How to Remove Vinyl

No matter how good your vinyl decal or wrap looks, eventually, you're going to have to remove it. The vinyl may have gotten too old, with the message on it going out of date or the color starting to fade due to passing its life expectancy. Whatever the reason, you'll want to make sure to remove vinyl properly so that you don't damage the surface that it's resting on.

Though there are a variety of different surfaces that you'll place your vinyl decals on, learning how to remove the vinyl from an area is easy. To remove vinyl effectively, you'll need to know about the supplies you'll need and the steps of the removal process for a variety of surfaces.

Supplies Needed for Vinyl Removal

To remove vinyl effectively, you'll need to have a few supplies at your disposal throughout the removal process. Below you can find the tools most commonly used for vinyl removal:

  • Sharp tool: To lift the vinyl edge, you'll need more than just a fingernail. Instead, it's best to use a sharp tool that can get underneath the vinyl film. Use a plastic or metal razor blade or a hobby knife to lift the vinyl.
  • Heat gun: Sometimes, you'll need to heat up a surface to remove vinyl decals. To heat up the surface, it's often best to use a heat gun or a hair dryer.
  • Adhesive remover: After removing the adhesive, there will usually be some left behind. Regular cleaning solutions will not be enough to get rid of adhesive residue. As such, you'll need to find products specifically designed for adhesive removal. These products will attack the chemical bonds that make up the adhesive and make it possible for you to wipe it all off the surface.
  • Cleaning solution: Once you've removed the decal and adhesive, you'll want to clean the surface that the decal was originally resting on. The cleaning supplies you select will be based on the surface the decal is on. For example, a glass cleaner isn't going to work on a painted wall. Along with the cleaning solution, you may need rags or paper towels to complete the job.
  • Wastebasket: After you complete the removal process, you'll need to have a place to throw away any waste you generate. This waste will typically include the decal if you have no further use for it, paper towels to wipe up of the cleaning solution and any other miscellaneous trash generated by the cleaning process. 

How to Remove a Vinyl Wrap

How to Remove a Vinyl Wrap

Regardless of whether you plan to remove vinyl decals or a full vehicle wrap, there will be a couple of basic steps you'll need to take first. Once you complete those two steps, there will be some minor variations in the ways that you remove the vinyl. These variations will occur based on the surface from which you remove the vinyl.

As you look into removing a vinyl wrap yourself, consider the following steps that you should take to remove the vinyl effectively:

Step 1: Prepare the Surface

The first thing you should do is clean the surface to get it ready for the removal process. While there isn't a lot of surface preparation needed before you begin removing the vinyl decals, it's still recommended to have the area as clean as possible. Usually, you can clean the surface area with a towel and isopropyl alcohol. For larger areas, you can use a bucket of water and mild detergent as well.

Step 2: Take Action Due to Temperature and Weather Conditions

After the surface is clean, you should check the weather before you take them off of a surface. Particularly, you'll want the temperature to be at 65 degrees Fahrenheit or above. If your vinyl is indoors, the temperature will be less of an issue, but if it's outdoors and cold out, you'll need to warm up the surface before you start the removal process. A colder surface, such as an outdoor window or wall, can be warmed with a heat gun or hair dryer.

Heating the Vinyl

If it's cold out, it's a good bet that you're going to need to warm up the surface. Heating the vinyl can be done multiple times during the process. If you're sure that the surface is under 65 degrees Fahrenheit, you can preheat the vinyl before you attempt to remove it. You can use a heat gun or hair dryer to heat up the surface and loosen the adhesive

If you've already begun the vinyl removal process and you run into a patch where the vinyl is not easily coming off, you shouldn't pull too hard on it or use a sharp tool. Instead, you can use the heat gun again. As it's heated, the adhesive will become more pliable, and after keeping the heat gun or hair dryer on the vinyl for a sufficient enough time to warm the surface, you can try to pull it off again.

You'll repeat the heating process at each place on the sign where the sign is sticking too closely to the surface. Make sure to pay attention while you are heating the vinyl, as it can burn or bubble if it gets too hot. If you're properly heating the vinyl, it shouldn't burn, and you should be able to lift the vinyl off of the surface easily, with much of the adhesive coming off as well. 

Step 3: Removing the Vinyl

When it comes to removing the vinyl wrap, it's important that you understand the ways that you should remove vinyl from different surfaces. There will be some differences between removing vinyl from a vehicle when compared to removing it from a window or a wall. 

To help you understand exactly how to remove the vinyl, you'll need to follow the appropriate steps for each surface. Below, you can find out how to remove it from glass, walls and vehicles:

Removing Vinyl From Glass

If you need to remove vinyl window decals, you can use a metallic or plastic razor blade to scrape off the old decal from the glass. You should note that you shouldn't use a razor if you're removing a decal from polycarbonate or Plexiglas, as a razor blade will scratch the surface. For regular glass, you'll wedge the blade or another sharp tool between vinyl and the surface.

Next, you'll push the tool forward, and the vinyl should begin to lift away from the glass. Continue this process until you have removed all of the vinyl from the glass. If your vinyl takes up a large surface area, you may want to use a larger blade that you can typically find at home improvement stores. 

