How do you clean this airbrush?


Looking for some advice in cleaning this airbrush.
It’s a cheap unbranded Chinese thing I got from my LHS a couple of years ago, but have never gotten around to using. (To be honest, I had completely forgotten about it till I found it in the back of a drawer this morning) I remember taking it apart once, then spent ages reassembling the thing. Like field stripping a miniature rifle. I’m fully expecting the thing to be pretty poor quality when it comes to spraying. Just interested in learning to use it before buying something more professional. I don’t mind risking gunking this up.

I usually spray Vallejo acrylics these days and have a bottle of their airbrush cleaner which I use with my trusty old Aztek.

Any help would be appreciated.

Stephen, do you mean with what to clean it or how to take it apart and clean the parts?

I use acrylic paints (mainly Vallejo and Revell) and clean my airbrush (Triplex by Gabbert, Germany) with methylated spirit. That always work. 1 liter about 2 € here. My AB falls into 8 parts and I need to clean 4 to 5 of them. Here an older photo

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Thanks, sorry should have had said that.
What I was wondering, is there a quick way of doing it? Flushing it through by spraying cleaner perhaps?

With my Aztek, that’s my usual procedure. Spray it through with water, followed by cleaner, then dropping the nozzle in a jar of meths to clean any remaining paint out of it. I then finish with a last spray of the cleaner.

Besides from a simple parts diagram, the airbrush came with no helpful documentation. So a bit mystified as to how it works. I have figured out that tightening the nut at the back adjusts how far the needle pulls back, but that’s it.

Yes, before I chance the paint I flush 2 times a full cup of methylated spirit. That usually does it and takes a few seconds. When I finish the session I take the AB apart (see my photo) and clean the used parts again with meth using small dental brushes, Q-Tip (or similar) and cotton pipe cleaners. That takes about 10 minutes. It needs the time it needs …

It’s that what you mean?


Thanks. Was anticipating a complete strip down and clean after painting. Just wanted to know if a quick clean would work. Would you recommend knocking the needle back and spraying wide on high pressure?

With so many tiny and delicate parts I wasn’t looking forward to having to go through all that trouble every time!

Hey Phantom, mozy on over to Plastic Model Mojo Feb Episode 32, and listen to John Miller from Model Paint solutions on how to clean and care for your AB without goin crazy. He has a wealth of nifty ideas for us airheads. VERY useful for noobs as well as old airheads like me who’ve been “airing” for years…!

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The only way to be sure how far you need to go is to spray til clean. Check the business end for any build up. If all clear let it dry.
Then, disassemble it to see if any paint remains inside.


Thanks, I’ll have a look at that.
I’ve been using an Aztek for years and gotten very used to how easy it is to use and clean. This one’s something else entirely!

I believe the best way is to completely disassemble and place in a sonic washer. I have got to get me one some day…I can tell my wife it’s to clean her jewelry!

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I’ve used every airbrush imaginable in my travels, including an Aztec. I had the very first one produced by Kodak way back when, but couldn’t get used to the light weight. I got a Paasche and then an Iwata, then…well, I now have 12 airbrushes on my bench…! I teach classes at our LHS, and have done many at the local arts emporium. The thing I tell all my students is that it is NOT necessary to tear the gun apart after every model session. A thorough cleaning like John said on the Model Mojo site, is all you need if done properly…so chk it out everyone…!


My own experience is that when a session is done I spray thinners to do the first cleaning, followed by a bit of windscreen washer fluid, then water. But there is always a bit of paint that wicks its way up the needle shaft, so I finish by taking out the needle, removing the cap, and then the nozzle so I can get in there with a bit of twisted-up kitchen roll to get out any liquid before it becomes gunk. Takes a couple minutes, and keeps things good between big cleaning sessions!

(During a session, a quick blast of thinners between colour changes us usually enough…)

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I get paint wicking up the needle shaft, too, on my Iwata. I was thinking I have a leak somewhere, or I’m doing something wrong, but you have the same problem. It’s a real PITA and requires total disassembly, but at least I know my airbrush is getting a thorough cleaning!

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I’ve been airbrushing since '74, and of the many, many lessons that I have learned over the years, keeping it clean is #1.

I don’t know how many modelers I’ve known who have thrown their hands up in frustration pronouncing that this or that airbrush is “total kwrap!” because it has stopped spraying or is sputtering and spattering or bubbling and frothing. Their next questions are usually, “What airbrush do you use?” or “I need a new airbrush! What do you recommend?”

In the end, their problem is almost always because they’ve followed the Siren song onto the rocks of the “All you need to do is shoot a little thinner through it shoals.” Sure, you can do that between colors during the same painting session. You can even get away with it for some time if you’re spraying lacquers that will dissolve in fresh lacquer thinners.

However, sooner or later, your airbrush’s performance is going to start to degrade and before you know it, it will stop working because it’s become clogged with dried paint. This is almost inevitable if you paint with acrylics. Shooting a little (or even a lot) of thinners through the airbrush to clean acrylics out will always leave a little paint behind, and this builds up over time. When that finally happens, you may well find that you can’t even disassemble it for cleaning without using excessive force which then causes some other mechanical damage (bunged up threads, bent needles, split tips, etc.).

