I Tried Citristrip Etching On Tumblers And Here Is My Experience

WCA 25 | Citristrip Etching


I have been watching all the social media coverage of etching stainless steel tumblers with Citristrip paint and varnish stripping gel and I wanted to give it a try. In this crafting adventure, I share my experience with this unique etching process. I share how I made a very simple tumbler holder that I put together with a pool noodle and cardboard tubes repurposed from my old vinyl rolls! I am glad I ordered a 6 pack of tumblers for this project because my first attempt at this etching process was a big fail! This is not a how-to but instead my honest opinion and experience about this crafting project. I can’t wait to share both with you!

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I Tried Citristrip Etching On Tumblers And Here Is My Experience


WCA 25 | Citristrip Etching


Welcome to the show. I have finished using some Citistrip Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel to etch some stainless steel tumblers. Before I tell you all about my experience, I want to tell you about the inspiration behind this project. I have been interested in what this Citistrip etching process was all about. I’ve seen it all over social media. I have seen it on different Facebook groups. I’ve seen it all over the internet, and I thought it would be an interesting and different project to try. That’s the inspiration behind doing this project.

I want to start and tell you that this is my experience using the Citistrip gel and what it was like for me to do a couple of tumblers and etch them with this gel. It’s a chemical. There is a lot of different information on the internet on how to do this project. I am not a how-to-do-this project. I am about sharing my experience. If it is something that you’ve done or that you’ve tried, or that you’re going to try, please make sure you use all of the safety precautions and are careful because it is a strong chemical.

Time Method

I have read some different things about the method of heating it up to make the process go faster. Make sure that you do all of the research and have all of the safety precautions that you need, depending on which way you choose to do this project if you do. I chose to do the time method. There are two different methods for using the Citistrip gel. There’s a time method and then there’s a heat method. From what I’ve heard and seen on the internet, the heat method is a quicker way to get the project done. I chose not to do that. I do not have the right safety equipment for that kind of project. I stuck with the time method, and I’m going to tell you all about it.

The first thing I want to do is highlight a couple of important materials that I used. First of all, the Citistrip Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel, I got that. I did get a six-pack of black-painted stainless steel tumblers. I did that because I wanted to make more than one. I also figured that I was probably going to have a fail. From what I was reading about this project, I didn’t feel like I was going to get it right the first time, and I was right about that. I did get a six-pack of tumblers.

Some other important things that I did was I used gloves to protect my hands, glasses to protect my eyes, and a mask for breathing while I was putting on the stripping gel onto the tumbler. All of those things were things that I feel were important to highlight. There are a couple of other interesting ones, which are a tennis ball, and I’ll tell you about that as I get into the experience, some four-inch long wood toothpicks, and rubbing alcohol.


I did make a cup holder or tumbler holder for this project because I was going to be putting this stripping gel onto the tumbler. I wanted to have something secure that was holding it. I put together a little tumbler holder, and that I will tell you about. I did use a pool noodle, a basket that was about 6×8 from Dollar Store, and some of the cardboard tubes that come in the vinyl that’s rolled up. I repurposed those and created a quick and easy tumbler holder. Those are some of the more important and different kinds of materials that I needed for this project. I did also use Oracal Permanent Vinyl 651 for my designs.

Resources On The Etching Project With Citristrip

Let me first share with you a little bit about the resources that I used to get information on this project. There are tons of resources. There are tons of information on the internet and social media about doing this etching project with the Citistrip gel. What I found to be the most useful for the project that I was going to do were two.

The first one was Daily Dose of DIY, and the second one was Bees Knees. Bees Knees has two fabulous PDFs that are free in her resource library. One is a quick cheat sheet of the whole Citistrip process, both for the time process and the heat process, which I did not do, but she has a great free cheat sheet. She also has a time PDF that’s free. What I mean by that is for different tumblers of different brands she has tested the Citistrip process on, she lists the amount of time that it will take for the chemical to get that paint ready to be removed from the tumbler in your design. Those are some great resources that I came across.

The two most useful Citristrip gels for a Citristrip etching project are Daily Dose of DIY and Bees Knees. Share on X

Steps To Creating A Quick, Simple, And Cheap Tumbler Holder

The first thing that I did in this project was to create a quick, simple, and cheap tumbler holder. I figured this will come in handy whenever I’m doing some project where I’m putting vinyl or perhaps I’m using the Citistrip gel again and I need my tumbler to be held securely to be adding the vinyl and the Citistrip gel. What I did is I took a regular Dollar Tree store pool noodle and a Dollar Store little basket that’s probably only about 1 or 2 inches tall. It was about 6 inches wide and then long about 8 inches.

