Rubbing Alcohol – A Must Have Item For Any Polymer Clay Bead Studio

Rubbing Alcohol Cleaner

Perfect For Cleaning All Kinds of Polymer Clay Supplies and Crafting Tools:

One very useful item that should always be included with your polymer clay supplies is a bottle of isopropyl rubbing alcohol. Outlined below are 6 ways to use rubbing alcohol with your clay bead making projects. But first a few quick sourcing and handling tips…

  • Rubbing alcohol can easily be found in grocery stores and pharmacies, often in the first aid section.
  • Look for the higher concentrations – 75% and above for the best effectiveness.
  • Keep away from high heat and open flames like ovens, heaters, candles and torches because isopropyl alcohol is a highly flammable liquid.
  • Always keep a tight lid on the bottle because rubbing alcohol evaporates very quickly.

Six Uses For Rubbing Alcohol
With Polymer Clay…

1) Cleaning Pasta Machine Rollers and Tools: Use a paper towel soaked in rubbing alcohol to easily wipe away polymer clay residue from pasta machines, cutting blades, glass cutting boards and any other tool that comes into contact with your clay.

2) Removing Unwanted Color Streaks From Clay: If a dirty pasta machine ends up getting unexpected streaks of other colors onto your fresh sheets of polymer clay, an alcohol soaked paper towel will easily wipe them away.

3) Removing Fingerprints: Use paper towel and rubbing alcohol to remove smudges and fingerprints from unbaked beads.

4) Removing Future Floor Polish And Other Finishes: Sometimes you mess up when applying a finishes to baked polymer clay pieces. Remove unwanted coatings by completely soaking beads in a dish of rubbing alcohol. Then wipe with a paper towel.

5) Making Homemade Alcohol Ink Recipes: Although it is not as strong as the commercially made alcohol inks, you can make your own version for use in many polymer clay bead projects.

6) Removing Excess Alcohol Ink Smears and Stains: If you get alcohol ink (either commercial or homemade) onto somewhere that it shouldn’t be (i.e. on a bead, on a work surface, on tools), you can remove the color staining with an alcohol soaked paper towel.

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor

  1. Anna Sabina, 27 March, 2009

    I use cotton or wool round cosmetic pads with my rubbing alcohol. I find a packs of 100 for about $1.00; these are sold to remove make up and are about 2 1/2 inches in diameter. i like the added thickness and absorbency and can often use than one time. I also like their compact size during use and for storage.

  2. Anna Sabina, 27 March, 2009

    I meant to say I often use hem more than one time. I also don’t have to soak them in alcohol because they absorb enough alcohol well right from the bottle.

  3. MJ, 27 March, 2009

    Hi Cindy,

    I use 91% alcohol which is readily available at Wal-Mart in the Pharmacy.


  4. Louise, 27 March, 2009

    I always learn something more each time I come on your blog. I never miss coming and see each day.
    I can honestly say you make my day!

  5. Vanessag, 27 March, 2009

    I add rubbing alcohol to inexpensive baby whipes. I buy a container of the baby whipes pour a good amount into the container so the whipes are saturated in the alcohol. I then use these whipes to clean my pasta machine, my work surfance, tools and hands. I can’t remember when I read or got this hint from. Wish I could give credit.

  6. Cindy Lietz, 28 March, 2009

    @Anna: Very handy tip! Thanks!

    @MJ: Thanks for the info. I didn’t think to look at Walmart. I ended up finding 4 bottles of the 99% for around $7 Canadian at Costco.

    @Louise: Thank you for your sweet comment. You made my day!

    @Vanessag: Good idea! Bet the ‘power boosted’ baby wipes are extra handy!

  7. Julie Anstaett, 29 March, 2009

    I use the Kemper extruders…have one for white, one for black, one for translucent, and one for “all other colors…I clean them by using a bottle brush and alcohol. I dip the brush in alcohol and run the brush through the extruder a few times. No fuss, no muss, and all the clingy clay on the inside is gone…I’m sure this would work for any extruder.

  8. Kelly, 29 March, 2009

    Awesome post Cindy! My pasta machine has been black streaking my sheets something fierce lately. I tried to find a way to easy fix that up and well here’s my answer!

    Although, I’d much prefer the machine to just stop making those black streaks in the first place!

  9. Cindy Lietz, 30 March, 2009

    @Julie: Wow that is a lot of extruders! Thanks for sharing your great tip for cleaning them! Very helpful!

    @Kelly: That streaking is most likely the cause of clay stuck behind the scrapers of your pasta machine. You can take apart your pasta machine to clean it. For more info on how to do that, click the link by my name.

  10. Kelly, 03 April, 2009

    Thanks for your response Cindy. I had read that it might be some sort of chemical reaction with the clay and the pasta machine. It’s a relatively new machine, but I suppose it won’t hurt to take it apart for a cleaning (well unless I can’t get it back together)!

