Cleaning up stencils and stencil brushes is absolutely no fun but, we have found an easy way to do it.  We use 91% (or stronger) Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol.  In our experience, it is the best way to remove paint from our stencils and brushes.  You can purchase the 91%  Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol on the shelves at the local CVS drug stores.  Not all of the drug stores have it right on the shelf ready for you to grab.  If you don’t see this strength of rubbing alcohol or stronger on the shelf,  just head on over to the pharmacist area and ask them for a bottle or two, they should have it behind the counter.  With gas prices the way they are, you may even want to call the local pharmacies and ask if they carry it, just to be sure.  I have also seen it at Sally Beauty Supply and you can order 99%  Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol from Uline.  Oh, for all you nail techs (that’s me!) and cosmetologists out there, 99% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol can be purchased at Cosmoprof (formerly Davidson’s) Beauty Supply and Salon Centric.  I should also mention, this experience is based on us using Delta Ceramcoat and DecoArt Americana Acrylic Paints.  These two brands of paint are the only paints we ever use for stenciling.

So…Here is what we do once we get our rubbing alcohol.  We have 2 procedures that work well for us.  The first procedure is to clean up after each use.  Most of you are NOT going to want to do this and we don’t blame you!!  As I said before, “stencil clean up is NO FUN!”

For clean up between each use (usually for stencils 7.25×12 or smaller) you will need:

  • A spray bottle
  • Old towels (preferably, twice the size of the stencil you are cleaning up)

This is usually what we do for smaller stencils up to 12″.  Fill your spray bottle with the rubbing alcohol.  DO NOT DILUTE THE RUBBING ALCOHOL.  Place your towel on a flat surface and set your stencil on lower half of the towel.  Spray the stencil well with the rubbing alcohol.  Fold the upper half of your towel over your stencil.  Give it a minute or two to allow the rubbing alcohol to break down the layer of paint.  Carefully, pat the stencil dry with the upper half of the towel that has been folded over it.  DO NOT RUB THE STENCIL DRY — Attempting to rub the stencil dry runs the risk of stencil tragedy!   Chances are, the towel will snag your stencil and cause it to tear or break.  As I have often said, “It’s all fun and games until I break a stencil!”  Once you have dried your stencil, lift the towel and you should reveal a clean stencil, ready for the its next use or storage.

For clean up of larger stencils and stencils with build up you will need:

  • 1 to 2 large plastic containers with lids such as Rubbermaid. We like to use the more shallow, stow away, under the bed type.
  • LOTS of 91% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol.  You might want to consider buying it by the gallon from a beauty supply store or Uline.
  • Rubber Gloves is also an option to help prevent drying out your hands and will help you keep that pretty manicure.

With this procedure you can place several stencils in your plastic container at one time.  Fill the container with enough rubbing alcohol to cover your stencils completely.  DO NOT DILUTE THE RUBBING ALCOHOL.  Begin carefully submerging your stencils one at a time making sure each one is covered in the pool of rubbing alcohol.  The rubbing alcohol will not hurt them so they can soak for hours and hours or overnight.  This is where the lid to your container comes in handy.  Place the lid over the container to help keep the smell of the rubbing alcohol at bay.  After your stencils have soaked well and all the paint is loose, use either your bath tub or a second plastic container to rinse them free of the paint and rubbing alcohol.  Now, I know plenty of you are guilty of LAYERS AND LAYERS of caked on paint!  I am too!  This is where you kill two birds with one stone.  If your stencils are suffering from several layers of paint, take your stencil brush and carefully use a slow and gentle circling motion to help remove the paint layers.  Please be very careful when doing this!  Again, this is another chance for stencil tragedy!  Also, do not leave your brushes soaking in the pool of rubbing alcohol along with your stencils.  This will ruin the handles and the ferrule (metal or plastic ring where the bristles meet the handle).  Once you have removed the paint from the stencil you can rinse it with water and carefully pat it dry.  Remember, DO NOT rub your stencils when drying them as you risk the chance of breaking or tearing them.  Your stencils will not look brand new like they did the day you took them out of the package for the first time.  You will still see what I refer to as “paint stains”.  These “paint stains” are simply caused from the paint colors.  Now, you may actually have some paint layers that are still on your stencils.  If that is the case, you will need to once again, return them to the pool of rubbing alcohol to soak again.  Definitely keep repeating this procedure until you have rid your stencils of the paint.

Keep in mind, if you’re design/lettering edges are not looking smooth and crisp, it is most likely because you have too much paint on your brush which is causing puddling or your stencils are in need of clean up.

Good luck and feel free to email us with any questions you may have at [email protected]

Keep stenciling and making the world a prettier place!

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