Easily Clean Your 3D Print Bed

If you have trouble with your prints sticking, you might need to clean the print bed.

First, clean your print bed with a metal scraper. Then clean your print bed with 70%+ IPA to remove residue and fingerprints. A glass or other removable bed should be cleaned with warm soapy water. Any remaining stuck on filament can be removed using acetone.

These quick tips will help get the bed clean but let’s go over the best way to get each of these techniques done.

Before attempting to clean your build plate, always give time for the build plate to cool down.

Metal Scraper

Before using the scraper, warm up your build plate to soften any of the residue left on it. I know, I just told you to give it time to cool down. But, this is especially important if you have glue residue or stuck on filament that needs to be removed.

Take precautions when working on a hot build plate. Wear gloves when holding the warm build plate to avoid accidentally burning yourself.

I recommend this set of scrapers from Amazon. There are 3 different size scrapers. The largest is for scraping the whole build plate or removing large objects. The smallest one is for cleaning small patches on the plate or for small prints. And the middle scraper is for in between jobs.

Hold onto the build plate and gently push the scraper across. If you use a PEI sheet, flexible build plate, or any other sheet not intended for single use, you will want to be careful not to scratch the surface.

If you print using painters tape, masking tape or Kaplan tape, you can try to clean the tape off by scraping it. The benefit of these types of adhesives is that they are relatively easy and cheap to replace if they get damaged.

These will often leave a sticky residue that you will want to clean off in the event that you do need to change the tape.

Use gentle pressure in scraping down the plate. Focus on any troublesome areas. If you are using tape as an adhesive you should scrap in the direction of the tape to avoid peeling it off.

If any of the residue is too sticky to effectively use the scraper, IPA may be a better option.

Isopropyl Alcohol 70%+

IPA or rubbing alcohol is great for cases when you cannot remove your build plate easily or when you have small spots that need to be cleaned. It cleans up glue or tape residue and is great for cleaning finger prints.

Rubbing alcohol is also very effective at cleaning up hairspray residue.

You can find IPA at any grocery store, drug store, or super market. It should be in the medicine isle near the bandages as it is a common for cleaning wounds. You can also grab it from Amazon.

Be careful when working with IPA. It is extremely flammable.

To clean your build plate, put a little IPA on a cloth or paper towel. A lint free cloth is preferable to avoid leaving lint on the print bed.

Start in the center of the bed and wipe in concentric circles moving towards the outside. This technique will push the residue away from the center of the bed.

If you are attempting to clean up tape residue for a single piece of tape that you are replacing, you can wipe back and forth on the area that the tape was on. Try not to get IPA on the other pieces of tape still on the print bed as it can cause them to loose adhesion and come off too.

If your cloth or paper towel dries off before you finish, add a little more IPA and continue wiping.

Check for any remaining residue.

If there are any areas that are particularly troublesome, pour a little IPA directly on the spot and let it sit for a few minutes. Using your cloth or paper towel, rub at the troublesome spot to get the residue off. You may to need reapply some IPA, let it soak, then rub at it again depending on how much residue there is.

Warm Soapy Water

This is one of the best ways to clean a removable build plate. If you use glue or hair spray as an adhesive, you will definitely want to periodically wash the build plate to get any residues off.

While light residue can be cleaned off using IPA, residue that has built up over time may need a full wash.

Fill up a sink or wash basin with warm water. Dish soap works the best to break down any residue on the build plate but any soap should work in a pinch.

Depending on how much residue or stuck on filament there is, you may want to let the plate soak in the water for a few minutes.

You only need a standard dish sponge or wash rag to clean the build plate.

Scrub the plate around in concentric circles to get loose any residue.

Make sure to rinse off the plate very well. Leaving any soap residue on the build plate will defeat the purpose of washing it.

I would recommend drying the plate off with a lint free cloth. While drying it off, avoid touching the plate with your fingers.

When you reattach the plate to your printer, check to make sure you didn’t leave any fingerprints. Any place that you accidentally touched the plate will need to be wiped down with some IPA.

Remove Filament With Acetone

Any filament that has become embedded into the build plate will need to be cleaned off as well. This usually happens if the plate is not properly leveled and the first layer to too squished into the plate. Filament can get into any small scratches or other imperfections and become embedded in the plate.

Use acetone with caution. Acetone is highly flammable. Use it in a well ventilated area. Acetone is an irritant so you will want to avoid breathing in the fumes as much as possible.

Soak a rag in acetone and let it sit on the build plate on top of any filament spot. If it is ABS, the acetone should quickly start to dissolve it. For PLA or other filaments, it may take some time to soften it up.

Acetone is effective on filaments other than ABS but don’t expect it to be as effective.

Once the filament has had time to soften up, use a scraper to pull up as much as possible. You should be able to get almost all of up.

How To Avoid Getting Filament Embedded In The Build Plate

As mentioned previously, filament gets embedded in the build plate when the plate is not properly leveled. If the nozzle is too close to the plate, it may force filament into tiny hole or scratches in the plate.

The solution is to properly level your build plate.

Leveling the print bed is not difficult.

  • Heat up the build plate and nozzle to your preferred setting
  • Set the printer to Home
  • Disable the steppers so that you can move the print head around
  • Lower the build plate so the the print head does not hit it when you move the head around
  • Take a piece of paper and place it underneath the print head at all 4 corners
  • Tighten each corner one at a time until the print head lightly grips the paper

You can print a leveling print such as this one from Thingiverse. It was designed for the Ender 3 but can be resized for any printer.

The leveling print will simply attempt to print in each corner and in the middle. While it is printing, if the layer is loose gradually raise the build plate. in that corner. If the print line disappears, you will need to lower the build plate. As the printer moves, lightly rub on the print line to check that it has printed on and is holding.

One unexpected problem you might see is that your print layers are great in the all 4 corners but is loose or tight in the middle.

If you are printing on a glass plate, like that comes with the Ender 3, you can place aluminum foil under the glass plate to raise the middle. If the middle it too high but the corners are perfect, you are less likely to have issues then if the middle is sunk.

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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