  11. Cindy Lietz, 04 April, 2009

    I have read that too Kelly, but that doesn’t make much sense to me. I could see it having a reaction to plastics and non stick coatings and such, but not so much with metals. They are different materials. I could be wrong though.

    Watch the video on how to take apart and put back together your pasta machine and you won’t have any problems at all!

    Click the link by my name for info on getting that video.

  12. Kimberly, 25 May, 2009

    I use a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol to get rid of all the flecks of dust (my house is VERY dusty, even though I keep my clay area CLEAN!) by going over the entire piece before I bake it. :) Works every time!

  13. Cindy Lietz, 29 May, 2009

    It also removes fingerprints. That is why your work looks so great Kimberly!

    PS: You will want to come back to the blog tomorrow (May 30). I’ve got a surprise for the Mad Scientist of Polymer Clay that I know you’ll want to see. That’s all I’m gonna say today. See you tomorrow :)

  14. Kimberly Hart, 29 May, 2009

    Ohhhhhhh! SURPRISES! :D I’m excited!

  15. Cindy Lietz, 02 June, 2009

    See, pretty good surprise Eh Kimberly! Thanks for the article mention you made at Deviant Art I really appreciated it!

    BTW in case anyone else is wondering, the “surprise” was a post I wrote about Kimberly and her Monster Kookies jewelry. Check it out by clicking the link by my name!

  16. Rain D, 09 May, 2011

    @Cindy Lietz from Cupcake Charms:
    I read that alcohol is great for smoothing out the fimo creation, do I do this before or after I bake.
    Thank you, Rain

  17. Cindy Lietz, 10 May, 2011

    @Rain D: Rubbing alcohol is great for smoothing and removing fingerprints and such from raw clay. Just use it on a Q-Tip or piece of paper towel land wipe lightly. Acetone will work in a similar way on baked pieces, though it is very flammable and quite smelly to use.

  18. Faber Draconis, 04 November, 2009

    hmm, according to this blog I bought a bottle of spiritus (94% Ethylene)
    and watched the effect at the surface (fingerprints for example), but the only effect I saw were made by the brush/q-tip I´d used.
    The Ethylene just seemed to be an evaporating lubricant, but with no effect to the Super Sculpey.
    Maybe I just translated “rubbing alcohol” wrong. May it be that rubbing alcohol is only isopropylene.

  19. Cindy Lietz, 04 November, 2009

    Yes Faber Draconis, the translation was wrong. Rubbing Alcohol = Isopropyl Alcohol. (Language translators are tricky. :-)

    Let me know if that helps.

  20. christine le grice, 18 June, 2010

    is isopropyl alcohol the same thing as surgical spirit? anyone know ?

  21. Phaedrakat, 18 June, 2010

    @christine le grice: I just looked Surgical Spirits up online, and the article I read said that that’s the name used in the UK for rubbing alcohol. It tends to be the ethyl-alcohol mixture, however. Rubbing alcohol in the US can be either the ethyl-alcohol or the isopropyl alcohol mixture.

    It seems like they could be used interchangeably, but Cindy designates the isopropyl type in the article above. It could just be that they don’t use the ethyl-type rubbing alcohol in Canada, or maybe it doesn’t work as well. I was hoping to help you, but I guess Cindy will have to answer this question. Or if it’s as inexpensive as it is here, just buy a small bottle of the alcohol and give it a try. It nothing else, it’s good for cleanup!

    BTW, where are you in the world? I’m from Riverside, California, US. Have a great day!

  22. Phaedrakat, 18 June, 2010

    @christine le grice: Hi Christine, “Surgical Spirit” is the UK name for rubbing alcohol, but it’s the ethyl-alcohol mixture. In the US, rubbing alcohol tends to be made from either a mixture of ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol. It seems like they might be interchangeable, especially for the uses above. Cindy does mention Isopropyl alcohol, though. It could be that it works better, or perhaps they just don’t use the ethyl-alcohol type in Canada. I was hoping to help you with the answer to this, but it looks like you’ll need Cindy’s help. Or, you could just buy a bottle of the alcohol. If it’s as cheap there as it is here, you won’t be wasting money. Plus, if it doesn’t work out, it has so many other uses!

    BTW, where in the world are you? I’m from Riverside, CA, USA. Have a great day! ~Kat

  23. Jocelyn, 18 June, 2010

    Kat, I love following you around!

    I use a container for the alcohol which works great for instant access as you work.

    Years ago, when I had my nails done regularly, one of the places gave me a porcelein dispenser for nail polish remover, that had a metal cap, which allowed a small amount of liquid to sit on the top, easy to access with a q-tip or such.

    It’s heavy, so you cannot knock it over, and allows alcohol or acetone to sit out without evaporating.

