Soaking an airbrush in cleaning solution sounds like the perfect, no hassle method to remove the day’s built up grime…but don’t do it!
However, all is not lost. You can soak parts and brush the paint off them after it’s loosened up a bit.
If you’ve got lots of parts to clean, you can use an ultrasonic cleaner.
Soaking the entire airbrush or even the airbrush body is bad. Here’s the long, drawn out version.
Do Use: Super Lube, Needle Juice, or, in a pinch, glycerin (glycerin dries out, but it’s very inexpensive)
Don’t Use: WD-40, KY Jelly, Machine Oil, Mineral Oil, Vegetable Oil, etc.
Lube, or grease, lets metal parts slide through o-rings nicely.
There is one place on an airbrush that requires lube, the air piston. Depending on the model you have, it could be connected to the trigger, a dangly piece, or you might have to pull it out of the airbrush with tweezers.
There is another place that might need lube, the needle packing o-ring. You lube this o-ring by placing a little lube on the needle.
The last couple places that don’t require lube but it sure feels nice when you do are many of the screw threads. Screwing together metal-to-metal connections just doesn’t ‘feel’ good. A little lube will make these connections feel better when you manipulate them, but they aren’t required for the proper functioning of our airbrush.
Paint dissolves into cleaning solution when you soak the airbrush…but the paint doesn’t always stay in the cleaning solution, it can come back out.
The scientific term for it is precipitate (like when it’s raining) except in this case it’s a solid, paint, precipitating out of a liquid, your cleaning solution.
When the paint precipitates it can form, or crystallize, anywhere. I do mean anywhere–in the air valve, in the trigger housing, inside the air passage (that’s a place that’s really hard to clean by the way)
Any cleaning solution with ammonia, like Windex, creates this ugly, greenish-black, icky crud on all brass surfaces. Soaking simply gives the ammonia more time to cause problems with as many brass parts as possible.
Lacquer thinner and automotive reducer first swell and then eat away the o-rings inside the airbrush.