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Cleaning Soft Pastels – Check Out My Easy Method

 

I don’t know about you but my pastels get miiiiighty dirty when I use them. Whether you wear gloves or not, every time you pick up a pastel, you transfer particles from the pastel you previously held to the new one. And so the pastels get dirtier and dirtier. Ugh I say. So, cleaning soft pastels – what’s the best way?

When I was starting out in pastels, the recommended way of cleaning soft pastels was to put all the dirty pastels into a container that held some kind of gritty substance such as cornmeal (the most commonly suggested), rice flour (softer than cornmeal), rice (cleaner than either cornmeal or flour), semolina (I never tried that one) or fine sand (didn’t try that either).

Doug Dawson’s nifty idea of creating a wire sieve that fits inside the container certainly made it easier to remove the pastels from the container. I made one that was similar and carried it on location with a plastic gold panning dish (bought in Sacramento years ago when I took a workshop with Doug) into which I would pour the cleaned pastels. (See photos below.) Well, I just found all of that too tedious, time-consuming, messy and generally a pain in the derriere!

 

Container with wire sieve and rice flour and pastels. This shows my version of Doug Dawson's method for cleaning soft pastels.
Container with wire sieve and rice flour. This shows my version of Doug Dawson’s method for cleaning soft pastels.
Sieve out of the container and in the gold panning dish
Sieve out of the container and in the gold panning dish
The cleaned pastels 'poured' into the gold panning dish, ready to use. But you can see, there is still the dust of the rice flour to deal with.
The cleaned pastels ‘poured’ into the gold panning dish, ready to use. But you can see, there is still the dust of the rice flour to deal with.

I needed an alternative!!!

Click the photo below to find out what it is 🙂

 

The pastels you see in the video were the ones I used in my pastelling glass bottles demo. Click here to see it.

So??? Did you figure it out before the video?? Do you use this method? It works so well for me for all the reasons I express in the video.

How are you cleaning soft pastels? I’d love to know what method you use. So drop me a reply and I’ll add the comment to the blog post. And feel free to comment below the video on YouTube. I LOVE getting feedback!!

Until next time,

~ Gail

 

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Comments

22 thoughts on “Cleaning Soft Pastels – Check Out My Easy Method”

  1. Hi, Gail! I use old t-shirts which would usually end up in the trash or in the rag bag. Work great and when they are dirty just through them in the wash or toss them out.
    Thanks for sharing you technique.
    John

    1. John, I also use old T-sirts. Geez I forgot to mention that in my blog. I have one hanging off the easel. As you say, wash or toss. Even so, I find though that it’s so easy to take TP on site. Actually, now that I think about it, I tend to use the T-sirts more for my fingers than the pastels. And TP for the pastels. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  2. Hi Gail, I use microfiber cloths to clean both my hands and pastels, while I am working and when I am finished. The microfiber cloths can be found very inexpensively in a dollar store, hardware store, or most general stores in the cleaning aisle. Here is an example: http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/store/product/the-original-microfiber-cleaning-cloths-in-10-pack/1017734067

    These really grab the dust off the pastels! You can also put one under your painting board to catch the dust filtering down.

    When our pastel group has a workshop, I buy a big package and hand them out to everyone! They can be washed in the machine, but I generally just wash them out in the sink with some dish soap.

    1. Nancy, someone commented on Facebook with the same idea! I actually bought a package from Canadian Tire for other uses but still have a pile left. I am going to put one under my painting board to try it! I love the idea of handing one out to everyone in the workshop 🙂

  3. Hi Gail

    Thanks for the TP idea. It’s similar to what I do.
    I use Baby Wipes which are disposable wet wipes for cleaning babies messes. When they are wet and fresh from the packet I use them to wipe my fingers or gloves. I then leave it to dry and the next day the used Baby Wipes can be used for wiping the pastel sticks. When the wipes get too dirty I put them in a bag and when I get a few I wash them and when dry they can be reused for the pastel sticks again and again. I have also pushed the used/washed Baby Wipes back into the original packet and then added a little water to turn them back into wet Baby Wipes. They last for ages and it saves money.
    I love all that you do – thanks Gail

    Charmaine Quinn (Australia)

  4. I found your wonderful blog and YouTube channel and FB group today. They took me out of my grouchy state and into my happy place. I’m a total beginner with pastels. What I was searching for was how to clean my drawing board and easel tray. I love the TP idea too! I put a paper towel under my drawing board, but the dust stuck everywhere the entire way down, and wiping it dry or wet made it worse. Ideas? Thank you for the probable super basics question. My first pastel class is not for 3 weeks, but I’m trying things out now and don’t want to make a bigger mess.

    1. Hi Sue, thanks for your lovely comment!! Going from grouchy to happy state is what I always aim for hah hah 😀 To answerr your question…I used to use an aluminium foil ‘tray’. I’ve also made a cardboard one. Now I just stick a wide piece of tape along the bottom of my board OR, I just let the pastel drop onto the easel tray and wipe with damp paper towel afterwards. I LOVE basic questions!!! Let me know how your class goes 🙂

    2. Hi Sue, thanks for your lovely comment!! Going from grouchy to happy state is what I always aim for hah hah 😀 To answer your question…I used to use an aluminium foil ‘tray’. I’ve also made a cardboard one. Now I just stick a wide piece of tape along the bottom of my board OR, I just let the pastel drop onto the easel tray and wipe with damp paper towel afterwards. I LOVE basic questions!!! Let me know how your class goes 🙂

  5. Thanks for this; you saved me $95 plus shipping costs to Japan, where I live. Cleaning pastels is such an unpleasant task that I considered buying a machine built for the purpose, but then I thought, “Wait a minute, what does Gail Sibley have to say about this?” Googled, found the video, and was born again. I attached a roll of papier toilette beneath my easel tray and run the pastels over it while I work. When the day is done, I clean the entire crew before I put them to bed. You’re right, with every stroke against that soft-ply, there is definitely a meditative, “Zen-like” thing going on! Thank you!

    1. David, you absolutely made my morning!! Love “what would Gail do?” comment 😀
      Glad you found it helpful and that this method works so well for you!

  6. I’m new to pastels and am absorbing all kinds of new info about using them. This link came up in a google search on how to clean my pastels. Thank you for such a great idea!

    1. Hey Susan, it’s simple but works easily and wonderfully!
      Thanks very much for letting me know that this post came up in a Google search! I hope you’ll subscribe to my HowToPastel blog 😁

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Gail Sibley

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My love of pastel and the enjoyment I receive from teaching about pastel inspired the creation of this blog. It has tips, reviews, some opinions:), and all manner of information regarding their use through the years – old and new. Please enjoy!

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