What I did is I cut the pool noodle, and then for about eight inches, I trimmed it up the middle so it had a slit on it. I then took two of my old vinyl cardboard tubes that the vinyl comes in when it’s rolled up. I put the pool noodles on top of those tubes and cut little slits that went onto that little basket. By doing that, I was able to create a quick and easy tumbler holder. It worked great for this project. That was the first step.

WCA 25 | Citristrip Etching


After that, I needed to get my designs going for what I wanted on the tumbler. I went ahead and chose two different sayings. One of them is right here. It’s Easily Distracted By Craft Supplies. That’s the story of my life. I am easily distracted by craft supplies. I found that cute design in Cricut Design Space. I also did one more design that I’ll be giving to one of my co-workers. That one was also from Cricut Design Space. That saying is, “That’s A Horrible Idea. What Time?” It’s that play on those people that we talk about things, and then you’ve got, “That is a horrible idea. What time should I be there?” I thought that was cute. That was the other saying that I worked on and that I put on my stainless steel tumblers.

WCA 25 | Citristrip Etching


After I got those sayings figured out, I went ahead and had my Cricut Design Space. I made them into almost a stencil form because in the process for this, what I wanted was this Citistrip gel to take out the letters and leave a little bit of the vinyl around that as a protector like a stencil would be. That process I learned is called reverse weeding. When I had my Cricut cut out these designs and phrases, I carefully weeded out the letters instead of leaving the letters and removing all of the excess vinyl from around that design. It was a little bit of the opposite of what you typically do when you’re weeding out permanent vinyl.

I did follow a couple of tips from Bees Knees for this next step. When I applied the design to the tumbler, the first thing that I read over and over that I made sure I did was to clean my tumbler with some alcohol. It’s quick and easy. It’s to make sure all of those particles are off your tumbler. One of the most important things about this project is getting a good seal of your permanent vinyl to your tumbler. Depending on the design you have, you want that Citistrip gel to be removing the design you weeded out. If you don’t have a good attachment of that vinyl to your tumbler, that gel could get in between the vinyl and the tumbler and remove paint from areas that are not your design, which is not what you want in this situation.


I went ahead and used the alcohol, and then I got the next tip, which is about the tennis ball I was telling you about. I’ve never heard this before. I’m so glad I stumbled upon it. In the tutorial on YouTube by Bees Knees, she suggests one of the ways to get your design to attach to your tumbler is to use a tennis ball. It is to rub that tennis ball all around while you still have your transfer tape over your design on your tumbler to get a good attachment. I did that and feel like it worked great. It helped get that vinyl to attach to my tumbler more securely than it would by using that scraping tool. That was a great tip that I learned.

The next thing that I did was another tip from Bees Knees. After I took off the transfer tape, I did use my hair dryer at a high setting for about 30 seconds over the permanent vinyl without the transfer tape on it to heat it up to evenly attach it better to the tumbler. That was another tip that I got from Bees Knees that I used. It did make a difference in the process.

I then taped up my tumbler all around, so all I had showing was the design that I was going to put the Citistrip gel on. There were a couple of things that I learned about the Citistrip gel. I put it on with all of my protective gear, but I didn’t glob it. I started by almost dabbing it on like a stencil. The reason I did that was because I was using letters and phrases. I didn’t want that gel to be spread under the vinyl at all. My first step was that dabbing motion to get that Citistrip gel on top of my design.

A couple of reminders on using Citristrip gel is to put all your protective gear but try not to glob it. Start by dabbing it on a stencil so that the gel won’t spread under the vinyl. Share on X

Once it was covered, I was able then to add a little more by spreading it on top. That first initial application was a dabbing motion. After that, I set the timer. This was interesting. I had read, based on the kind of tumbler that I got, that it could be anywhere from 40 minutes to 1 hour before that chemical reaction happened and I could start to remove the Citistrip.

The first tumbler that I did, I got to the 40-minute mark. I went and used my little weeding tool or my little hook and scratched to see if that paint was bubbling up and getting ready to easily be removed. It felt like it was to me, so at 40 minutes, I went ahead and wiped off that Citistrip and tried to get that paint off. My experience was 40 minutes wasn’t long enough. Some of the paint was coming up.

WCA 25 | Citristrip Etching


I pretty much had a fail with 40 minutes. That’s why I was super glad I got the six-pack of tumblers because I knew I would need more than just one. I spent probably about twenty minutes trying to see if I was at the right time and if I just wasn’t cleaning the paint off correctly. The more I tried to get it off and from what I had researched and seen on these YouTube demonstrations and social media, the paint should have been coming off easier than what I was experiencing. That one was a fail.

I went back. I got my design cut out again and went through that whole setup process. I set my timer to 50 minutes. This is one of those projects where you set your timer, go take care of a few other things that you need to get done, and come back to it when the timer goes off. Fifty minutes was the key for the tumblers that I used to have the correct amount of chemical reaction to lift the paint, but it wasn’t left on long enough so that it spread underneath that vinyl. I had seen blurred edges and not the crisp design that you’re looking for in the etching.

