What is the "correct", or most effective way of cleaning a paper tortillon?

Up the now, I have been using sand paper to clean the tip, however this often makes the tortillon rugged and lose its point, and in some cases causes it to unravel completely.

Is there a more effective way of doing this whilst keeping the stump's point intact?

  • 1
    Have you tried using shears or sharp heavy scissors to cut the end at an angle? That's how I used to get around the scruffed end after sanding. Commented Jun 11, 2016 at 18:51
  • @BrownRedHawk Thanks for your comment. Yeah I have tried that but with varying results. There seems to be a big difference depending on the brand of stump or how their made...
    – johnp
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 0:58

5 Answers 5


Using sandpaper and then tidying up with craft knife is the generally accepted way of cleaning tortillon. However, it's possible that you might be using sandpaper with a low grit level (under 120) for too long. This would be almost ripping the material.

I start with a 100 grit sandpaper to get rid of the graphite\charcoal staining, then use a craft knife to clean up the really rough bits and shape. Finally I use a 180 grit, or greater, sandpaper to smooth out. I find it much easier to have the sandpaper on the work surface and move the tortillon on the sandpaper. It provides much better control and helps maintain the shape.

A really good tip is to get yourself a pack of double sided emery boards (nail file boards).

Double Sided Emery Boards

You can get boards with 100 grit on one side & 180 grit on the other in most pharmacies, supermarkets, and online shops.

  • 1
    This answer is great, and emery boards have certainly come in handy for me. One thing I would add is that when I have a tortillon that still has a good shape but is 'dirty' with graphite, I clean it up by gently using a soft eraser instead. This technique is nearly always for the really skinny tortillons meant for detail. This way you start with a clean tip, without the effort of reforming it if it's not needed.
    – EmRoBeau
    Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 17:03

In my experience, blending stumps can be cleaned fairly well by molding a kneadable eraser around the tip and twisting them inside the eraser several times. If it doesn't get most of the graphite, etc. off the first time, knead in the graphite and repeat as necessary. I've tried sanding and carving them, but I've never been satisfied with the results. The tips tend to be sloppy ever-after once the surface has been abraded or cut--and of course the surface itself will never be as smooth as it was when new.

If cost is a big factor, it's possible to make your own tortillons. Just do a web search for DIY tortillons or similar. I've made them and been fairly satisfied with the results.

Bottom line for me: it's worth cleaning them with a kneaded eraser, but not sanding/carving them. I find it too inconvenient to make my own, considering that the price for tortillons is quite low (and of course that the commercially made ones are better). I do keep the irretrievably dirty ones and use them as drawing tools, and for places where their grubbiness is not a problem. That helps to keep my cleaner tortillons from getting to that used-up stage quite so quickly.


I have successfully cleaned all my stumps and tortillions without damaging their shape. I just rubbed them on an old piece of cotton sheeting, then tested to see if they were clean on a piece of paper.


Tortillons and stumps are pretty much disposable items. I never clean then (although I admit I don't use them often anyway.)

  • 5
    This doesn't directly answer the question. Are you trying to say that the answer is "don't try to clean them because they're not designed that way"? That sort of answer may not answer the question but it may be good info to have. Also note that disposability can be related to cost. If you use a lot of them but don't have much money, cleaning may be the preferred option.
    – Catija
    Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 23:24

scrape them using an exacto knife blade

  • Hi Alan, your answer is both very meager (in regards to content as well as grammatically), and it doesn't add anything to the existing answers. Can you expand on this or provide more options?
    – Joachim
    Commented Oct 10, 2020 at 20:32

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