For the longest time I’ve been trying to find a way to clean my stencils. I know you’re probably thinking why didn’t I just clean them right after each use? That would be the smart thing to do but during workshops there isn’t time to clean after each person so I just went with it.
After many coats of paint, the stencils became a complete mess, especially the ones from Old Sign Stencils because they were used a lot. My options seemed simple, try and clean or replace. I decided to clean because spending hundreds of dollars to replace didn’t sound like an option.
This led me to ask several folks how they clean stencils and after receiving few responses I was a little frustrated.
- Wash them right after using in warm soapy water, great advice for new stencils.
- Completely ignored, not so nice.
- Or was told they didn’t wash them, really?
While going through my stencil collection again Robert said, “I have the perfect product to clean those.”
He handed me a bottle of this Simple Green, something he uses for hobby painting. He paints miniature 40k plastic figures and sometimes he needs to strip the paint and this is what he uses.
He got me my own bottle said to spray several times, let it sit and wipe the paint right off.
Spray, Soak and wipe off
He was right for stencils that have maybe one – three layers of paint you can just spray the stencil with simple green cleaner, let it sit for 10-20 minutes and wipe it clean.
However, for stencils that are coated to the point they’ve lost the ability to use property you need to step things up and do the following.
- Get a tub of water and fill the base with water.
- Make sure the tub allows the stencil to lay flat so it’s covered in water.
- Spray the stencil with simple green at least two or three times before soaking.
- Let it sit overnight – if you soak it during the day you may want to check and see if the paint is coming off by rubbing the stencil and apply additional spray.
When Stencils are Thick with Paint
When stencils are thick with paint like this one, it’s going to take time to remove the layers. Because these stencils are a hard plastic I was able to lightly use a scrubber to remove some of the layers in addition to rubbing with a rag. Then I sprayed again before placing it back in the water.
I recommend never letting your stencils get to this state, this was a careless act on my part while leading workshops. I should have taken the time to clean between each use instead of being concerned with moving forward quickly.
Soaking for Hours
This stencil was in bad shape and it had to sit overnight to remove all the paint. But the good news is simple green worked on all my stencils. With stencils that had a couple coats of paint it took around 10 -15 minutes to clean, this was fantastic!
Here are two restored stencils, the garden stencil that was deeply covered in paint is now back to a white base and ready to use again. The other stencil I haven’t used as much so cleaning was a breeze.
Now that I have a product that works I’ve been busy cleaning the rest of my stencil collection that includes an assortment in addition to Old Sign, like Cutting Edge Stencils and others purchased from craft stores. The goal is to clean them all and never let paint build up again.
Simple Green can be purchased at any grocery retail store like Walmart. This product states being a natural cleaner but I would recommend doing your research first if keeping your home toxic free is important.