How To Clean Stencils

A mylar stencil of good quality can have a long lifespan if taken care of properly; nonetheless, it is essential to clean and maintain your stencil in the appropriate manner in between usage. The quality of the stencil image will suffer if there is leftover paint on the edges, and if you do not store the stencil appropriately, it is possible that the complex elements of the stencil will become bent or creased, making it impossible for the stencil to lay flat.

It is not a problem if the paint dries on the stencil before you have the opportunity to wash the stencil. Acrylic is forgiving when it is cured on mylar, and it may be removed with a bath and a little scrub if necessary.

Simple Stencil Cleaning

Pass the stencil through some warm water, and then use a dish brush to give it a quick cleaning. Focus your attention primarily on the paint that is located around the perimeter of the graphic.

If the paint has crusted over or the paint has completely dried, soak the stencil for one hour in warm soapy water or latex cleaning solution. This will remove the paint (or overnight). After that, I used a dish brush to give it a quick scrub and then I removed the paint.

As long as the liquid completely covers the stencil while it is laid flat, you may use anything from a cookie tray to a medium plastic container or even a plastic bag to soak it.

Blot the stencil clean with a dry paper towel, and then allow it to air dry completely before using it again.

Paint:  water-based, acrylic, or latex.

Deep Stencil Cleaning

To completely remove the paint from the stencil, you may need to put forth a little extra effort when washing it. The secret is to pre-soak the stencil in a commercial water-based paint cleaner or use one of the cleaning methods found in our piece on how to stencil.


  • Spray bottle
  • Latex paint cleaner
  • Dish brush


  • Spray the front of the stencil generously with the cleaner designed for spraying.
  • Put in a plastic bag and make sure the bag is sealed tightly.
  • Wait, at least a few hours or until the next day.
  • Take the stencil off of the plastic bag, and then use the dish brush to lightly scrub the area.
  • Water should be used to rinse.
  • Use a paper towel to dab excess ink off of the stencil, then allow it to air dry completely.

Paint:  water-based, acrylic, or latex.

Oil Based Paint

Because oil-based paints are more durable than acrylic paints, they are a suitable choice for places that get a lot of foot activity. Oil paint takes longer to dry than other types of paint, and it has a strong odor, but it is more durable and less likely to chip or scratch.

When cleaning stencils that have been used with oil-based paint, mineral spirits or turpentine are typically employed.

It’s possible that a pre-soak is necessary, just like the Deep Clean procedure, but don’t worry about it. Mylar is durable, and using it won’t mess up the stencil in any way.

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Both oil-based paint and the cleansers designed specifically for oil-based paint have a pungent odor and pose a potential health risk. Using a mask will protect your lungs and help you from getting a headache because it will prevent you from breathing the majority of the pollutants.

Storing Stencils

Always lay stencils down flat to store them. A storage container made of plastic that fits beneath a bed works really well if you put paper in between each stencil. Use a clothing hanger, which is another one of our favorite methods. The many clip hangers are beautiful, and each hanger can store a good number of stencils by themselves. You may display them nicely on a pegboard or the wall in a craft room if you have one, or you can hang them up in a closet.

How To Clean Paint Off Stencils

To begin, I’m going to do some research on the technique that promises to be both the most efficient and the least complicated one for removing latex and acrylic craft paints from stencils. Due to the fact that these are the two most common types of paint that are utilized for stenciling, I made it a point to put each of them through their paces in terms of the testing process. (Chalk paint is also used rather regularly; however, because it is quite similar to acrylic craft paint, I did not test it on its own.)

The Stencil Cleaners

After conducting some research on the internet, I compiled a list of potential cleaners for evaluation.

  • It was suggested to me in a few different places, and given that we already had some on hand, I chose to incorporate some rubbing alcohol into the formula.
  • Blue Dawn dish soap – I use Dawn for a variety of cleaning tasks, including cleaning furniture before painting it. Dawn is one of my go-to products for cleaning. Cleaning stencils in the past has also been accomplished with the assistance of this method. It is effective, but neither quick nor simple to put into practice. With any luck, this examination will lead me to a more satisfactory solution.
  • Goof Off Home Cleaner — An great blog reader provided me with the recommendation that Goof Off works well for removing paint from stencils, so I knew I had to give it a shot.
  • Murphy Oil Soap – This one is a little bit unexpected given that Murphy oil soap is typically utilized for the purpose of cleaning wooden floors and furniture. Nevertheless, I watched a video on YouTube that suggested using it for cleaning stencils, so I added it to my list of potential uses for it.
  • Goo Gone Because Goo Gone is, at its core, an adhesive remover, I believe that it will most likely prove to be more successful in the second phase of the experiment, in which I test several methods for removing adhesive from stencils. However, given that I was already in possession of it, I went ahead and included it in the initial test nonetheless.
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The Method

