How do I remove existing lettering or decals?

Search AnswersCategory: InstallationHow do I remove existing lettering or decals?
James Carlyle Staff asked 5 years ago

There is already lettering on this panel, how do I remove it and what about if it’s been there a long time?

James Carlyle Staff replied 5 years ago

Over time vinyl decals can fade, crack and chip. At some point, they need to be removed, preferably without damaging the surface beneath. This is a job few if any look forward to but with the right tools and information it can be achieved with a minimum of exasperation.

Vinyl that has had time to age requires a two-step process for removal. This is because the adhesive hardens over time and achieves a better bond to the underlying surface than to the vinyl. When you remove the vinyl, it leaves most of the adhesive, which has to be removed separately. There are a variety of power tools available to the professional, however they are not cheap and unless you plan on removing decals regularly or have a very large area to clean, you can do the job with a minimum investment.

Tools needed:
Hair dryer or hot air gun
Hard plastic scraper (like lil’ chisler)
Adhesive remover (such as RapidTac Adhesive Removal Solution)
Disposable towels (paper)
Optional:
Teflon coated blade

It is best to work methodically across the surface. I generally start in the top left corner and work my way down and across, you will quickly find what works for you. Begin by slightly softening an undefended edge using the hot air. You don’t want to get the vinyl so hot that it melts, just soften it a bit. Then use the scraper under the edge to pull up enough to get a hold of with your hand. Once you can grasp the edge firmly use the hot air to warm up and soften along the vinyl beyond the edge you are grasping and begin to pull the vinyl steadily away from the surface. You will know you have achieved the correct temperature when the vinyl is soft enough to pull away from the surface but not so soft that it stretches out or breaks. It’s best to evenly heat at least several inches of the area toward which you are pulling. The real goal is to warm up the adhesive underneath the vinyl and it takes a little time for the heat to migrate through the vinyl. Generally, the more recently the vinyl was applied, the more adhesive comes off with it. The range is from all the adhesive being removed, to none of the adhesive being removed. At one time, the adhesive had to be removed with solvents like Lacquer Thinner but now there are a number of non-solvent removers available, most in the form of a spray-able liquid. You should read the instructions on the container; however, the usual process is to spray a generous coat onto the adhesive, let it set for a few minutes and commence the removal. To remove the adhesive, begin by scraping up as much as you can use the edge of a hard plastic card or squeegee. Once you have removed a majority of the adhesive reapply the adhesive remover, wait a minute or two and wipe off the residue with paper towels.

1 Answers
James Carlyle Staff answered 5 years ago

Over time vinyl decals can fade, crack and chip. At some point, they need to be removed, preferably without damaging the surface beneath. This is a job few if any look forward to but with the right tools and information it can be achieved with a minimum of exasperation.
Vinyl that has had time to age requires a two-step process for removal. This is because the adhesive hardens over time and achieves a better bond to the underlying surface than to the vinyl. When you remove the vinyl, it leaves most of the adhesive, which has to be removed separately. There are a variety of power tools available to the professional, however they are not cheap and unless you plan on removing decals regularly or have a very large area to clean, you can do the job with a minimum investment.
Tools needed:
Hair dryer or hot air gun
Hard plastic scraper (like lil’ chisler)
Adhesive remover (such as RapidTac Adhesive Removal Solution)
Disposable towels (paper)
Optional:
Teflon coated blade
It is best to work methodically across the surface. I generally start in the top left corner and work my way down and across, you will quickly find what works for you. Begin by slightly softening an undefended edge using the hot air. You don’t want to get the vinyl so hot that it melts, just soften it a bit. Then use the scraper under the edge to pull up enough to get a hold of with your hand. Once you can grasp the edge firmly use the hot air to warm up and soften along the vinyl beyond the edge you are grasping and begin to pull the vinyl steadily away from the surface. You will know you have achieved the correct temperature when the vinyl is soft enough to pull away from the surface but not so soft that it stretches out or breaks. It’s best to evenly heat at least several inches of the area toward which you are pulling. The real goal is to warm up the adhesive underneath the vinyl and it takes a little time for the heat to migrate through the vinyl. Generally, the more recently the vinyl was applied, the more adhesive comes off with it. The range is from all the adhesive being removed, to none of the adhesive being removed. At one time, the adhesive had to be removed with solvents like Lacquer Thinner but now there are a number of non-solvent removers available, most in the form of a spray-able liquid. You should read the instructions on the container; however, the usual process is to spray a generous coat onto the adhesive, let it set for a few minutes and commence the removal. To remove the adhesive, begin by scraping up as much as you can use the edge of a hard plastic card or squeegee. Once you have removed a majority of the adhesive reapply the adhesive remover, wait a minute or two and wipe off the residue with paper towels.