How to Remove Car Decals

Jessica Shea Choksey | Aug 19, 2020

Bumper stickers and car decals are as much a part of the American highway landscape as billboards and roadside graffiti. Whether the reason is for aesthetics, advertising, or announcing who you plan to vote for in the next election, a decal makes a statement about the vehicle owner for the world to see. But when it is time to remove a sticker from a window or the body of a car, the goal is to do it safely, easily, and without causing any damage to the vehicle’s exterior.

How to remove car decals and bumper stickers

Removing Decals from Glass

The primary tool used for removing an adhesive from a window is a razor blade. The razor should be clean and free of rust as these kinds of imperfections can scratch glass. If you prefer not to use a razor, you can use a plastic non-marring scraper, but this will not work as effectively and will require more effort.

First, clean the glass generously by applying window cleaner to the area around the sticker and wipe with a soft chamois cloth or microfiber towel. The glass cleaner will remove dirt, giving the razor blade a smooth surface to move across.

The next step is to hold the blade at a 30- to 45-degree angle at the outer corners of the decal and work the blade inwards toward the middle of the decal by applying gentle stop-and-go pressure. Slowly, the decal backing will separate from the glass, but this process requires some patience. Expect for some of the adhesive to remain stuck to the glass.

Once the decal has been fully removed, spray the area again with the glass cleaner and wipe away any remaining adhesive. Then buff the area one last time with a soft cloth to leave the surface smooth and dry.

Removing Decals from the Body of a Car

Because glass is more resilient than paint, removing a decal from the body of a car is a more delicate process. Since the chance of damage is higher to the car’s body, there are a few precautionary steps that are different from that of removing a decal from a window.

Like the glass removal, the painted area around the sticker will need to be cleaned prior to attempting removal. But instead of using glass cleaner, use soap and water. This will clear any surface dirt or oils from the sticker and the body of the vehicle.

The next step is to heat the decal with a hair dryer. The heat will cause the decal to lose its adhesion to the paint, making it easier to pull off. The edges and corners may even start to furl as the decal’s sticking compound begins to “let go” of the vehicle body.

Now it is time to peel the sticker by using a scraping tool such as a soft plastic putty knife or the edge of credit card. Both are soft and pliable so the chance of scratching or scuffing the paint is minimal. Avoid razor blades and other sharp-edged metal objects. Using these kinds of items can result in costly damage that only a body shop will be able to repair.

Once the decal has been removed, there will likely be adhesive residue left on the car body. There are several glue removal products on the market that will eliminate this leftover material. Soap and water should be used again to clean and dry the area. The area covered by the sticker may be slightly less faded than the rest of the vehicle due having not as much sun exposure, but this variance in coloration will be generally unnoticeable from a normal distance.

Proper Application of a Decal

When applying a decal, there are a couple of things to keep in mind to make the eventual removal a little easier. The first is to make sure the decal area is clean. Surface dirt and grime will keep the decal from coming off cleanly. Also, consider the placement of the decal. Putting the decal up against trim pieces might obstruct an edge and make it hard to peel up. And lastly, avoid proximity to hot surfaces like the hood and tailpipe where the decal can melt or burn to the surface.

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