With all of my protective wear, I was wiping off the Citistrip, and then getting to the point where I was going to use my weeding tool to remove as much of that paint as possible. A lot of the demonstrations that I saw showed people using a Scrub Daddy sponge and a plastic Brillo. It’s non-scratching to get that extra vinyl off. That didn’t work for me. At first, I used my weeding tool to check and moved to a little almost plastic pointer. I carefully removed as much of my design as possible before I took my stencil off. I did wipe it down with water so I could take my gloves off and get in there with the tool to remove the paint. That worked pretty well for me.

Once I got as much as I could off with that plastic tool, I did remove the stencil. I washed it well because I was going to be doing the rest of what I’m going to call the detailing of the tumbler with my hands and a toothpick, to be quite honest. I wanted to wash it well to make sure there was no more chemical left on that tumbler.

I’m not sure if this is due to the 50 minutes of the time that I left it on or if this is the process for everybody. I’m not quite sure about that, but I have a great start to the design on my tumbler. What I also have are these lines of letters that are not clean, straight, and crisp. It almost looks a little bit bumpy. I’m not sure. It could be if I left the Citistrip on a little bit longer, those lines would become crisper. It could be that my vinyl was not as adhered down to the tumbler as it could have been. It could be that this is the process when you use Citistrip. I’m not quite sure, but it’s okay because it was workable.

WCA 25 | Citristrip Etching


I took my wood toothpick. It was about a four-inch long toothpick. I started detailing. What I mean by that is I went ahead and went over every single line of the design to etch out a crisp, clean, and straight line depending on the letter or the design. That took a long time. The process worked and I’m happy with the results of the etching, but the whole detailing piece, whether it was my process with the Citistrip or this is the process that everybody goes through, it took a long time.

WCA 25 | Citristrip Etching


One tumbler, for me, to etch all of the lines to make them look smooth and crisp took about an hour. That was on top of all of the prep that went into getting the design on the tumbler and the 50-minute process of waiting while the Citistrip goes ahead and activates to remove the paint from the tumbler to create the etched look. That was a little bit disappointing to me.

This is my process and experience. I will be interested to hear if you try this project, what your experience is, and what your tips and tricks are to making sure you get those crisp lines when you remove your stencil that minimizes the detailing that gets done. The result I got, I like. I will probably do it again to make a couple more to finish out that six-pack of tumblers that I purchased to do this project. That detailing took me a long time.

WCA 25 | Citristrip Etching


Crafting Keepers

Let me tell you my crafting keepers for this crafting project. The first one is the tip from Bees Knees. It’s that tennis ball tip. There are so many times when I am attaching permanent vinyl to a tumbler or something that is curved. Using this tennis ball to help attach it to the design or the blank that you’re using to attach your design was a great tip. I’m going to keep that in my crafting corner as I’m moving forward with other projects. The other thing that I’m going to say was a crafting keeper for this project was a toothpick. That wood toothpick that I used to do all of the detailing of the lines did not scratch the stainless steel design. It allowed me to get in there and clean up that bumpy line that I had after I removed my vinyl.

That brings me to my satisCRAFTion rating for this episode. I’m going to give it a three. The reason I’m giving it a three is that using the Citistrip, it is a chemical. I don’t love crafting with chemicals. I was super excited to try this process, but it was getting to the point where I had to spend so much time detailing it. I had all of my protective gear on to make sure that I did not come in contact with that Citistrip gel. It was that whole process.

It was also knowing that I like how the stainless steel etching looks, but there are so many other ways that I have dressed up tumblers, cups, and things that didn’t use a chemical and that didn’t take that time for the detailing. It wasn’t as enjoyable as some of the other crafting projects that I’ve done. I’m glad that I tried it. I’m glad I gave it a whirl. I would be interested to know your experiences. Maybe you have perfected the process. You can email me and share some insight on how you get those crisper lines. If you want to, please feel free to email me at Hello@WCAPodcast.com. Until our next adventure, take care.


SatisCRAFTion Rating: 3


Crafting Keepers

  1. Tennis Ball Tip! (from BeesKees)
  2. Toothpick for detailing

Important Links


  • Tumblers
  • Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel 32 oz – Citistrip
  • Oracal 651 Permanent Vinyl
  • Cricut Transfer Tape
  • Alcohol wipes 
  • Blue Painters Tape
  • Foam brush
  • Standard grip-cutting mat
  • Fine point blade
  • Scraper tool
  • Weeding tools 
  • Long wood toothpick to clean up the lines (detailing)
  • Plastic pointed weeding tool
  • Hairdryer (on high for 30 seconds)
  • Gloves
  • Mask
  • Eye protection


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