Finally, once you've completely removed the vinyl, you'll want to use an adhesive remover to — you guessed it — remove the adhesive. After the adhesive remover does its work, use a glass cleaner to clean up any residue or debris left behind from the removal process. Once the area that used to hold the decal looks just as good as the rest of the glass, you'll have completed the removal process. 

Removing Vinyl From Walls

Removing Vinyl From Walls

To remove vinyl from a typical wall, you'll need to remove it by hand and not with a blade. You'll stay away from using a sharp object here, as it will likely scratch the surface, harming the appearance of your wall. Additionally, if you need to remove vinyl wall art that you're hoping to preserve, you won't want a blade harming the vinyl you're removing either.

Though you won't use a sharp razor blade throughout, you will begin with a sharp tool to lift a small corner of the vinyl from the surface. Do this very carefully so that you don't scratch the wall. 

Once your sharp tool raises a corner of the vinyl, you can grab hold of it with your hand and begin to pull the rest of it up slowly. Do not do this quickly, as the vinyl may not be ready to come up in certain areas. A quick pull of the vinyl could result in the film tearing and creating more for you to clean up in the long run. 

After you can completely remove the vinyl, you'll use an adhesive remover and an appropriate cleaner to finish the job.

Removing Vinyl From Vehicles

You can apply vinyl graphics to the entirety of a vehicle or smaller sections of a vehicle, ranging from a door decal to a small sticker placed on the back of a car. No matter how much room the vinyl takes up, you'll want to make sure it gets removed correctly. 

For window decals, you'll to want to follow the instructions listed above for removing vinyl on glass. For the rest of the vehicle, you'll want to follow a similar process to removing vinyl from walls. However, as you remove the vinyl from your vehicle, you'll want to be extra careful not to harm the paint underneath the wrap.

To begin, you'll heat up the vinyl of the vehicle with the heat gun or hair dryer. Next, you'll peel a corner of the material at a 45-degree angle, lifting it initially with a plastic razor blade. The peeling should be done slowly, and you should never yank at the vinyl since it can leave behind the laminate, which is extremely hard to get off of a surface. For vehicles, experts recommend that you should begin peeling at the hood. 

Removing Vinyl From Vehicles

You should be aware that primer is sometimes used with vehicles to get the vinyl wrap to stick faster. If you know that primer was used, you'll likely have a much harder time trying to get rid of any extra adhesive. As the removal process has a higher chance of damaging or scratching your vehicle's paint, you may want to go with a professional if whoever initially installed the vinyl used primer. 

If no one used primer, the rest of the removal process should be easy. You'll want to pull the wrap off with your hands, keeping the pulling pressure, speed and angle as consistent as possible. When you remove the wrap from deeply contoured sections of your vehicle, make sure to be extra careful. 

After you remove the wrap, you'll use an adhesive remover to get the rest of the residue off of your vehicle. Finally, you can clean your car with appropriate vehicle cleaners.

How to Remove Wrap Edge Sealer and Adhesives

As all of the different surfaces will require you to remove leftover adhesive, you should be aware of the steps that make up proper adhesive removal. Vinegar can be an effective cleaning solution for lighter jobs, while more in-depth jobs may require a commercial solvent. Below you can find the steps you should take to remove adhesive:

  1. If there is not a lot of adhesive, you can try to remove it with vinegar. To begin, you'll heat up a cup or two of vinegar over a burner. The vinegar only needs to be warmed up, so no need to wait for it to boil.
  2. Spray or apply the vinegar to the area affected by the adhesive. Let it soak for 10 or 15 minutes, before trying to rub it off with a dry rag or a plastic scraper. 
  3. If vinegar doesn't do the trick or your surface will be affected negatively by vinegar, you can find a number of commercial adhesive removers on the market. Look for one that specifies it can be used on your surface safely.
  4. Follow instructions from the commercial remover you use to apply it to the adhesive properly. 
  5. After applying it, you should be able to wipe the adhesive off. Repeat application until you've totally removed the adhesive.

Should You Remove the Vinyl Yourself or Go With a Professional?

DIY types will be happy to know that you can easily remove most vinyl by yourself using the methods described above. It's a straightforward process, and you can usually find the tools you need around your house or at your local home improvement store. 

The main reason that you'll need to call a professional will be if you notice that the vinyl is consistently chipping off in small flakes while you attempt to remove it yourself. If there's a lot of small flakes coming off, the vinyl has probably been on the surface for too long, and more care will be needed to ensure that you don't harm the surface. 

Other than the case of small flakes coming off, you can probably handle most vinyl removal jobs yourself without having to pay a professional to do so. 

Replace Old Vinyl With New Vinyl

Replace Old Vinyl With New Vinyl

If you're looking to remove an old piece of vinyl film, you probably don't want to leave the surface blank for too long. Rvinyl has plenty of vinyl options to help you as you redecorate a surface. Whether you want signage vinyl, crafting vinyl, home vinyl or even an entire vinyl wrap for your vehicle, we have it all. 

If you have any questions while browsing our selection, feel free to contact us.