How to clean a 3D printer bed
In the 3D printing communities, there is a lot of discussion around the best methods for cleaning the 3D printer bed. Whether you’re a newcomer or a veteran, we’ve got some tips for success.
We will discuss various cleaning products and how to use them to clean FDM printer beds.
Why clean the print bed?
It may seem obvious, but plastics stick better to clean surfaces. If you have poor bed adhesion, your print quality may suffer. For the best adhesion, remove any buildup of filament, oil, dirt and dust.
Also, when you have a clean 3D printer bed, you may not need to use hacks like glue sticks, painters tape, and hairspray to improve adhesion.
As with all things chemical and electrical, a little common sense will go a long way in protecting you and your property.
Never mix chemicals. You may end up inadvertently creating toxic and hazardous substances. Specifically, never mix acetone and isopropyl alcohol. It forms a toxic chemical, peracetic acid, which can cause chemical burns or worse.
Do not use any of these products in a confined space and make sure you have good ventilation.
Also remember that acetone and all types of alcohol are highly flammable. All it takes to start a fire is a spark from the electronics or the heated bed.
Only a few cleaning products are effective and safe to use in cleaning the surface of the bed.
Isopropyl alcohol (IPA)
IPA or rubbing alcohol at a concentration of 90% or higher is an excellent cleaning solution. Anything over 90% will be hard to find at a drug store, but you can easily find it on Amazon.
In a pinch, you can use 70%, but keep in mind that it won’t remove as much oil from the build surface and may contain chemicals other than alcohol and oil. ‘water. When alcohol and water dry, they can leave a thin film of other unknown compounds on your bed.
In our experience, 70% isopropyl will do a great job on beds that are already fairly clean. If you see fingerprints or smudges on your build plate that won’t come off with 70% isopropyl, you may need something stronger. We found 90% Isopropyl to be the middle ground between price and effectiveness.
In theory, ethyl alcohol is also a good cleaning solution. However, it is hard to find in a strong enough concentration, and in some US states it is illegal to buy over-the-counter.
Everclear is a brand of ethyl alcohol that you can buy at a liquor store. Everclear is 190 degrees which means it contains 95% alcohol.
Overall, however, ethyl alcohol is more likely to have impurities than isopropyl alcohol, and it is more expensive. For these reasons, we recommend isopropyl over ethyl alcohol.
You may already have acetone at home. It is the main ingredient in some nail polish removers. Read the label, as not all nail polish removers contain acetone. You can find 100% acetone at hardware stores, and it’s a relatively inexpensive solvent.
Acetone is extremely effective at removing oil and evaporates very quickly. It has a very strong odor and is highly flammable. It can also dissolve some plastics like ABS and acrylic. For this reason, be very careful what you put acetone on. Avoid damage to your skin, 3D printer, floors and furniture by avoiding contact with any surface other than the bed.
Even though it is extremely effective in cleaning the build plate, we do not recommend that you use acetone regularly. In fact, it can damage beds that have a PEI coating.
Soap and hot water
Alcohol and acetone, although they can remove grease, are not good for removing glue sticks, which some people use to help first coat adhesion. Dish soap and water work well to remove both grease and glue stick. It’s easier to use dish soap and water if you have a removable bed because you can take it to your sink.
Remember that soap and water mixtures are conductive, so don’t get any on the electronics of your 3D printer. This could cause a short circuit or, in the worst case, a shock.
Overall, soapy water may be the best mixture because it can remove all types of contaminants.
Glass surface cleaners like Windex aren’t just for cleaning glass. They can also act as release agents. Windex will remove some of the oil from the bed as well as other water-soluble contaminants, but it will also leave its own film behind. This could lead to less grip, which isn’t always a bad thing.
In some cases, such as when printing with PETG on a PEI coated print surface, your prints may stick so well that they may pull off the PEI coating when you try to peel them off. If you’re having this problem, consider using glass cleaner to clean your bed, or simply spray some on to help reduce cling, even if your bed is perfectly clean. Don’t forget to clean it again if you switch to a filament type that doesn’t stick as well, like PLA or ABS.
How to clean your 3D printing bed
The steps for cleaning a 3D printer bed are largely the same whether you have a glass bed (like the Anycubic Kobra Max), a metal bed (like the Voxelab Aquila), a magnetic bed (like the Anycubic Vyper), or a PEI coated bed (like some Ender 3 printers).
There is really only one exception. You should not use acetone to clean PEI sheets, as it may damage the PEI sheet over time. With that in mind, follow these steps to clean beds of different materials.
Here are the steps for cleaning with isopropyl alcohol, ethyl alcohol, acetone or Windex:
- Using a scraper, remove any filament or tape residue from the glass plate, metal bed, or PEI sheet.
- Make sure the bed is at room temperature. Otherwise, the cleaning liquid evaporates. You want to give it time to soak up the oil.
- Do not touch the bed directly with your hands, lest you recontaminate it. Imagine that you are a surgeon.
- Always add your cleaning solution to a paper towel or clean cloth and avoid spraying it directly on the bed as the mist could get into your electronics. Put enough cleaning solution on the paper towel so you can wipe down the entire bed before it starts to evaporate.
- Clean the entire bed methodically, applying even pressure throughout the cleaning process.
- Optionally, introduce a second paper towel or clean cloth to dry the bed. Drying can remove even more surface contaminants and oil, and it can dust off any remaining dirt or pieces of the first paper towel. The first pass is to dissolve the contaminants. The second pass is to remove these contaminants. If your bed is relatively clean, you can skip the second pass. If you are having adhesion issues, dry the bed permanently.
If you see smudges, fingerprints, etc., repeat the above steps until they disappear.
With soap and water
When using soap and water to clean the bed, follow these steps:
- First, wash your hands thoroughly.
- Wash the bed like you would wash dishes, but don’t use anything abrasive. A sponge or soft cloth will do. You can just use your hands, but you’ll remove more grease if you use a sponge, cloth, or paper towel.
- Add a little pressure as you soap it up to help loosen the oil.
- Then, rinse off all the soap. Don’t leave any behind. You don’t want soap on the bed at all.
- Finally, dry the bed thoroughly with a new clean cloth.
Keep your bed clean
The best way to have a clean bed is to not get it dirty in the first place. Avoid touching the bed at all, if possible. Clean your hands thoroughly if you must handle the bed. Better yet, wear clean gloves. Nitrile or latex gloves work great.
Once you’ve cleaned the bed, only touch it on the sides. Keeping your bed clean means future prints are more likely to be successful.
*Special thanks to FormerLurker for their expertise in 3D printing.