DIY: Pen Flush as Stamp Cleaner

Back in July, Ana posted a practical, adorable recipe for DIY pen flush. As soon as I read the post, I had a follow-up request. The post specifically said to label your pen flush- and once I saw the charming illustrations, I knew no other label would suffice. A few weeks later, a new pen flush sticker pack was immediately added to my shopping cart.

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It arrived in perfect timing because I had been meaning to try a suggestion I received from the Desk ladies about cleaning stamps. Thanks to our fearless leader’s seemingly endless creativity and talent, a lot of new rubber stamps have been added to my collection recently.

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And while we are on the topic, have I mentioned that these are some really good stamps? Obviously, the designs speak for themselves- but the quality of the stamps is also exceptional. If you haven’t checked them out yet- I highly recommend them. Ana even has a few new ones I haven’t gotten my hands on yet… “Don’t Drink the Ink” stamps, a “Maker” series, and lab beakers. Something for everyone. Or in my case, all the somethings.

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With all these new stamps around, I was curious how the other Deskettes cleaned their stamps after use. I had an old stamp cleaning pad that really wasn’t cutting it. Sponges were suggested as an option, and maybe even trying pen flush. I decided to search out necessary supplies for DIY pen flush, standard non-stamp sponges, and a few stamp-specific cleaning supplies for comparison sake—time for a show-down.

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I decided to purchase two stamp specific supplies: a Ranger branded stamp cleaning pad, and a StazOn branded cleaning solution. The cost was about $15 for the pair.

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For the test shown above- the first impression on the paper is the newly inked stamp, and each print after it represents one application of cleaning solution and a single run across the cleaning pad stamp before being re-stamped onto the paper. It took several applications and a little bit of elbow grease with the stamp cleaning pad, but by the time I got to my fifth round, the stamp was nearly clean. Definitely an improvement over my old stamp cleaning pad and water.

Time to break out the big container of Scotch-Brite sponges I purchased for less than 0.75 cents a sponge and see if they could match the results of the Ranger stamp counterparts.

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The nice thing about these sponges compared to the fancy stamp-specific one is that both sides are usable. There’s the firmer cleaning pad on one side- which has a similar texture to the Ranger cleaning pad, and a soft spongy side on the reverse that can be used for soaking with pen flush and pressing the stamp into for cleaning.

Basic cleaning supplies and a jar I already had on hand, and it was off to the races.

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The same basic principle for this test- although I applied the pen flush directly to the sponge and then simply pressed the stamp into the sponge a single time in between each imprint on the paper.

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Needless to say, I was a little shocked by how significant the difference was. Even better, the cheaper DIY option is, the better of the two! It really only took one or two stamps into the sponge to get it 90% clean. Impressive! At the end of the cleaning above, I ran the stamp across the cleaning pad side of the stamps a few times and pressed it into a second stamp that had been soaked with just water. It looked almost brand new.

While I was stamping, I also pulled out all the black ink pads I owned to test for differences. I tried four ink pads: Ranger Archival Ink, Versafine Pigment Ink, StazOn Solvent Ink, and ColorBox Archival Dye.

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Out of the four, I would definitely suggest either the Ranger or the Versafine- both options apply the perfect amount of ink to the stamp and provide clean lines on the paper.  The StazOn produced lines that were a little less clean and the ColorBox…

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… a little bit overkill, to say the least. I suddenly remembered what prompted me to ask about stamp cleaning the first place!

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On the left is the stamp I used for all the testing above after cleaning with my DIY supplies at the end of the night. On the right, we have the stamp I was using before I purchased and made my new cleaning supplies (I haven’t tried cleaning this original one with my new supplies yet). To be fair, I’ve definitely used the old one more than the new one- but I don’t think I ever got that original one as clean as my new one… even after a single use.

Your weekend to-do list:

  1. Purchase stamps and stickers from the Well-Appointed-Desk shop.
  2. Make your own DIY pen flush.
  3. Find or purchase a regular, non-fancy, non-stamp branded sponge.
  4. Stamp a few ink swabs, a letter, or anything else that needs some inky flair.
  5. Clean your stamps and your pens?

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11 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Thank you Jaclyn. I hadn’t thought about TLC for stamps before, but mine needed it and I cleaned a few right after reading your post.

    Could you advise on one other stamp-maintenance item? This is a custom, wooden-handled stamp from the 1980s. Attached to the wood is a rectangle of spongy material. The rubber stamp cut-out was a attached to the spongy material. The rubber stamp cut-out has separated from the spongy material it was originally placed on. I need to reattach it, but don’t know what to use that won’t melt or degrade the rubber stamp. Maybe hot glue? If you know what’s usually/frequently used or what would work, I’d appreciate your guidance. Thanks!

    1. It is called “rubber stamp mounting foam” or foam cushion. You can buy replacement foam online. It has adhesive on it that you can attach to your stamp. Or if you just want to glue the existing foam back down, pick an adhesive specifically safe for rubber/foam that is permanent. Check your local hardware store or big box craft supply shop. I am sure something like E-6000 would work.

  2. Hi, long time stamper here…if the pen flush has any type of alcohol in it (and I think they most do) the alcohol will degrade the rubber! After a time, you will not be able to get good clean imprints any more – they will look blurry because the rubber has actually broken down.

  3. Hi – Long-time stamper here. Most pen flushes contain alcohol. Alcohol degrades rubber, so if you use it to clean your stamps, after a while the rubber will degrade and your imprints will start to look blurry. You need to use a gentle cleaner, or cleaner meant specifically for rubber stamps to be sure the imprints stay crisp. You can try baby wipes, many stampers use those. But because you are most likely “coloring in” the stamp outlines with ink, you need a stamp pad that has waterproof ink (won’t bleed when you add liquid), and these can make the stamp difficult to clean. You really don’t need to worry about the rubber stamp getting “stained” – as long as the ink is cleaned off the surface, it will still work just fine.

    1. Pen flush should not contain alcohol. It may contain ammonia as made here but alcohol will damage pens just as quickly as it will damage stamps.

  4. Nothing beats a Kiss-Off stain removal stick, a bit of water, and an old toothbrush for stamp cleaning! I’ve been using it for decades. Alas, Clearsnap closed down at the end of 2019 so no more ColorBox.

  5. Oh thank you for this! I’ve wondered recently how to clean my Keep The Post Office Public stampers. I admit I’ve tried wet paper towels. Not recommended.

    I have those exact sponges you used, and some pen flush I bought. When it runs out, I’m going to use Ana’s pen flush “recipe”. I do have stampers and pens to clean.

    Oh!! If Ana reads this: my brother and I have 3 versions of your Keep The Post Office Public stampers. Is there any chance you could get a version that has “Save the Post Office“?

  6. I heartily second Lori’s request for a Save the Post Office stamp. I’d love to see one that says “Put Our Box Back” too, and/or one supporting the mail carriers and USPS clerks.

    Great and useful post. I’ve been kind of guessing at the proportions for pen flush; I’m glad to have a “scientifically” tested and approved recipe to follow.

    Thank you all and take care of yourselves.

  7. This is the cutest jar of pen flush ever! I have a retailer’s version now so I don’t need to make my own (yet) but my weekend DIY project just may be to empty the contents from the not-cute bottle into a cute jar like yours and order me some stickers and stamps!!

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