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I am a paper craft artist. I make 3D pepakura models.

While making the models, if the model is made of white paper, it becomes a little bit dirty because of glue stains. Also, over time, because of dust, the model becomes dirty.

How can I clean these paper models of stains and dust?

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Begin cleaning by gently brushing the surface of the object with a soft brush to remove loose dirt and dust. If soiling is heavy, brush debris into a HEPA vacuum with cheesecloth over the nozzle to catch any bits of paper that may come loose accidentally. Just don't apply the vacuum hose directly onto the object.

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Make sure your hands are clean before you start, and if they pick up dirt in the process, be careful not to re-apply that dirt to the model.

Start by picking up the model and tipping it over so most of the dust falls off. Gently shake and tap the model to loosen up the dust and encourage it to fall off.

Then gently blow on it to further remove the loose dust. You can blow on it using just your mouth, or you can use canned air (available at computer supply stores) or a blower bulb (from a photography supply store). Practice against your hand to make sure you're blowing only air, without any spit. You can use a straw to concentrate your air stream and direct it exactly where you want it. Before using canned air or a blower bulb on your model, practice against your hand until you know how far away to hold the can or bulb to get an air stream that won't damage the model.

Use a soft brush (like a paintbrush) to dust out crevices and clean the stickier dust off of surfaces. You might want several different sizes of paintbrush - larger ones for cleaning larger, nearly flat areas, and smaller brushes for cleaning out tiny details.

If your model has a water-resistant coating, use a damp cloth to wipe off any stubborn dirt patches.

A protective coating will also make your model sturdier, so you're less likely to damage it when you handle it for cleaning. According to Wikipedia, people often use varnish or resin as a coating for pepakura models. You can also fill a model with spray foam to make it more durable.

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Cleaning paper once it's dirty is hard. The best solution is to avoid the problem. There are a few things you can do to minimize the accumulation of dust and dirt that will require cleaning.

  • While making the model, keep the work area clean of paper and other dust and dirt by regularly wiping down the surface. Wear latex or similar gloves while making the model if practical, or regularly wash and thoroughly dry your hands. This will minimize getting body oils on the paper.
  • If you can, keep the finished item in a display case and minimize handling by people who aren't wearing gloves. That will keep off dust and body oils.
  • Don't display the finished model unprotected in a room with a lot of oil vapor, like a kitchen. See this earlier question: origami - What spray product could protect paper against grease?.
  • If possible, consider using baking parchment as the paper for your model (it may be a challenge to print on; if so, see some of the options described on Printing on Black Paper). This paper is impregnated with silicone and much easier to clean (and generally sturdier than regular paper).
  • As csk's answer suggests, spray the finished piece with a clear finish that will hold up to light cleaning.
  • Spray the finished piece with anti-static spray to minimize dust from collecting on it and make it easier to blow or vacuum dust off. There are sprays specifically designed for this that won't stain the paper, like SP610 Anti-Static Spray (I haven't used this product, this is just an example). Static cling spray for clothing is likely to work, but I haven't tested it for any potential to affect the paper's appearance.
  • Rub the paper stock with a dryer sheet before making the model (but after printing the pattern). This will transfer some of the anti-static ingredients, but won't be quite as effective as spraying the paper.
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A rubber eraser has the capacity to clean graphite and charcoal off of paper even when its packed into the tooth of paper. Therefore I would definitely try it out.

Of course you need to take care not to dent the pieces with too much pressure; but you might find a kind of eraser that offers worthwhile cleaning performance even when used with low pressure.

Kneaded eraser would be among the first kinds that I would try.

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