Monday, March 26, 2012

Rubber Stamp Care- Inking and Cleaning

We sell custom stamps in the shop and I thought it was time to do a short blog posting on care and maintenance of those stamps for reference. Let me know if you have any additional tips and I'll add them on!

Types of Ink

My recommendation is to go to a good stationer or craft store and pick up a good raised dye-based ink pad. The water based ink pads from an office supply store will not provide crisp images and the gel based will gum up your stamp (plus the gel ink is impossible to remove according to my dry-cleaners ;) Pigment based inks are also good- be sure to clean your stamp after each use as these can gum up a stamp faster than dye-based inks.

Dye based inks provide crisp images, come in many colors, and make the stamps easy to maintain and clean. The raised ink pad is great for stamps that are larger than the pad.

Inking a Stamp

For stamps smaller than the ink pad you can press the stamp down on the pad a few times to make sure you have all of the raised areas inked. Then press as close to level on the paper as possible and apply pressure. Try to avoid rocking the stamp or pressing at an angle. Sima strives to remove all stamp errors but ricking or angled stamping can catch the edge or cause an uneven image. Be careful to apply even pressure to the stamp but not too much pressure. You don't want the ink pad oozing up excess ink into your stamp. If your stamp is larger than your ink pad, simply turn the stamp over on its back and take the ink pad, flip upside-down, and apply even pressure to the stamp. This ensures you cover the whole stamp and have evenly inked the image.

Ink Issues

Once you have inked your stamp turn it into a good light source and take a peek. You should be able to see that the stamp areas that need ink have it. Uneven inking can cause uneven images! If it's your first time using a particular stamp or you are just pulling it out of storage- test on some scrap paper to make sure you are not over-inking. If you have over inked you may see some ink blobs or your stamp image may smear due to the length of time it is taking for the ink to dry. Depending on the ink type you have used you can either tap a stamp on scrap paper to remove the excess and start again or (as with pigment base inks) you may want to clean your stamp and start over.
When you view your stamp look to make sure that ink has not reached into the recesses of intricate stamp designs. It would be hard to do this with a dye-based pad but other ink types may seep into the recesses of the designs. Do a quick visual check to ensure you will be getting a clear image. If you see a little in the recess you can use a small cotton swab or- if you are like me and constantly sporting differently hued finger tips when working with stamps- you can deftly and gently scrape out the excess with a fingertip- or the corner of a cloth rag.

Cleaning a Stamp

After using your stamp be sure to stamp on scrap paper to remove as much excess ink as possible. Cleaning your stamp is important for maintenance because the ink can attract dust and dirt. Dirty stamps and dried inks can clog up an image and make it unclear. Plus- starting with a clean stamp ensures that you will not contaminate an ink pad with a different color of ink.

What to Use

I've seen special stamp cleaners for sale at the craft stores. Personally I've never found the need for these if you clean your stamp right away but you may have a preference for this. I suggest using alcohol-free baby wipes. They are really handy, already moistened, and have just enough cleaner to remove the ink from the rubber. They sell cheap packs even at gas stations if you are kid-free and need a small pack to keep at your work station. (They are also handy to get the ink off of your hands!) You can also use a cloth rag with some mild soap and water to clean your stamp. I find this takes longer than a baby wipe but is readily available.

Things NOT To Do

DO NOT scrub at your stamp. You may damage the surface of the stamp or break off a detailed section of the rubber causing stamp damage.
DO NOT soak your stamps. This can damage the wooden topper as well as weaken the adhesives used to place the rubber on the backer.
DO NOT use alcohol based cleansers. This will dry the rubber and cause cracking and other stamp damage.
DO NOT store your stamps still wet! After cleaning, carefully dry or stamp out the stamp on some scrap paper to remove as much moisture as possible or stamp on a paper towel or cloth rag.
DO NOT worry about stained stamps. Some inks will stain the rubber but this does not mean they will contaminate the next ink pad. Stained stamps are not damaged and are clean despite the color change on the rubber.

Storing your Stamps

Your stamps should be stored with the rubber-down on a flat surface. Storing on an uneven surface can cause folds or dints in the rubber surface. Avoid the temptation to stack stamps. The weight down on the stamps can cause damage over time. If you have limited space- be sure to pu the heavy ones on the bottom and don't stack them too high. Keep your stamps out of sunlight. Like other rubber products- the sun will cause damage to the rubber and can also affect the adhesive used to mount the stamp. One last tip- try and keep your stamps dust free. The dust can build and create areas in your image that are unclear. If your stamp is a little dirty- refer to the cleaning tips above and clean the stamp before inking. You can recycle an old shoe box for stamp storage or there are many professional storage solutions that can keep you organized and keep your stamps clean!

I hope that helps you! If you have any other questions about stamp use or care- let me know!

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