Cleaning an Atlas Pasta Machine

I love that so many of my readers share my polymer clay articles on social media. Thank you! Many of my readers have recommended my articles on cleaning an Atlas Pasta Machine or clay machine. The only thing is…I don’t actually have an article like that! But I wanted to gather the information so that if you found your way here looking for ways to clean the mucky polymer clay out of your pasta machine or clay machine, you will still find your way to the right information.

What is an Atlas?

Pasta rollers like the Atlas 150 and Atlas 180 machines from Marcato are designed for rolling out sheets of pasta dough. Polymer clay artists and hobbyists have been using these pasta machines for conditioning, mixing, and rolling our polymer clay for many, many years. Atlas is not the only brand of pasta machine. There are others such as Imperia. There are also many inexpensive knock-offs from China made in a similar design.

Be aware that NEWER Atlas pasta machines have removable blades and the instructions I’ve compiled here will not be necessary or relevant. If you bought your Atlas machine after January 2023, check my article here for more information. You might have the removable blades on your machine! Not sure? Flip the machine over. If you see black plastic blades, you have the new, removable blades. You can learn how to remove them in this video from Hobbyrian.

Why Clean a Pasta Machine?

Pasta machines are designed for pasta, which is a pretty specific texture. Polymer clay is much stickier and tends to mash into the “guts” of a pasta machine as you use it. This is, frustratingly, normal. But it causes problems, several of which are spelled out here in my article on pasta machine problems. You might find that the clay goes round and round the roller. Or you might find that old clay comes out, making marks on your clay as you roll it.

Oh no...this is a big pasta machine problem! Learn more of them at The Blue Bottle Tree.

Pasta Machine Quick Clean

To thoroughly clean a pasta machine (of any brand that doesn’t have removable blades) will involve taking the machine apart. You may not want to do that every time you switch colors, so here’s how to do a quick clean.

Just use a rag (or microfiber washcloth) or a baby wipe to reach under the rollers and wipe it, much in the same way as you would wipe a baby’s bottom. (Yeah, polymer clay has that same stickiness issue.) That’s probably why baby wipes work so well for this. Wipe repeatedly until no more color comes off on the cloth. Make sure to turn the crank a few times, both forward and backward, and wipe again. Also, make sure you adjust the knob to make the rollers farther apart so you can get your fingers between the rollers better. This won’t get all of the clay, but it will help!

Reader Claire Wyness suggests using a mirror under the rollers so you can see under the machine easily without having to unclamp and turn the machine over. You could also use your phone’s front camera.

About the Fenders

“Fenders” are the covers on each side of the pasta machine that cover the supporting cross-rod. They are not necessary and you can remove them. Once the fenders are gone, you can more easily look inside your machine and see where the clay collects. While it’s still not easy to get in there are clean that clay out, you can dig some of it out. By the way, the clay that collects here is often gorgeous!

You can remove the "fenders" from a pasta machine, enabling you to access the area behind the blades for cleaning.

Deep Cleaning a Pasta Machine

As I said, if you don’t have a machine with removable blades, you’ll have to take your machine apart (at least partly) to access the deeper regions and clean all the clay out. While I’ve not written a specific tutorial for this, many other people have. No sense reinventing the wheel! Here are some resources for this.

Maria Jesus Lorca Torrealba (Ketu Art) posted this video on Instagram that gives a quick overview of how to easily loosen the machine enough to slip out the blades. Note that the “fenders” have already been removed. This method is simple but won’t work for all machines.

For a really in-depth and clearly visualized video showing the details of cleaning an Atlas and making it easier to clean for the future, make sure to enjoy this beautiful video from Ana Belchí. (This video was recommended by Chris Helstrom, Diane Shoemaker, and many more of my readers!)

Janell Sparks reminded me of these two quite old articles written by Desiree McCrorey. The info-packed articles give a lot of good info, but much of it is now inaccurate (though some is still very spot-on)! I’m including them because you might get some nuggets of info that help you, especially if you have a very old Atlas pasta machine. This article covers basic care and basic tips. This second article is particularly good if you need to take the OTHER side of the pasta machine apart for advanced care!

And finally, if you can read Italian (or use Google Translate), this article from Leila Bidler also shows how to remove the blades and clean them.

What About Imperia Machines?

If you have an Imperia Pasta Machine, this video from Miriam Bosch will show how you can remove the blades of that machine. (I reviewed this same machine here, btw.)

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