    Try any online outlet, especially the wholesale ones, for the best price. Or, you can always do what I did, and begged the technician to order one for me as a Christmas gift.

    Hope this works for those interested, I love mine. I also always stand it on a glass square on my worktable so that no drips affect the work surface.

  24. Phaedrakat, 18 June, 2010

    @Jocelyn: Wow, that sounds awesome! I’ve always wondered if there was a better way to store it, so some could be left “sitting open”. I’ve poured small amounts into lids from other containers, but then it’s easy to spill because it’s light. I’ll have to find a porcelain dispenser somehow. Thanks for bringing it up! And follow me anytime you want! ;D *big smiles*

  25. Cindy Lietz, 19 June, 2010

    @christine le grice: I have no idea, but it sounds like Kat might be on the right track. Her advice to try it and see was good. It is so cheap and is most likely the same thing.

    @Phaedrakat: Boy you know lots about rubbing alcohol! I’ve never seen the ethyl type of alcohol here, but Canada definitely has different regulations than the States so maybe that’s it.

    @Jocelyn: We used to have dispensers like that when I worked for Doug’s Dad in the dentist office. He gave me all his old dental equipment when they downsized (he packed it around after he retired). There are still a couple of boxes I haven’t gone through yet. I should check to see if one of those dispensers is in there!

  26. Jocelyn, 18 June, 2010

    Kat, not sure it would work for expensive liquids like the alcohol inks, but for general alcohol cleanup, and acetone access during finishing to remove fingerprints, the dispenser cannot be beat.

    I’m sure a little evaporates, but not enough to make me change methods. Multiple sclerosis affects my hands and vision, so anything that minimizing handling of a daily need, without spilling or breaking when I knock it over or drop it, is worth it’s weight in gold.

  27. Phaedrakat, 19 June, 2010

    @Jocelyn: Oh, Jocelyn, I’m sorry about your MS. I’m afraid I don’t know enough about it to say anything—I certainly don’t want to offend you by saying the wrong thing! I can see that this dispenser would be ideal, though. I looked online yesterday & found several types; there’s a large range in price for them, too of course. Your idea of “begging the nail tech” is probably best way to go! ;D *wink, wink*. While they make all these cool products for dispensing acetone & alcohol (solvent dispensers,) the ceramic ones still seem like “the coolest!”. The weight is perfect, like you said, so it won’t get knocked over. That’s worthwhile for anyone working with a table full of products!

    I’m truly sorry about your MS. I’m going to do some reading about it so I understand better. I hope you do not have one of the more severe courses of the disease. I despise the thought of my friend having to deal with so much pain. You’re in my prayers, Jocelyn. Please let me know if I can help you in any way!

    Thanks for such a great tip on the alcohol/acetone dispensers. Now we need to find a good price somewhere, so we can share it with everyone and they, too, can have the container worth its weight in gold! Hugs, Kat

  28. Jocelyn, 20 June, 2010

    Cindy, you live the ultimate life, cannot imagine my joy to get a husband like Doug, attached to a dentist father who retires and gives you all his stuff, LOL! Lots of transfer to clay.

    Try the drill bit for holes and cubbies in polymer clay. Provided you chose the right speed and bit, it eats clay like butter, and could allow open spaced creation for a dimensional effect like those fabulous creations shown ealier on the site by someone who also used a puffed clay approach.

    With any plastic, risk of melting, burning, inhaling dust or fumes, etc. is a documented caution. Definitely goggle, mask/respirator work. But could surely see some beautiful open lattice work, like those artists that carve natural eggs.

    Hmmm, going to haul out that new Dremel and experiment.

  29. Phaedrakat, 20 June, 2010

    @Jocelyn: Oh, yeah! Never thought of that, but those dental tools lend themselves VERY well to clay. Besides all you can do with the bits, hand-held tools like picks are good for sculpting, too. I wonder if Cindy found one of those alcohol dispensers in the box of dental goodies? Would be nice…

    Let us know how it goes with your Dremel, Jocelyn. I haven’t tried yet, but carving beads makes for a scrumptious look (Grant Dif’s — not gonna try to spell it — beads are so cool!)

  30. Laura V, 22 March, 2016

    I have a Bottle named Tendos denatured alcohol
    it is 70 % and have spiritus ketonatus Dilutus in it
    is this the same as Rubbing Alcohol?

    I live in the netherlands so Not sure if i can find something the same for my polymer clay .
    also can clay still be baked even if you use alcohol like this ?

  31. Cindy Lietz, 22 March, 2016

    Hi Laura, I an not familiar with the product that you are talking about so I would not n=be the best person to answer this question for you. From what I gather though, denatured alcohol and isopropyl alcohol are not the same. From Phaedrakat’s comment above, it looks to me that what we call Rubbing Alcohol here in North America, is called Surgical Spirits in the UK. Perhaps that will help you find what you need?

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