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Airbrush cleaning and storage?

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  • Member since
    June, 2010
  • From: Austin, TX
Airbrush cleaning and storage?
Posted by DoogsATX on Sunday, July 17, 2011 8:56 AM

So last night I had to airbrush something for the first time in a few weeks, fired up the compressor, etc, and found that both of my workhorses - an Iwata HP-CS and H&S Evolution - had needle jams.

I clean my airbrushes quite thoroughly after the end of a spray session I'll fully disassemble, wipe and swab everything with lacquer thinner, reassemble, and fire another half cupful or so of thinner through for a final flush. Then the airbrushes go back onto the airbrush holder.

Yet, two weeks later, I go to use them again, and yep, needle's jammed. 

First, WTF? I'm assuming from the gunk on the needle this is probably happening with small amounts of paint in the needle passage just behind the color cup. I have no idea how to get at this in a way that doesn't make it worse.

Second, is there anything to be gained by storing airbrushes in a broken down state? 

On a side note, my hacked-offedness at this led me to deep-clean every airbrush I own last night, from the H&S to an old Paasche H I've had for 20 years. Even gutted my HP-C Plus down to the air assembly and fixed the spongy trigger that's been plaguing it ever since I thought it'd be a good idea to stick the disassembled body into the ultrasonic cleaner and made a giant mess. So some good came out of things at least!

On the Bench: 1/32 Trumpeter P-47 | 1/32 Hasegawa Bf 109G | 1/144 Eduard MiG-21MF x2

On Deck:  1/350 HMS Dreadnought

Blog/Completed Builds:


  • Member since
    April, 2010
  • From: Somewhere in MN
Posted by El Taino on Sunday, July 17, 2011 9:09 AM

I'm a declared AZTEK user around here. But I also own and use occasionally my Paasche Talon and/or my Badger Renegade Velocity. I pretty much use your cleaning technique. I have an old Testors Acryl Thinner bottle with Laquer Thinner in it. Even when the AB seems to have a thorough cleaning, if I drip LT from the back of the color cup, I see gritty particles of paint falling on a piece of paper towel.

  • Member since
    July, 2007
  • From: Southern New Jersey
Posted by troublemaker66 on Sunday, July 17, 2011 9:46 AM


.......Yet, two weeks later, I go to use them again, and yep, needle's jammed. 

There`s your problem right there...what kinda modeler doesn`t use his airbrush for two weeks??...Big Smile

I usually run laquer thinner thru my Badger 150 at the end of every session and it`s ready to go at the next session. Sometimes I forget and that`s usually when I`m busy for a few days and when I finally sit down at the bench, I have a clogged A/B. Before field stripping, I try laquer thinner and, 9/10 times it`s cleared and good to go. At least once a month I field strip the brush and lay all the parts in a container of thinner overnight. Harbor Freight sells a little ,round brush set, on a key chain thingy, and it works can get into every nook and cranny with the 5 different sized brushes. Maybe this brush set could be your answer to getting at the paint thats left behind after you clean your brush? Worth a shot...brushes are under 5 bucks!

Good luck,


Len Pytlewski

  • Member since
    February, 2011
  • From: Monterey Bay,CA-Fort Bragg, NC
Posted by randypandy831 on Sunday, July 17, 2011 3:52 PM

i have the same problem and it really pulls my chains....deep clean then store then needle jam...arghhhh!

tamiya 1/48 P-47D $25 + shipping

tamiya 1/48 mosquito $20+ shipping

hobby boss 1/48 F-105G. wings and fuselage cut from sprue. $40+ shipping. 

  • Member since
    March, 2010
  • From: Democratic Peoples Republic of Illinois
Posted by Hercmech on Sunday, July 17, 2011 4:13 PM

Ditto here Doggs. No matter how well I clean them if I don't put AB lube on the needle they will freeze up on me after a while. I do the same routine as you with my after use cleaning and they still stick now and again.

At least that is what they used to do. Now when I know I am going to be done for a while I will ultrasonic them and coat them good in the lube and that seems to do the trick.


