Can You Clean Your Resin 3D Prints With Acetone?


If you print with ABS you might consider using your acetone to clean your resin 3D prints.

Acetone is a good alternative to IPA for cleaning your resin prints. It is not considered toxic but it is considered to be an irritant and is not pleasant to breath. You will need to switch to butyl rubber gloves rather than nitrile as acetone will dissolve nitrile rather quickly.

Handling acetone is different than IPA and different precautions should be taken.

Why You Can Use Acetone

Acetone has multiple properties that make it useful for cleaning off your resin 3D prints.

It is an effective chemical solvent. It is often used as a cleaning agent and is effective against grease, paint, or other organic substances.

It is also water soluble. After you have rinse the resin off of your print, you can easily get the acetone with its harsh chemical smell off the print by rinsing it in water.

Acetone has a lower surface tension than water or IPA. Rather than beading up on the print, acetone will tend to roll off more easily.

Most importantly, it is non-toxic. Resin 3D printing already deals with a toxic chemical in the resin. We want to reduce the number of potentially dangerous carcinogens as much as we can an acetone works great.

Affordability is another benefit of acetone. It tends to be cheaper than other cleaners and IPA.

You still need to be careful when using it. Similar to IPA, acetone is highly flammable.

While acetone is not considered toxic, it can be dangerous if you are over exposed.

How To Clean Your Models With Acetone

Since acetone behave differently from IPA, the cleaning process will be slightly different.

The first major difference it that you will need to different gloves. While nitrile gloves are the most common type of glove used with resin, these gloves are not safe to use with acetone.

Get a pair of butyl rubber gloves. These are not disposable gloves and can be reused. Just rinse off with water after you use them.

Latex gloves may also work. Acetone will breakdown latex but at a much slower rate.

You will need a container to hold the acetone that you are using to clean with. The best containers are glass or ceramic. Some plastic containers work for acetone such as this LDPE squirt bottle from Amazon. This bottle allows you to gently squirt acetone on the print where you need it.

If you use a brush to clean off excess resin, use an acid brush with the acetone. Normal brushes use an adhesive that can dissolve in acetone. An acid brush is used with corrosive chemicals and won’t have an issue with acetone. You can grab this low cost set of brushes on Amazon.

Brush your print over your container to catch the excess acetone and resin.

If you don’t use brushes, you can fill a container with acetone and shake it gently to wash off the resin. Glass and ceramic are the best containers, as previously mentioned. Plastic containers made of polyethylene, polypropylene, and fluoroplastics (Teflon) are also safe for use with acetone.

Place a lid on your container, if available, and gently shake the print in the acetone. The agitation will help to remove the resin from the print.

Do not leave the print in acetone for extended periods of time. Hardened resin breaks down very slowly in acetone so if left in the acetone for extended periods of time it will damage your print.

Acetone is water soluble so you can rinse off the print with water after cleaning with acetone. Do not pour the water down the drain as it will have uncured resin in it. While the acetone is not toxic, the uncured resin is.

Allow the print to dry and finish it off under a UV light. As I have mentioned in this article you can over cure your print so be careful.

Other Alternatives For Cleaning Prints

If you are concerned about using acetone for cleaning your prints but don’t want to go back to using IPA, there are many alternative you can use for cleaning your prints.

Most cleaning agents are effective at cleaning resin off of prints.

In all cases, you will need to use gloves when handling these chemicals. Even if the chemical itself is safe, since you are using them to clean resin, you will want to avoid getting any of the cleaners on your skin.

If you decide to use any of the following products, follow the same post processing steps as you would with acetone or IPA. I will include any changes that may need to be made when using each product.

Mean Green

A high quality cleaning agent, Mean Green is potent cleaner for resin 3D prints. It contains no acid, bleach, or ammonia.

The main cleaning ingredient in Mean Green is 2-Butoxyethanol, according to the Material Safety Data Sheet. Nitrile gloves are not recommended when working with 2-Butoxyethanol this study concluded.

Just like with the acetone, you will need to get butyl rubber gloves to protect against exposure.

Another issue with using Mean Green is that the coloring in the cleaner may cause discoloring of your printed part. Because of this, you will want to try to limit exposure to any part that you do not plan to paint afterwards.

Mean Green works best when it is used in a warm ultra-sonic cleaner. Used cold may not be as effective.

Simple Green

Another high quality cleaning agent, Simple Green is a commonly recommended substitute for IPA to clean resin 3D prints.

The primary cleaning agent in Simple Green according to the safety data sheet is C9-11 Alcohols Ethoxylated. This cleaning agent is derived from palm kernel or coconut oil and evaporates without leaving a residue.

Unlike Mean Green and acetone, it is safe to use Simple Green with standard nitrile gloves.

Denatured Alcohol

You might think that denatured alcohol, aka methylated spirits, is pretty much the same thing as isopropyl alcohol. And to a certain extent, you would be correct.

Denatured alcohol is a flammable clear liquid, like IPA. Different brands of DA have different smells based on the additives included.

Unlike IPA, DA is measured as mix of ethyl and methyl alcohols and not as a dilution. A 70% denatured alcohol is stronger than a 70% IPA.

You can use your nitrile gloves when working with denatured alcohol.

Propylene Carbonate

This solvent is less volatile than IPA but will require more agitation to successfully clean your print. Propylene Carbonate is not considered toxic. An EPA study found no toxic effects in rats who consumed significant doses of PC.

It is a chemical irritant so you will need to wear gloves. Nitrile gloves are suitable for PC.

Verl Humpherys

I have been 3D printing since 2017, using both FDM and SLA printers. My prints have varied from small D&D figurines to full sized baby Groot. I printed mounts for my various game consoles and my Oculus Rift. Any problem you can have with a 3D printer, I have had. And I am here to tell you what I have learned.

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