Care for your stencils

General
If you want your stencil to last you for a long time then you have to look after it. This means storing it correctly, cleaning it when necessary and taking general good care of it. NO NOT leave the stencil in direct sunlight or it will get misshapen causing it not to lie flat. If you receive a stencil that has been rolled in a tube. Then take it out and lay it curl side down under a rug or under a selection of books until it goes back flat.

The best paint to use
We would recommend using water based paints for your projects as they are much more user friendly and easy to clean off your stencils. Oil based paints take a very long time to dry and are hard and difficult to clean off the stencil.

Water based paints
To clean water based paints such as emulsion and acrylic off the stencil simply soak in warm soapy water until the paint is soft and starts to come away from the stencil surface. It depends on how thick the paint is on the stencil to how long you need to soak it for. Use a washing up brush or something similar to remove the softened paint and it should come off easily. Take care with more detailed parts of the stencil. Larger stencils that won't fit in the sink can be cleaned in the same way in a bath. Use a sink strainer so that the paint doesn't go down the drain.

Oil based paints
If you use oil based paints then the paint can be cleaned off using white spirit. Put the stencil on a flat surface and apply some white spirit to a cloth/rag or brush. Rub/brush the painted areas of the stencil to clean off the paint (be careful with detailed areas of the stencil) until the cloth is dirty. Get a clean cloth and keep repeating the process until the stencil is clean.

Spray paints
If you use spray paints with your stencil then the best thing to do from experience is to let the paint build up on the stencil over a period of time (5-10 reuses). The paint will form a thick, stiff layer that will crack and peel off when the stencil sheet is bent (a bit like pva glue that has been left in the bottom of a pot forms a layer that can just be pulled off)
So bend the stencil around the edges of the design and the paint will lift up you can then slide the back of our nail under and peel it off. You may want to brush the stencil off during this process with a dustpan brush to clean the smaller bits off. Be more careful with more detailed areas of the stencil. Do this over a dustbin or some newspaper to catch all the bits.

Repositionable spray adhesive
If you have used repositionable spray adhesive on the back of your stencil then it will be tacky. We don't recommend you go to the trouble of cleaning this off as it will only be useful for the next time it is used.

Storing your stencil
If you have used repostionable spray adhesive on the back of your stencil it is a good idea to store it on a sheet of baking paper or something similar especially if your storing it with other stencils so that it doesnt cling and get tangled risking damaging the stencils when separating them. It is always best to store your stencil flat when possible. If you keep it rolled in a tube then when you unroll it the edges will be curled and you will have to spend the time to flatten it out. Under a rug is an ideal place or smaller stencils can be kept in a file. I store my larger stencils on trouser hangers which works great. It keeps the stencils flat, ordered and easily accessible.
 

Where would you like to go next?
Clean your stencil
How to use a stencil brush
How to stencil with a roller