  • Member since
    October, 2007
  • From: Scotland
Posted by Milairjunkie on Sunday, July 17, 2011 5:49 PM

I can't comment on the Iwata, but can on the H&S. I have an Infinity & use predominantly Tamiya acrylics & can't say that I  have this problem. I clean it in much the same manner as yourself, although not with lacquer thinners;

 At the end of shift I will dump whatever paint is left, rinse the cup in hot water to get what is left sitting at the bottom of the cup out, put some more water in, loosen the air cap to back flush & after tightening it back up, fire water thought the brush until it is empty (at max pressure, 50>60psi). 

After that I'll remove the air cap, nozzle & needle, give them all a quick wipe/clean in alcohol or meths,rebuild it all, fire some alcohol or meths through until the brush is dry & thats it - a good shake of the "empty" brush while air if flowing will usually get any fluid still kicking about out.

Once in a blue moon (usually after a project is complete) I will give the brush the "full monty" clean, but other than that I don't find much requirement for cleaning brushes (don't use lubes at all). I think cleaning the brush immediately at the end of session helps avoid the need for regular deep cleans.

Is it possible that the needle seal on either of the brushes is worn, allowing paint to go past & behind it?

  • Member since
    June, 2010
  • From: Austin, TX
Posted by DoogsATX on Sunday, July 17, 2011 8:42 PM





.......Yet, two weeks later, I go to use them again, and yep, needle's jammed. 


There`s your problem right there...what kinda modeler doesn`t use his airbrush for two weeks??...Big Smile


The kind that decided to build Tamiya's big Spit, that's who! Hands down the best kit I've ever built in terms of sheer engineering quality, creativity and obvious passion, but it doesn't go together fast and there are a lot of which parts to assemble/which to not types of decisions to make before painting.

Glad to know a few others have the same issue as I do. I honestly wonder if it's more a storage environment type of thing. My airbrushes live in my garage. They have been just hanging out on an airbrush holder, but after last night's mega breakdown session, I put them all in a drawer lovingly padded with a paper towel (well, except for the H&S and Iwata HP-C Plus. They have boxes to chill in. 

The other fun thing that's been going on is various metal implements on the bench getting a "crazed" look. It's been happening on airbrush bodies, tweezers, xacto shafts, PE frets. Wipes off with a quick swipe, but it's something I've never seen before until the last few weeks. Weird...

On the Bench: 1/32 Trumpeter P-47 | 1/32 Hasegawa Bf 109G | 1/144 Eduard MiG-21MF x2

On Deck:  1/350 HMS Dreadnought

Blog/Completed Builds:


  • Member since
    March, 2003
  • From: Virginia
Posted by Wingman_kz on Sunday, July 17, 2011 9:12 PM

The needles stick in the needle bearing or seal.



  • Member since
    October, 2008
  • From: Fullerton, Calif.
Posted by Don Wheeler on Sunday, July 17, 2011 10:48 PM

You need to swab that space in front of the needle seal and the seal itself.  Have a look at the brushes at the bottom of this page.  It just takes a second.

The green one will work from inside the cup if you bend the brush at a right angle to the handle.

The smallest one from Harbor Freight will work too, but I don't like the stiff bristles.


A collection of airbrush tips and reviews

Also an Amazon E-book and paperback of tips.

  • Member since
    July, 2011
Posted by richardzoo84 on Tuesday, August 16, 2011 5:59 PM

I use Iwata, Badger, Paasche and Grex airbrushes. I did have the same problem with my Iwatas and Badger airbrushes when using Lifecolor or other non solvent based paints. What worked for me was to lower the air pressure big time. I kept experimenting and fixed the problem by lower air pressure settings. 

After each use I will break down the air brush and give it a really good cleaning with lacquer thinner, windex and finally createx cleaner and then reassemble it. I then store all of my air brushes in a Grizzly small tool wood box. Each of the drawers are lined with felt and I place a anti moisture pack in each drawer. I have never had another problem with clogging.  The small Grizzly storage box has eight drawers and will hold sixteen airbrushes and parts with room to spare. They are also affordable and look good.

Good Luck!  I also will pray a lot when using Lifecolor and that seems to help also. 

  • Member since
    December, 2010
Posted by atlrus on Tuesday, August 16, 2011 10:10 PM

Weird...I use Iwata Eclipse and I usually take a few months break from modeling in the summer - never had this problem. And I disassemble my brush only after every 3rd model, too.

