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Alternatives to Isopropyl Alcohol for Ballasting Wetting Agent

Alistair asks readers:isopropyl alcohol

“I not keen on using solvents like isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol). Is there any alternative I could use as a ballasting and scenery wetting agent? I have successfully used Windex glass cleaner in my airbrush to thin water-based paint. Would glass cleaner work as a wetting agent instead of isopropyl alcohol? Has anyone tried it or anything else?”

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17 Responses to Alternatives to Isopropyl Alcohol for Ballasting Wetting Agent

  • Jimsays:

    A few drops of liquid dish soap works just as well. Been using it for years.

    • Craigsays:

      Good old Meth is the only way to go. I use it for alot of things to do with scenery, air brushing, weathering, ballasting. then i use white glue matt of course one of glue three of water sets like a rock.

      • Andysays:

        “”METH”” – surely you mean something other than the drug, right…..;-)

        • Craigsays:

          Meth short for Methylated Spirits.

  • Deryck Howellsays:

    2 drops of ordinary washing up liquid in a spray bottle of water – absolutely fine!

  • Mark Simpersays:

    I use water with a few drops of dishwashing liquid in a misting bottle. Works very well on ballast. The detergent helps break the surface tension. Hope this helps.

  • Glen Brayshawsays:

    Just mix a little dish washing fluid in the water only needs a drop works pretty good .

  • Kevin Aldridgesays:

    I do not know the “Windex” brand of glass cleaner but looking at the pic of the bottle you have supplied it looks very much like the same colour blue that the brand of cleaner that I use is.
    If that is the case I think you will find that Windex does contain a percentage of IPA so you may be unknowinlgy using IPA anyway.

    A drop of washing up liquid added to your ballast adhesive mix and/or wetting spray does act as a wetting agent.

    (I even use it when spraying my lawns for weeds)

  • Herveysays:

    A few drops of dishwasher rinse agent or photo flow (if you can find it in today’s world of digital photos) also work just as well as dish soap.

  • David Stokessays:

    IPA isn’t an aggressive, cacogenic solvent as some of the products we use. It is distilled from plant material, just like Bourbon, gin and other spirits. It does have an ingredient to make it unpalatable (drink it and you’ll throw up).

    It is safe enough to briskly rub into the skin and to use on bruised and sore muscles, so the small amounts used in wetting the ballast before adding dilute PVA will cause not harm. I believe in safety but to fear rubbing alcohol is snowballing of the first order.

    The traditional alternative, before Mentholated Spirits became IPA, we added some washing up liquid to water – that still works.

  • Romeosays:

    Ajax brand dishwashing liquid is key, I have used this soap forever, I guarantee you it will surprise you. This is my mixture, I do a typical spray bottle from a dollar store, I do 5 drops to clean water. My Wood Glue mix is 50/50 deluded, set your ballast down to what you want it to be on your track. Then apply your water soap mix on ballast a section at a time to insure a nice bed. While ballast is wet then apply the 50/50 glue mix thinly on the ballast, it ballast should absorb the mix very evenly. If you apply too much glue by chance, just spray water soap mix over again lightly and it should help. The results will have you laying more track down, give it a try.

  • phil johnsonsays:

    I like denatured alcohol. I use 50% wet water solution for wet water. I also use it in my white glue scenery mix

  • Paul Kustsays:

    I use Windex, the window cleaner all the time and add it to dilute the glue for the ballast, works great and the application is REALLY CLEAN!🤗

  • Joe Graffisays:

    A huge number of us have been using the (very cheap) 70% for years and years with NO issues!
    I found that the methods others have listed above are all “highly” recommended. I chose the alcohol because I use it to clean medical equip. etc. I also use it on 2,000 grit “wet’n’dry” sand paper on a sanding block to clean the tops of my rails when needed and a course (denim) cloth moistened with the 70% to wipe the rail tops after the cleaning.
    Personally, I don’t know how well any of the other products work.
    Just wondering – what is the issue with using the alcohol?

    • Alistairsays:

      Joe, I am not keen on having solvents around the house.

  • Alistairsays:

    i’ll give dishwash liquid a try much appreciated for some many good ideas

  • Kevin Chingsays:

    Also add dish wash liquid to the glue water mix helps spread the glue however does take a day or so the completely dry and set rock hard.

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