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How to Clean Parking Lot Stencils
Randy James

Randy James

Hi I am Randy your advisor for all things stencils and paint. With 25 years of being in the paint industry and 10 years in stencil i have worked with painters. line stripers, architects, artists and paint shop managers,... painting just about everything. I love a challenge and helping people get the result that they want.

How to Clean Parking Lot Stencils

Cleaning stencils is one of the least fun jobs, But it is important to keep them free of paint. Dried paint will put stress on the stencil and can in some cases twist and curl it.  The first recommendation is simple and will save you money but not always easy to do.  Do not put paint on the stencil but put it through the stencil.  A little paint on the edge of the cut outs is not a problem, but lots of excess paint on the entire stencil will cause it to curl.  Still even with careful use as some point you will need to clean. These tips and tricks will help you lean your stencils in just a few minutes at the end of the shift.

  • Start with clean stencils. 

  • Apply silicone spray lubricant before painting.

  • Soak to soften the paint.

  • Use a soft bristle, non-abrasive brush.

Preparing your stencils:

  1. Make sure that the stencils will lay flat. If they have been rolled for a long period of time, then lay them flat on warm pavement or in the sun to add a little warmth to let the plastic relax and lay flat.
  2. Clean stencils work better than dirty ones, clean them before use if you have time.
  3.  Pro Tip: Before painting, add a lubricant to the top side of the stencil  surface to make it hard for paint to stick to it. We have tried them all, but our favorite is silicone spray. It is inexpensive, easy to use and is very effective. We have tried various cooking oils, Pam, WD 40 and even water misted on with a sprayer. All work, but silicone spray works the best. During the day this can be done in between uses. Just spray again on top of the painted stencil, no need to wait for the paint to dry.
    Protecting a stencil with silicon spray

    Two test stencils made from our line striper preferred 1/8th inch LLDPE material. Silicone lubricant added to the bottom Stencil.

Painting with Stencils:

  1.  This sounds STUPID and obvious, but the most important idea is to put the paint through the stencil, and not on the stencil. Paint on the stencil is wasted, might drip off the stencil while moving, and also has to be cleaned. It makes a mess and the paint always gets all over me.
  2. CHECK YOUR TIPS: Use of a spray tip that has too wide of a fan for stencil spraying or use of a worn spray tip will waste paint and create a mess. For most stenciling jobs, I prefer a tip with a 2 – 4 inch fan width (For a Graco LineLazer this is a LL5215 or LL5315.)
Painting the stencil

Painting the stencil: it was January and 10 degrees outside. Had to go with the roller.

Paint coated parking stencils

Stencils with about 10 coats of paint, cured over a weekend. We did the opposite of what you should do, we put the paint not through but on the stencils.

Clean up after use:

  1.  Soften the Paint. For water-based paints soaking with water, even within a couple of days, will cause the paint film to absorb the water and start to separate from the plastic surface. The hotter the water the better. The longer you soak it, the better as well, but even 10 minutes can make a big difference. A kids wading pool sitting on asphalt works great on a sunny day. If you are using solvent based paints, your paint supplier can tell you the appropriate solvent to use. (note: a pump sprayer is helpful here.)
  2.  After the paint is bulging and detaching from the stencil, rub with a soft nylon bristle brush. You want to avoid roughing up the surface of the plastic too much. The rougher the plastic gets, the easier paint will stick to it. After softening the paint, some use a pressure washer. This can work but too much pressure and the water can cut through the stencil and ruin it. If you try this, use a Green or white sprayer nozzle and keep the pressure low.
  3. If you get to the point where you need to scrape, then use a plastic scraper, not metal. Plastic will not cut the stencil material.
  4. Over time the stencil will get rough and it will get a coating of paint.  The stencil is still usable as long as the paint openings are clear. Use a plastic scraper to keep the corners square.  
  5. Make sure you store the stencil properly. It is best stored in a way the stencil can lie flat.  Either flat on a shelf or pallet or hang on the wall. 

Check out the our other tutorials and instructions at

Scraping Paint covered parking stencils

Without a water soak you need a scraper to get the paint off. The bottom stencil with the silicone spray comes off much easier.

Cleaning Parking Lot Stencils with a Brush
After a soak, we can use a soft bristle brush takes the paint right off. The stencil with silicone spray is done in seconds.
Clean parking stencils
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