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Tools used for Cleaning

May 05, 2015

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Airfield Models ( used for Cleaning

A wide variety of commonly available items work well for cleaning.  This is one area that I wish I had paid more attention to earlier.  Once I made a conscious effort to find ways to keep my tools and equipment clean, things went much more smoothly for me in the shop.


Cleaning Tools

  • Air Compressor

    I have mentioned in several other areas the virtues of owning an air compressor.  I use mine for cleaning more than any for other task.  Compressed air makes short work of tasks that used to take longer and gave a less satisfactory result.

    For example, they are excellent for getting dirt and dust from areas that no other item will reach in to.  Another example is blowing all the crud that accumulates in drawers of your flight box and tool boxes.

  • Bench Brush

    A large camel or horse hair brush used to wipe off your bench.  Use it remove particles that might gouge your wood.  Never use it to wipe away anything that is oily such as metal chips from drilling.  You can also use it wipe the bulk of the sanding dust from your work but be sure to check that there are no chips or other crud in the brush that will scratch the wood.

  • Cake Pans and Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls

    These items make excellent cleaning trays.  You will want some that are relatively shallow and others that are bowl shaped.  They can be purchased at Wal-Mart or from local grocers.

  • Cloth Diapers

    I use cloth diapers for cleaning my planes after flying and other clean-up tasks.  I do not use them for wiping up glue or paint or anything else that will harden in the cloth and potentially scratch the finish of a model if I happen to use that particular diaper to clean it.  Diapers are very absorbent, can be washed and last for years.

    You can either buy real diapers from the baby section of various stores or diaper cloth from places such as Home Depot.

  • Cotton Swabs

    Q-Tips are great for a lot of different cleaning tasks.  They are also good for making nice little glue fillets.  For example, you can dip it in alcohol or lacquer thinner and use it to wipe up the epoxy that oozes out when you glue the horizontal stabilizer on and it will leave a small fillet of glue that makes cleanup easier (no seam for oil and grit to get into).  They are also handy for cleaning airbrushes.

  • Paint Brushes

    Old paint brushes are good for cleaning dirt and dust from hard to reach areas such as the between the fins of an engine.  The are not good for scrubbing but are excellent for removing loose dirt.

  • Paper Towels

    The cost of paper towels adds up after a while, so I only use them for cleaning up glue, paint or other things that would ruin cloth diapers.  Paper towels will scratch finishes each time they are used.  Over time a finish will become dull.  Use diapers instead you will save money and your finishes will look good longer.

  • Pipe Cleaners

    Used for general cleaning tasks and especially handy for cleaning airbrushes.  I use good quality pipe cleaners for my airbrushes.  For other types of cleaning I pick up a bag at a craft shop.  They are not as good as the real thing, but much less expensive.  The craft store variety are fairly long so I cut them in half using side cutters and get twice as many for my money.

  • Shop Vac

    A Shop Vac is a tool that should be acquired early when setting up a workshop.Be sure to get a couple brush attachments for your Shop Vac.  Dedicate one for doing nothing but vacuuming your models.Shop Vacs are excellent tools.  I almost put a shop vac in the "necessities" section because it is almost that important.  The only way to really remove all the sanding dust from your model is to vacuum it.

    Be sure to buy a brush accessory if your vac does not come with one.  The brush can be used when vacuuming the structure of a model without gouging or scratching the wood.

    I purchased two brush attachments.  I use one for general cleaning in my shop and use the other for nothing but vacuuming dust from my models.

    Brushes get crud stuck in them and I found out the hard way that this stuff can damage soft balsa, so now I reserve a brush to ensure that problem does not occur again.

    The two downsides of a shop vac are that they are space hogs and can be loud.  Try to find a place in your shop where it is readily accessible but out of the way.

    I would not even consider purchasing a shop vac that isn't a quiet model.

  • Steel Wool

    I use very fine #0000 steel wool for removing tarnish from items such as threaded rod, etc.  Very fine sandpaper could also be used but the more the part is scratched the faster it will tarnish again.

    I also use steel wool for rubbing out polyurethane finishes (my flight box, for example).

  • Toothbrushes

    Toothbrushes are excellent for scrubbing small, hard to reach areas.  Generally speaking they will not damage or scratch metal so they are good for cleaning engines.  Another type of brush which is probably hard to find now is used to clean the keys of typewriters.  They have plastic bristles like a toothbrush but tend to be much stiffer.


Cleaning Chemicals

  • Ammonia

    Can be mixed with water and applied to wood to make it more pliable when it needs to be bent around curves.  Some people make their own cleaners to remove exhaust oil from their models using ammonia, water and dish soap.  Alcohol is added sometimes to help cut the grease.

  • Baby Wipes

    Keep a few in a freezer bag in you field box.  You can use them to clean engine gunk from your hands at the field if your field does not have a hand-washing facility.

  • Bleach-water mix

    Used for soaking fuel tanks.

  • Citrus Hand Cleaner

    Does wonders for getting paint and grease off your hands.  Then you have to wash your hands with regular soap to get the hand-cleaner off.  I avoid the kind with pumice in it.  I do not see the point in removing layers of skin just to clean my hands.

    As an option to or in addition to baby wipes, you can put some hand cleaner in a small squeeze bottle and put it in with your field gear.  Squeeze bottles can be found in the personal hygiene section of stores such as Wal-Mart for less than a dollar.

  • Liquid Dishwashing soap

    Used with plenty of water when wet sanding.  I also use it for general cleaning of tools and such.  Do not use this type of soap to clean a surface before painting.  Many dishwashing soaps contain chemicals to make water sheet off the dishes.  This same chemical will cause fish-eyes in your paint.  Use a real degreaser such as Tri-Sodium Phosphate instead.

  • Tri-Sodium Phosphate (TSP)

    Is an excellent degreaser.  I use TSP substitute because it does not contain phosphates and is better for the environment.  If you've never used it before then do not be alarmed when it does not suds up.  I especially use TSP for cleaning anything I am going to paint.

  • Window cleaner (Windex)

    Is what I usually use to clean my models, but I am currently experimenting with an alcohol mixture.  So far I do not care for the alcohol mixture as it leaves behind a hazy residue.



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Copyright 2002 Paul K. Johnson