I get it. After 4 hours of slaving away on the wheel or the table, you’re tired, that Dairy Queen burger wore off, thirsty (you forgot your water bottle), your back hurts (if you’re my age or older), and you should have been in bed 2 hours ago. So…you pick up your piece, skip the cleaning because it’s only clay, right? …and you head home.
It has been an uphill battle, trying to keep up with the messes in the ceramics space. To combat this, we used to have cleaning days where we would gather, wipe things down, organize, sweep, mop, etc but it was the same group of hard-working, non-paid volunteers showing up. This same group spends 35+ hours per month operating the kilns. Don’t believe me? Read here. It was a drain on the small group to continue fighting the good fight against filth, buildup, dust, and mess.
Who should clean? “I PaY My dUeS. DoN’t We hAvE cLeAnInG pEoPle?!!!” insert dramatic, diva, potter face No. While there are cleaners that focus on general high traffic areas, they do not deep clean areas nor is it their area of responsibility. Therefore, you are responsible for cleaning.
Why should I clean? “It’s just clay. It’s organic, natural…like marijuana.”
The reasons why you need to clean after making will surprise you. It’s more than just aesthetic, it’s for your health, it’s for your piece and it’s just the right thing to do.
- Because it impacts your health!
Clay dust can cause long-term health issues. So think Silicosis, Kaolinosis, Mesothelioma, and other lung problems. Not to terrify you, but we want to minimize this (for you and our fellow potters) as much as possible.
Glazes can cause skin irritation, but they have toxicants and carcinogens that can cause all sorts of health issues if inhaled. “It’s Covid times! Can I just wear a mask?” Sure, but this won’t prevent the dust from causing issues with your pieces.
- Because it impacts the outcome of your pieces!
Leftover clay and glaze particles can contaminate your clay and/or glaze which will affect whether your piece comes out of the kiln as expected.
Side note: Potters LOVE to blame the kilns/kiln team for the glaze outcome. Very, very rarely is it the kiln’s fault.
Have you ever made/thrown with dark clay and ended up with white pieces in it? That’s contamination. You haven’t even made it to the glaze step, and its future is tarnished.
When the glaze brushes aren’t completely rinsed out and you use one, or a few…this is why your color/texture does not come out as expected. I wrote about it a while back- Troubleshooting glaze issues.
- It looks nice!
The places you frequent, your car, your place of work, your home are all extensions of wonderful you. Research has long supported that having a clean environment lowers stress, improves mood, increases productivity, reduces allergies, is safer, and minimizes the spreading of germs.
- It’s good stewardship!
We are a community space where we encourage all clay colors, various production styles, and various glazes. We should take pride in our space and make sure it’s accessible to any member’s clay dreams.
Would you want to dine in a restaurant that was dirty and unkempt? No. New members (and long-timers) deserve that experience too, to have a positive first impression and to frequent a clean place.
How do I clean?
We’re lucky in that we don’t need special chemicals. All we need is water, Nature’s solvent. Water keeps dust from rising so it doesn’t become airborne. (See the list of steps below).
When do I clean?
It’s easiest to clean up right after you’re done. However, if you really want to ensure that nothing will mess with the outcome of your piece, you should be cleaning before and afterward.
What do I clean?
Everything you used, touched, et. Mop the floors of the area you spent your time in, this includes the wheels. Keep rinsing out the mop until there is no more haze on the floor. If you see haze, wipe it down with a wet sponge.
Throwers! You guys can be the worst, and I say this with love. It’s messy and that’s why we love it, but you must wipe everything down after you are done.
Glaze containers! If the glaze is dried on the outside of the container, we’re potentially inhaling barium, lithium, cadmium, chromium, uranium, nickel, vanadium, silica, quartz feldspars, talcs, potassium carbonate, and many more. You’re also getting the glaze on your hands and touching your pieces. Wipe down the outside of the containers when you are done using them.
Clothes! I’m guilty of wearing my clay clothes more than once. Don’t be like me. Throw them in the washer when you get home.
You work way too hard on creating art to end up with a contaminated piece. We also care about our fellow/prospective potters and their health.
Just like they say, if you can’t afford to tip your wait staff at a restaurant, you shouldn’t be dining out. If you don’t have the time to properly clean up your wheel or station that you used, you should only take on your ceramic projects when you have allotted cleaning time.
Did I miss something? Have ideas or suggestions on how to make cleaning easier? Let us know! We’re all ears.
Clean the debris off of your table
Either throw it away or reclaim it
Wipe down your tape with a wet sponge
Clean your tools with a wet sponge and your tool bin
If you glazed then wash the glaze from your brushes and dry them
If you used a banding wheel then wipe down the banding wheel and put it away
Wipe down and dry your tools and tool bin
Clean debris from the floor by hand if it is trimmings and either throw out or reclaim
Mop the debris from the floor if it is dust or clay slop
Mop around all other areas such as work tables and wheels
Rinse, dry, and put away mops
Clean debris from sink by hand, with sponges, or other tools such as scrapers
Throw away debris or reclaim it depending on if it is just one clay or a mixture of things
Wipe down sink and areas around sink that might come in contact with water or clay
Clean all sponges and towels and place them in a spot where they can dry well