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With care, a good quality mylar stencil will last for a long time, but it is important to clean and care for your stencil properly between uses. Leftover paint on the edges will interfere with the quality of the stencil graphic, and not storing the stencil correctly can bend or crease intricate pieces of the stencil, so it may not lay flat.  

Don’t worry if the paint dries on the stencil before you get to wash the stencil. Acrylic is forgiving when dried on mylar, and will come off with a soak and light scrub.


Run the stencil under warm water and lightly scrub with a dish brush. Mostly, pay attention to the paint around the edge of the graphic.

If the paint is caked on or the paint has fully dried, soak the stencil in warm soapy water, or latex cleaning solution, for an hour (or overnight). After, lightly scrubbed with a dish brush, and remove the paint.

A cookie tray, a medium plastic container, or wrapping in a plastic bag to soak will work; as long as the liquid covers the stencil lays flat.

With a dry paper towel, blot the stencil dry, and let it air dry completely.

Paint: water-based, acrylic, or latex.


Sometimes cleaning the stencil requires a little elbow grease to get the paint off.  The trick is pre-soaking the stencil with a commercial water-based paint cleaner, or using one of the cleaning recipes from our how to stencil post.


  • Spray bottle

  • Latex paint cleaner

  • Dish brush


  1. Generously spray the front of the stencil with the spray cleaner.

  2. Place inside a plastic bag and close securely.

  3. Wait, a few hours or overnight.

  4. Remove stencil from the plastic bag, and scrub lightly with the dish brush.

  5. Rinse with water.

  6. Blot the stencil with a paper towel and let it air dry completely.

Paint: water-based, acrylic, or latex.


Oil-based paints are more durable than acrylic, making it a good choice for high traffic areas. Oil paint dries slower, and it stinks like crazy, but is more resistant to scratches and chips. 

Mineral spirits or turpentine are used to clean the stencils after using oil-based paint.  It may require a pre-soak like the Deep Clean method, but don’t worry. Mylar is strong, and it won’t ruin the stencil.

Oil paint and the cleaners for oil-based paint smell strong and can be potentially toxic. Save your lungs and escape a headache by wearing a mask; this will prevent inhaling most of the fumes.


Always store stencils flat. A plastic under bed storage container works great - using paper between each stencil. Or, our favorite method: use a clothing hanger!  The multiple clip hangers are lovely, and can hold quite a few stencils per hanger. Hang in a closet, or if you have a craft room, they display beautifully on a pegboard or on the wall. 

Happy stencilling!

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