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How to Clean a Pottery Wheel: Quick & Simple Guide

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by Jen Weisner  • Updated: May 29th, 2023  •  6 min read    Pottery Guides » Pottery Wheels

If you are a pottery enthusiast, you already know that the best pottery wheels will cost you a good amount of money. Because of this, regular cleaning of your pottery wheel is crucial. Let’s face it; if you’re going to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for your next wheel, you’ll want to take care of it so it doesn’t rust or get too dirty.

Even if you’ve never thought that a pottery wheel could rust, it can do just that, which means that learning how to clean a pottery wheel always involves knowing how to deal with rust.

How Do You Clean a Pottery Wheel?

When you clean your pottery wheel, it involves two different measures. The first is to clean it thoroughly and regularly, which helps to keep rust at bay, and the second is to research why this problem is occurring in the first place.

So the first thing we’ll look at is how to clean your pottery wheel when it has rust. Many people have WD-40 lying around the house, and this is something inexpensive and easy to use on your pottery wheel.

WD-40 does two things: it removes the wheel’s rust and covers the wheel with a layer of lubricant so that further rusting doesn’t happen. For the best results, you’ll want to spray your pottery wheel with WD-40 and then let it sit for up to 20 minutes.

If you’re unsure or hesitant about this process, you can spray the WD-40 on a tiny test area to ensure it is safe for your particular pottery wheel. You can also contact the manufacturer’s customer service department if you know what your wheel is made out of, and they can tell you if it’s safe or not.

If your pottery wheel is constantly rusting, it’s time to figure out why. More often than not, continuous rusting of the wheel is due to one or more of three different scenarios described below.

1. You Are Using Acid-Based Cleaners

In an attempt to use a cleanser that keeps their pottery wheels shiny, many potters will use an acid-based cleaner. Unfortunately, these cleaners usually contain harsh chemicals that naturally create rust on the wheel heads. As a result, they often corrode the wheel and can even cause pitting.

What is pitting? It is a type of corrosion that results in a vertical cavity from the metal surface down to the wheel head. It can be difficult to find but can wreak havoc on your pottery wheel.

To avoid this kind of damage to your pottery wheels, look for pH-balanced cleaners made with as many natural ingredients as possible. They may not sound very effective at cleaning your pottery wheels, but they do a great job without ruining your wheel.

2. You Are Not Cleaning the Pottery Wheel Correctly

You can clean your pottery wheels regularly and with a safe cleaner, but you might still experience a rust problem. Why? Because you aren’t cleaning the wheels properly.

To correctly clean your pottery wheels, you should take them outside instead of cleaning them in your sink. This is because the materials cleaned off the wheel can clog up your drains.

Make sure you thoroughly wash the splash pan and its surrounding area, and you’ll want to dispose of the waste in a way that doesn’t harm the environment.

3. You Might Experience Pitting

We mentioned pitting earlier, and this damage to your pottery wheels is sometimes difficult to detect. And if you’re wondering what causes pitting, it is usually the result of a chemical or physical attack.

If there is no protective layering on the wheel, the metal underneath is more susceptible to damage from the air and water. When this happens, the wheel head can corrode easily and cause it to rust.

If there are high chloride ions in your water, they can chemically attack the metal alloy that the head is made of, which means it is much more likely to rust. Think of chloride ions as a way to make the rusting process happen much faster, and speeding up the process is not what you want.

In addition, sometimes, the metal used to make your pottery wheel has irregularities, which can cause pitting. This is why you should do some research and choose your pottery wheel from a reputable manufacturer.

Finally, pitting can be caused by not using the right protective coating on your pottery wheel. Without this coating, the metal is continuously exposed to harsh elements that can cause pitting.

Once you know that your pottery wheel is cleaned properly and is now rust-free, simply take a sponge with clean water and wipe down the splash pan. Afterward, you’ll want to properly dispose of any excess water.

Tips for Having a Clean, Rust-Free Pottery Wheel

Here are a few extra tips to keep in mind when you’re cleaning your pottery wheels:

  • Don’t use abrasive materials that remove protective layers off of certain metals, leaving the wheel unprotected.
  • Always use a sponge when cleaning your pottery wheel because it isn’t as harsh as some other types of cleaning products.
  • If you wish to purchase a wheel that won’t rust, try buying one made out of aluminum.

Many people are not aware that aluminum wheels do not rust. This is because rust is made out of iron oxide, and because aluminum’s percentage of iron is practically nil, the chances of it rusting are too low to even concern yourself with.

While aluminum pottery wheels often lose their shine the longer, you have them. They never rust the way that steel or regular iron wheels do. That said, if you already have a pottery wheel made of aluminum, you don’t have to panic.

Instead, paint the wheel with epoxy spray paint, which will prevent it from rusting in the future. You can also buy galvanized steel wheel heads, which usually have a layer of zinc coating on them that prevents oxygen from bonding with the steel itself.

Check out this great video below from Danielle the Clay Lady on how to clean your pottery wheel.


The bottom line when it comes to taking care of your pottery wheels is this: they need regular cleaning using the proper techniques and with the right cleaning materials. This is the best way to slow down or even eliminate the rusting process.

In addition, the wheel itself needs to be cleaned thoroughly, and the head needs to be polished regularly to remove any clay and clay dust that has been allowed to build up there.

Choosing wheels made out of galvanized steel or aluminum is another smart choice because they are much less likely to rust. Proper cleaning and care of your pottery wheel should be simple and convenient and significantly increase your pottery wheel’s lifespan.

Jen holds a Master's degree in Fine Arts and has been teaching pottery for over 15 years. She has exhibited her work in numerous galleries and has been featured in several prominent pottery publications. Read more
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