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How to Clean an Encaustic Studio

How to Clean an Encaustic Studio

A clean encaustic studio is a joy to work in but, let’s face it, encaustic can be a messy art form. In this post, I share the tips and strategies we use at Upwards Arts Studio to make the cleanup of your tools and work surfaces fast and easy. 

Cleaning An Encaustic Griddle:

I don’t clean the sides of my griddle. I like seeing the history of my paintings in the drips. However, I do clean the surface of the griddle after every use. I generally end a painting session by removing my tins and thermometer and giving the griddle a good wipe with paper towels.

TIP: If there’s a lot of overspill or if I’ve been mixing colours directly on the griddle, I’ll grab a couple of pieces of washi paper and put them on the griddle to soak up the coloured wax. These papers make great collage papers!

How to Clean An Encaustic Studio Work Surface:

I use silicone mats on top of my work table. These mats make clean up a breeze. I pick off the large drips of wax, then I lay the mat, messy side down, on a clean warm griddle. Simply wipe the warm mat clean with a paper towel. I use a scraping tool to clean up any bits that have landed directly on my tabletop.

Cleaning Encaustic Paint Brushes:

Clean Encaustic Studio Brushes

Generally, I don’t clean brushes. I wipe excess wax off on the side of the encaustic tins and then place them on the silicone mats to harden. It’s easier to store the tins without the brushes in them, besides, heating the wax takes longer when the brushes are stuck in them. Sort cooled brushes by colour families: red brushes can go with orange or red; blue can go with blue, green or purple; yellow, white and black are left separate.

Sometimes I need to clean the handles of brushes. Even though it seems like a good idea – don’t heat the brushes with the embossing hot air tool, you’ll burn the bristles and the brush will be garbage. Use a pottery tool to scrape off any excess wax then lay the brush on the griddle and once the handle is warm, wipe it clean with a paper towel.

Enkaustikos Slick Wax or Soy Wax are sold specifically for cleaning brushes but, once these waxes become too dirty, you’ll need to dispose of them in the garbage.

If I do need to clean brushes, I use a large tin of encaustic medium. This is less wasteful as I can still use the encaustic medium. You can think of your tin of encaustic medium for cleaning brushes as a mud pot. Usually, the wax turns grey, purple, or green. It can hold a lot of pigment.

Cleaning Metal Tins & Consolidating Wax:

After my painting session, I generally remove all the tins from my work surface and put them on my silicone baking mats to cool. If I plan to come back to my wax the very next day I might just leave the pots on the griddle.

I use flat-bottom tins. This way when I empty them, pigment won’t get stuck in ridges (ex. tuna tins). When I want to clean out a tin I use silicone muffin cups to pour the current colour into. I let the wax harden in the muffin cups and then I can pop them out for easy storage. Clean the empty tin while it’s still warm with a paper towel. I keep my spring clamps on the tin as I’m cleaning it to give me something to hold onto. I generally use my griddle to keep the pots that I’m cleaning warm. If I need an extra boost I use my embossing hot air tool. If my metal spring clamps get waxy, I just lay them on the griddle for a few minutes and then wipe them off with a paper towel.

Cleaning Encaustic Tools:

I clean my hand tools often – at least once per week and sometimes as I paint. I clean the pottery scraping tools and razor blades by placing them on a hot griddle for a bit and giving them a wipe with a paper towel – watch your fingers! If I’m going to clean a bunch of tools all at once, I get out my embossing hot air tool. I use it to heat the tool and then wipe the excess wax with a paper towel.

Some tools can’t stand the heat – ex. torch body and torch head, embossing hot air tool, heat gun, and electrical cords. Just use a pottery tool to lightly scrape the excess wax off of them.

how To Clean Encaustic Studio Floors:

I have an old hardwood floor in my studio. This makes cleanup pretty easy. I created a tool modelled after one my friend Daniel Beirne uses. I duct-tapped a 4” putty knife to a boom handle. This way I don’t need to be on my knees to clean up the floor! No heating is required. Once the wax is scraped up, I use a broom to sweep it up for the garbage.

To clean alternative floor coverings, such as floor puzzle mats, you can use an embossing hot air tool or a heat gun and a small putty knife to scrape up the spills. This method is certainly more backbreaking!

It’s important to keep your encaustic studio clean

Spend a little time now and again to keep your encaustic studio clean because a clean and organized encaustic studio is so much more enjoyable to work in.

If you have any tips for cleaning up your encaustic studio, please share a comment below.

About Amelia Kraemer

Amelia Kraemer combines her love of history and visual arts. She received a degree in Near Eastern Archaeology and Canadian History, as well as a post-graduate certificate in Museum Management. After life circumstances withdrew her from her full-time work as an archivist, she turned to the visual arts. She shows her work around southwestern Ontario. She owns Upwards Art Studio - an art supply store and studio in downtown Owen Sound. She teaches encaustic and mixed media classes at Upwards.

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