I'm Niki, one of your new blog contributors. I work primarily in etchings and am based in sunny Sydney, Australia. I'll hopefully be writing some tutorials and posting international printmaking related competitions which you can be part of. I most definitely don't know everything or even half of it, so if anyone has a tutorial to share, please do share it!
The studio I print at has taught me some 'safer' techniques which generally replace the more harmful chemicals with common household alternatives. The upside of this, aside from the obvious health and safety benefits, is that I can now do a lot of my printmaking at home, therefore paying less studio hire (and travel) fees. Being printmakers, you probably know all the steps already, but what I hope to add are alternative methods for you to try. So with that in mind here is the easy first step:
How to degrease your plate
without ammonia and whiting.
Degreasing your etching plate is important when applying a ground, aquatint, or sugarlift because it allows the medium to stick to the plate. This is traditionally done with ammonia and whiting.
If you don't like the smell of ammonia (it is like rotten fish), what works equally well is household grade powder cleanser like Ajax and soy sauce. You can actually use powder cleanser by itself, but it takes a lot more wiping effort.
You apply it in the same way. Add powder, add soy sauce, and wipe with a clean, grease free rag. Rinse with water.
You'll know when your plate is degreased because the water should stick to the entire plate instead of blobbing up.