It’s Time . . . sigh . . . I am embarrassed to show you this picture really, but these are the stamps I needed to clean today. I always have good intentions to clean my stamps immediately after use, but the reality is that the only stamps I clean right away are usually, 1) the one I need to stamp right away in a different color or a different type of ink, or 2) stamps with acrylic paint on them. (You never want to let acrylic paint dry on a stamp; it’ll create a permanent paint coat over the rubber.)
I’d like to say that I clean my stamps after each project . . . or at least once a week . . . or at least once a month. But I don’t. Usually I am so excited with whatever project I’m working on that I stamp it, set the inky stamp aside, go write about the project, and then forget about the stamp until I’m faced with the cluttered surface of my stamping area the next time I want to stamp. I’ve gotten pretty good about stacking inky stamps with the ink sides together so that I don’t get ink on the index side of the mount or on the table, but eventually, like today, I’m out of space and have to clean the stamps so I can put them away.
I’ve tried just about every way of cleaning stamps including scrubby pads, baby wipes and homemade mixtures of Simple Green and water. But if you let your stamps sit with ink on them like I do and have a lot to do at once, a commercial spray stamp cleaner is often your best friend. The one I’ve been reaching for most often lately is Grandma’s Secret Rubber Stamp Cleaner. I’ve found that it really does a good job of cleaning most of even my seriously inky stamps. I also like that it is biodegradable, non-toxic and doesn’t have any alcohol in it that can dry out stamps. These are good things to look for when you are searching for a good stamp cleaner. All the stamps I needed to clean today were rubber. Because commercial stamp cleaners are designed for stamps, they often include additives that will condition the rubber and don’t include things that will hurt them, which are positive things in commercial cleaners’ favor.
Because I hadn’t used my cleaner in a while (obviously), the sprayer had gotten clogged. Usually you can fix this pretty easily by taking the sprayer off the bottle, sticking the straw in a container of warm water you’ve placed in a sink and then spraying water through it until the sprayer works again. Mine was really clogged, so I had to take the top off the sprayer part and run warm water over it for a while. Soaking it in warm water probably would also work. Then I tried spraying water through it again and once that worked, I put the whole thing back together so I could spray my stamps.
Like most products, to get the best results, you need to follow the directions. As you can see, I placed all my inky stamps ink-side-up on my surface and then sprayed them all with the stamp cleaner. Then I waited a couple minutes to let the cleaner loosen up the ink.
Usually I just wipe my stamps with a soft rag, but these had been sitting with ink on them for a while, so I followed the directions and scrubbed them with a damp clean semi-coarse sponge. (I used a new kitchen sponge.) I find circular motions work best to get the cleaner in all the little crevices. You do need to be careful when scrubbing really small stamps or very thin stamps (like one line of text) because if you are too aggressive, you can pull the rubber die off the cushion or the die and cushion off the wood mount. One caution: This process can cause ink spatter onto exposed wood around the rubber edges if your stamp has a lot of ink on it.
Then I wiped the ink off with my soft rag. The directions said to rinse the stamp under the faucet with cold water, but I try not to do that very often with my wood mounted stamps to avoid warping and cushions coming loose. So for most, I simply wiped any excess stamp cleaner off with a clean damp paper towel.
I had a few stamps that were pretty stained so I repeated the process with them, letting the fresh batch of cleaner sit on them a while longer. And I had a couple that I’d stained really well with StazOn ink. For those, I used a bit of a solvent based stamp cleaner to get the ink off and then followed up by cleaning the stamps again to make sure there was no cleaner left on the stamps. (You especially don’t want anything solvent-based on your stamps for long periods if you can help it.)
The stamps were mostly dry at the end of this process (which took about forty-five minutes), but I set them up on their sides to let them dry the rest of the way. (This way, any left over water won’t just pool in the recesses.) Once they are completely dry, I’ll put them away. Now I’ve got work space back so I can get working on my next eArticle! Yeah!