I run some Tamiya thinner after every color and when I am done - I store the airbrush with a few drops of thinner in it, although I am sure it dries out pretty quickly :) I just got back to building after more than a 6-month break and the airbrush was good to go. What thinner and paint are you using? I have found that Testor "paint brush cleaner" (red label from HobbyLobby) also works great.

P.S. I am using only acrylic paint, maybe lacquer paints are thougher to clean?

  • Member since
    February, 2010
  • From: Berkeley CA/St. Paul MN
Posted by EBergerud on Thursday, September 01, 2011 3:46 AM


Same thing has happened to me with a Harder Steenbeck. My problem was not with the nozzle as the needle. You might plunk for some lube made by Medea (Iwata)- it really does keep the needle and trigger nice and smooth. BTW: I'm with you on lacquer thinner. However, my Harder instructions specifically warns against soaking the entire airbrush in a solvent. May be tough on the O-rings (something which I have a spare set of). For cleaning a nozzle and tip there is absolutely nothing to touch a sonic cleaner. Mine cost about $30 and it will clean your brush like nothing else does. Works really good on rings - which is what it's made for. I use it for all sorts of stuff: spare jars, mixing cups. Put water and windex for that kind of stuff. Lacquer thinner for nozzles.



A model boat is much cheaper than a real one and won't sink with you in it.

  • Member since
    February, 2010
  • From: Berkeley CA/St. Paul MN
Posted by EBergerud on Thursday, September 01, 2011 4:03 AM

One more thing. This probably doesn't answer your problem but I think it's a culprit for many a clogged brush. I'm pretty good at cleaning the brush (it gets a good blow out after every color change) but only give the cup cap a little wipe. A couple of weeks back I looked at it. The thing was absolutely polluted. And, as it has threads, it would be so easy for just a bit to drop into the cup and into the nozzle and then .... ugly. (I soaked the thing in lacquer overnight was humbled when I brushed out the build-up of gunk inside it: it kind of solidified so you really don't notice it.) I've got these little tools that will go through the nozzle hole with a little friction (actually I think proper plastic dental tooth picks with fuzzies on one end a sharp on the other work just as well). More than once, gunk has come out that may not be the color painted. I wonder if it's ever dropped down from the blinking cap. And you'd be surprised how many problems went away when I started keeping a paint brush a little thinner ready to give the tip a quick clean in the middle of long low psi layering sessions. It's actually pretty obvious. Naturally it took me over a year to figure it out.



A model boat is much cheaper than a real one and won't sink with you in it.

  • Member since
    October, 2009
Posted by STJohnson on Thursday, September 01, 2011 7:19 AM


Is your needle seal snug on the needle?

I was surprised the first few times with my Infinity,  and finally figured out that a wee bit of paint was creeping past the seal on the trigger side and would harden there locking the needle in place. After readjusting it behaved just fine.

I have started to run AllClad A/B cleaner thru the brush as my last step. I think its hotter than just lac least thats what I tell myself

  • Member since
    August, 2011
  • From: Hayward, CA
Posted by GreenThumb on Thursday, September 01, 2011 7:52 PM

Are you guys spraying distilled water through your airbrush after the cleaning? I always do and my needles never stick.




  • Member since
    January, 2015
Posted by The Battlekeeper on Tuesday, August 08, 2017 3:44 PM

The "crazed" on your tools is the oils that have accumulated from your hands. I usually clean them all off after each use. I also store them in a airtight container with some silica gel sorbent pouches that comes in most pill containers. It also works great with decal sheets as well

  • Member since
    August, 2017
Posted by laskdjn on Tuesday, August 08, 2017 5:40 PM

What about shooting some airbrush cleaner through it after you finish with the laquer thinner?  The Iwata airbrush cleaner seems like it's just diluted dish soap, might help lubricate the needle in between uses.

  • Member since
    January, 2006
Posted by Paul Budzik on Tuesday, August 08, 2017 7:10 PM

To some degree your problem might be your obsession with constant complete disassembly ... It's not an M1 Garand ... even the lead iwata tech discourages that practice.  Second, as much as I like Iwata products, I've had their blue lub get hard so I use a little white lithium grease and/or Triflow.  Third, be careful how you seat the needle, again, it's not a gun, take it easy so you don't cause undo wear on the needle or flare the nozzle ... here is how I do it ...





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