In the mean time, that dried paint will act as an abrasive on the air-needle seal every time you adjust the needle (i.e. every time you open or close the need using either the adjuster screw or the trigger). This seal will eventually start to fail causing bubbling and frothing in the paint cup, not to mention allowing paint to leak through into the air valve / trigger area (which can then cause more problems there).

My best advice is to learn how to take your airbrush apart for cleaning, and then clean it after every painting session. With practice and experience, you’ll find that this only takes a couple of minutes. The more you do it, the faster and easier it becomes. Set up your painting area with the materials you need to clean your airbrush. If it came with a small wrench to remove the paint tip, keep that handy and use it. Those tiny inter-dental brushes (they look like micro bottle brushes that are small enough to floss your teeth) are good to reach into the channel between the paint tip and color cup / bowl. You might need to “whittle” down a toothpick to a very fine, long tip to reach into the paint tip. (If you have to do this, wipe the toothpick off with thinners to save it for next time.) Obviously, paper towels and thinners are needed.

I’ve found that the absolute best solvent / thinner to use to clean an airbrush is ordinary hardware store lacquer thinners. Cheap and easy to find, you won’t feel bad about using as much as you need. It will also remove every type of paint residue that you might encounter - lacquers, enamels and acrylics (water based and cellulose based). An eyedropper or pipette is a good way to meter out the thinners from a larger container. I can totally an thoroughly clean any of my airbrushes with about two full eyedroppers full of lacquer thinners (less than 10 ml total).

Use an eyedropper or pipette to suck out the left over paint from the cup. Spray out the excess paint, and then add some fresh thinners and spray those out. Add a few more drops of thinners, then wipe out the cup / bowl. Pull the needle out. Unscrew the air and paint tips. Wipe the needle off. Wipe and clean the inside and outside of the air and paint tips. Wipe out the cup and bowl again. Use one of those little dental brushes to clean out the channel from the paint tip to the bowl (where the needle runs through). Keep at it until all these areas are clean.

If you do this regularly, the only paint residue will be from what you were just spraying, and it will come off quickly and easily. If you’ve put off a good clean for a couple of sessions, you’ll find that you need more time and effort to get all the residue off.

Finish up by putting a very (VERY!) small amount of needle lube on the needle before inserting it and then shoot a few drops of straight thinners through it as a quick function test.

Keep your airbrush clean, and it will work every time you pick it up. It’ll also keep on working year after year after year. I have a Badger Model 200 that I still use that’s over 40 years old. It was the only airbrush I used for over 20 of those years. I’ve painted dozens and dozens of models with it, to include a number of IPMS and AMPS national winners. That ol’ Badger still paints as well today as when it was brand new. (Unlike the one I owned before it which I abused and had to finally toss after only a couple of years - after I had repeatedly repaired and replaced part after part.)


Thanks for all the help.

I’m hoping I can get some time this weekend and go for it and see how it works and how well I can clean it. Just have to go for it.

I’m hoping it will spray fine enough to paint an Italian bomber for Malta group build.

Doing the camo freehand?

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Hi Biggles, liquid always finds a way, and the shaft of the needle has to be able to pass through the seal at the back of the paint cup so there is always some creep there. And if there is any paint or thinners (or both) in the bottom of the bowl it will be drawn back as you pull out the needle. That rear seal can usually be adjusted for tightness, but no seal is ever perfect.

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Had the exact same one. My two cents worth is pull some lacquer thinner (hardware store tin) into a pipette then place the tip into the cup where the paint gathers at the hole. With a bit of pressure to get a seal, of sorts) and squeeze. Watch the flow from the nozzle tip. If you see a misdirection then there’s something gumming it up or the tip has a flat/warn spot. I use lacquer thinner for all my lacquer and acrylic paint and water for my MM and Vallejo. I do this pipette thing after every color change and always wipe my needle. Then after each session clean the cup, needle tunnel, collet assembly and needle guide on the trigger. More precise info if you need it. Hope that helps a little.

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Just confused as to what lacquer thinner is? Not something I’ve come across here in the UK. Is that the same as cellulose thinner?


Yes they are based on the same idea. A mixture of solvents. Cellulose thins lacquer paint. Like I said, use cheap hardware store brand.


Cellulose thinner: used to thin cellulose based lacquers.
It is often a mixture of solvents, the mix depends on the manufacturer and the production batch.
The data sheet for Barrettine Cellulose thinner (available from Halfords?) says:
Xylene (solves/glues styrene, solves nail polish): 30 to 50%
Acetone: 10 to 30%
N-Butyl acetate (halfway useful to glue styrene) 10 to 30 % ( if these three are maxed out we have 110% already)
Ethanol (too bad all the other stuff is in there): 1 to 10%
2-Methoxy-1-Methylethyl acetate: 1 to 10%
4-Hydroxy-4-Methylpentan-2-One: 1 to 10%

Another option is the acetone free nail polish remover, look for the one with the highest content of ethyl acetate. This is a ‘dual use product’ since it can also solve/glue styrene.
The pure stuff (100% ethyl acetate) is also available even if a 2.5 litre bottle costs almost 37 quid but split 2.5 litre into the amounts we buy styrene glue in …