Remove Stubborn Paint From Stencils!

I’m not sure about everyone else, but I definitely fit into the “messy” category when painting (well, doing any project really).  I am the WORST at cleaning up afterwards.  I don’t like this trait about myself.  In fact, I wish I could change.  Not gonna happen.  I’ve tried.  I’m not programmed to operate that way.  I assume most “clean” DIYers end their work taking cleanup into consideration.  Enough time, energy, and daylight left to complete this final step.  I’m an all or nothin kinda gal, so when I am actually ready to stop whatever it is I’m working on – I’m done.  Out of juice like a dead battery.  I’m darn lucky to drag myself inside, complete tasks to ready myself for bed, and get into the bed.  Kinda pathetic, I know.

Point being, as much as I paint – a lot of things get trashed.  Brushed, trays, rollers.  Nice, lovely, crusty dried paint.  I have begun to at least place my brushes into a jar of water or mineral spirits to soak which has actually helped tremendously.  But, recently I have had some trouble with a stencil.  In my defense, I believe this could happen to anyone – even the tidy people.

Using an all-over stencil the paint tends to build up on the stencil itself.  Yes, I rinsed it often.  But the super thin, multiple layers of latex paint just dry to darn quickly – both a blessing and a curse.  I read the instruction on care and clean up.  “Use warm soap and water.”  Ha!  Sorta helped, but only with the assistance of a little scrub brush.  And, should you choose to use a scrub brush – proceed with caution!  With some of these beautiful, but delicate stencils they can present a challenge to clean.  Brush too hard, and there’s risk of either bending or tearing it.  I used a razor blade too on some of the most stubborn areas.  Yeah, I knew it was a stupid move.  Of course as suspected I tore one slight piece – that ended that.  I decided to walk away from the matter and return later with a fresh head.

Not to mention that I couldn’t stencil again until it was clean.  As the paint builds up on the mylar, the ‘windows’ which allow the paint through begin to get smaller, and details of the image less crisp.  After a night to sleep on it, here is the solution I came up with.  Honestly, it’s SUPER easy.

How to Remove Paint from Mylar Stencils

This how-to is only for LATEX paint, not oil based.

Here’s what you’ll need:

This paint is completely cured!

1. Line baking tray with press n seal.  If stencil is larger than width of press n seal, add another sheet next to it.  Make sure to press the two sheets firmly together to prevent moisture from leaking out. If you do not have a baking dish large enough to lay your stencil flat, use something else.  Doesn’t matter what it is as long as you don’t mind if paint removal products get on it.  Even possibly line a cheap shower curtain from the $1 store in the bathtub (just to protect the fiberglass finish of the tub).

2. Lay stencil on top of Press ‘N Seal.  Make sure it’s flat – just because you wreck it with paint doesn’t mean it needs to be bent too!

3. Fully cover top of stencil with Press ‘N Seal.  Using more rows of it if needed.  Essentially you are wanting to create a large air tight bag around the stencil.  The super large (or small)  Ziplock bags would work too – just depends on the size of your stencil.  Leave one little space open – about an inch wide.

4. Pour the product into the sealed bag like structure.  Seal remaining inch of press and seal together.

The red outline indicates the area which the two sheets were pressed and sealed together.

5. The directions on the bottle said 5 minutes.  I left mine in overnight.  My stencil was absolutely fine, and product stencil is composed of is mylar.  If you have concerns about doing this, call the tech support number on the product.  I’m sure they can answer any concerns you may have.

Paint pealed off stencil.

6. Remove stencil, and place in sink or preferred area to work on it.  Using your fingers you can gently and easily remove the paint now.  This uses much less time and elbow grease!  It should peel off in somewhat large pieces.

*FYI: The Lift Off #5 is an eco-friendly product!  I purchased it with much hesitation after my last ‘eco-friendly’ product experience

7.  This step isn’t necessary, but economic.  After stencil’s removed, funnel remaining Lift Off back into container and reserve.  I’m not sure if this is something that would be recommended by the manufacturer or not.  I plan to reuse it until this project’s complete, then I’ll dispose of it. 

8. Rinse thoroughly, and you are done!  SO much easier this way!

Looks brand spankin' new again!

 For other helpful hints and tips, or stencil ideas check out these links bursting with inspiration!  Want more painting tips?  Find them here.


Im headed over to the Power of Paint Party at Domestically Speaking!

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