What are the best solvents for cleaning uncured materials from different surfaces?

People often ask what the best cleaning solvents are for removing different liquid or partially cured Smooth-On rubber, plastic, foam colorants and other materials from a variety of surfaces.

After testing a variety at Smooth-On, three solvents stood out as "best" for removing Smooth-On liquid or partially cured materials from surfaces;

  • 99% Alcohol – Very low moisture 
  • Mineral Spirits (a.k.a. White Spirits) packaged in metal cans.
  • Acetone

Warning: these liquid solvents are flammable. Caution and appropriate storage/handling care is required. Read all manufacturer warnings before using.

We selected these particularly because 1) they evaporate quickly and 2) you can generally find them anywhere at DIY and other stores.

Other solvents are effective at cleaning; however an issue can be slow evaporation or even a residue left behind that can cause cure inhibition of some Smooth-On materials applied after a surface has been cleaned.

Solvents that may leave a residue and cause inhibition include turpentine and d-limonene (citrus cleaner).

Solvents may damage or dissolve some substrates (such as modeling clays, acetates, etc.) As always, a small-scale test "off-model" is recommended before applying solvent to a valuable model or surface.

Applying – apply a small amount of solvent to a high quality "shop towel" and wipe surface clean. Never allow the solvent to pool. Allow solvent to fully evaporate for 2 minutes before applying new Smooth-On material. Do not use low quality paper towels or cloth as fibers can be left behind on the surface.

Options:

  • SurfaSolv® wipes are convenient, pre-packaged solvent based surface cleaners that are effective at removing these materials. Be careful if using platinum silicone after wiping surface with this product as inhibition may occur.
  • E-POX-EE KLEENER® – is a non-flammable, effective cleaner that is also skin safe. Be careful if using platinum silicone after wiping surface with this product as inhibition may occur.

These cleaners are available at many Smooth-On distributors.

Skin Contact

Unless you are using a silicone or alginate expressly made for applying to the skin, you do not want these materials in contact with the skin.

Remove from the skin as soon as skin contact occurs while the material is still in it’s liquid state. Using a soft cloth, lightly wipe clean with Acetone or Mineral Spirits and then wash affected area with soap and water.

Removing Material from Inanimate Surfaces

  • Urethane Rubber or Plastic – because urethanes are adhesive and will bond to many surfaces, your best bet is to clean up spills while material is still in a liquid or gel state. Once cured, material is very hard to remove.
  • Silicone Rubber – does not stick to many surfaces. In most cases, you can let silicone rubber cure over many surfaces and then simply remove it. However, silicone will mechanically lock onto many porous surfaces (concrete, for example). Silicone will also stick to glass. In these cases, it is best to remove rubber while it is still liquid.
  • Castable Epoxies and Epoxy Adhesives   are adhesive and will bond to many surfaces, your best bet is to clean up spills while material is still in a liquid or gel state.
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Disclaimer
This FAQ article is offered as a guideline and offers possible solutions to problems encountered during mold making and casting. No warranty is implied and it is up to the end user to determine suitability for any specific application. Always refer to the provided Technical Bulletins (TB) & Safety Data Sheets (SDS) before using any material. A small scale test is suggested to determine suitability of any recommendation before trying on a larger scale for any application.