up airbrushing, and do you recommend using a Airbrush Paint Spray Booth to take the fumes out of the air even if you have a respirator, because I got my family in the house and I don't want to have them breathing the fumes

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  9. Have a question. Im using craft acrylics to airbrush model cars with. What should i use to thin it ? If Future is ok , what do i use to make sure the future is cleaned from my brush.If not Future , what should i use ? My wife got me a really nice Harder & Steenbeck , & i dont wanna mess it up.

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