Although I dislike cleaning stencils, I have spent a lot of time over the years honing my cleaning technique in order to make it as effective as possible. While I was testing different cleaners for my stencils, I tried this procedure, and it turned out to be incredibly effective once I discovered the appropriate one.

The bathtub is where I find it most convenient to clean stencils because there is sufficient space, even for huge stencils, and it helps contain any mess that may occur.

After applying the cleanser that you are using, give it a quick scrub with a low-priced scrub brush. If some of the paint is stubborn and refuses to come off, you can use these dish scrapers made of plastic to help loosen it. The paint should start to come off almost immediately.

In conclusion, any leftover cleaning should be removed with some water and a fresh towel.

Cleaning Acrylic Paint Off Stencils

In addition to that, I ran a fast test on a little stencil that I had previously painted with acrylic craft paint. I repeated this test just as before, except this time I cut the stencil into five separate portions and cleaned it using each of the five different cleaners.

The winner

I carried out this second test in the event that there was a discernible distinction to be made between removing acrylic paint and latex paint from a stencil.

The outcomes of this test were in fact rather comparable to the outcomes of the previous test, with only a few minor variations between the two sets of findings. This time around, Dawn wasn’t even close to being the worst. The product that performed the poorest was Goo Gone, which may not come as much of a surprise given that it is intended to remove adhesives. But, Dawn was equally awful in every way.

Alcohol and Murphy’s Oil Soap found themselves in the midst once more. Once again, Good Off emerged as the victor in resounding fashion.

Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I can say without a doubt that the Goof Off Home Cleaner is the product that I advocate using to clean stencils since it is the one that works the best, is the least difficult, and involves the least amount of effort.

How To Clean Spray Adhesive From Stencils

Our next objective is to determine which cleaner is the most effective at removing sticky adhesive off the backs of stencils, which brings us to the second stage of our experiment.

For stenciling items like signs where you want the lines to be particularly precise, it’s a good idea to use a spray adhesive that can be repositioned, which is what I propose. ((I have more information on it as well as some helpful stenciling tips here.))

I have been asked a lot of questions regarding how to remove all of the sticky residue from the stencil once you have finished using it, but up until now I haven’t really had a good response for those inquiries.

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I utilized a pair of stencils that I had previously used to produce some signs a few months ago, but I never got around to cleaning them before I used them for this test. Both of them had an adhesive sheet that was still attached to the rear.

I conducted this second test in the same manner as the previous one, dividing the stencils into five distinct pieces using tape, applying each of my five cleaners, and determining which one was the most effective.

The Winner

It gives me great pleasure to say that this evaluation also produced a very obvious victor.

In point of fact, there was just one device on the market that even remotely functioned properly. Only one of the cleaners was able to successfully remove all of the glue from the stencil, leaving it in an entirely clean and almost brand new condition after use.

Goo Gone has become victorious.

It is more difficult to notice adhesive in images, although it is somewhat simpler to see it at the area where the light strikes the back of the stencil. You can make out the more uneven and rough texture on the left, which is caused by the light bouncing inconsistently off the adhesive residue. At that location, the Goof Off was put to use. (The alcohol, Dawn, and Murphy Oil Soap all appeared to be extremely similar in appearance.)

You can notice how smooth and clean it looks on the right side of the top photo; it is the area where I applied the Goo Gone product.

Not only was it effective, but also putting it into practice was a breeze. After I sprayed it on, it pretty much instantaneously wiped clean, so there was no need for any scrubbing.

Goo Gone is unquestionably the most effective cleaner for removing adhesive off stencils, so use that. Although I would like to point out that Goof Off also makes a cleaner designed specifically for removing glue, I was unable to test it because I did not have any on hand.

This product, So Goo Gone, is fantastic for eliminating adhesive.

The household cleaner known as Goof-off is fantastic for removing paint.

And now that I know this, I know that I won’t have to fear cleaning my stencils quite as much.

Additional stenciling projects and tips that I think you’ll find useful are as follows:

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