We have 20+ years experience in removing decals and stickers from cars, glass, trucks and even public signs… so if you have a question, please let us know via peter@pacificwebb.com.au

(we love helping people clear the world of unsightly decals so please let us know how we can help).

Okay – now the fun stuff.

What’s the best way to remove decals and stickers?

To answer this, we really need to understand what scenario you are trying to remove the Decal from. The reason being if you are removing a Sticker from a Car door, is different to removing it from a shopfront window.

Through the Decal Removal Blue Print we will also share with you video demonstrations showing what application works best, the best decal removal tools and what works best  for the different sticker removal scenario’s.

So let’s start at the top with the most common sticker removal situation

 

1.  Removing Car Decals and Stickers

  • Stickers that have been on the Car for more than 1 year
  • Stickers that have been on the Car for less than 1 year

 

This is the most common question I get asked each week is how do I get off these car decals, pin stripping or graphics from my car?

This really depends on how old the Decals have been on for.

 

Removing car Stickers that have been on the Car for more than 1 year

 

The good news is it’s possible. The downside is there is only 1 way that works

Car stickers that have been on the surface for more than 12 months can be tough to remove.

The reason for this is the molecular structure of the adhesive changes over time, especially if the car has been in the sun and bonds to the surface. (i.e the sticker really become baked on)

What this means is the car decal becomes bonded to the surface and often the decal cracks. This means the cheap and easy option to remove car decals of using a hair dryer does not work.

Using a hair dryer or heat gun to remove a decal works on the principle of heating up the decal and loosening adhesive/ glue. As the glue has become softer, it is expected that the  sticker can be peeled off.

Unfortunately as the sticker is old and bonded to the surface, especially if the car has been outside in the heat, the hair dryer option does not work, to remove car stickers.

Using the heat gun means only very small sections (the size of a quarter coin) of the sticker can be peel off.

This means in situations when the sticker has been on the car for more than 1 year, aa small job can take hours.

The below picture is a good example of a decal that has been on for a number of years and where a heat gun will not work

 

Baked on-decal

 

The way to remove Decals from a car, that has decals that have been on the surface more than 1 year is through the Whizzy Wheel.

Now this will be seen as a bias view, though it’s the only method that genuinely works for old baked on car stickers.

The reason it works is the Whizzy Wheel is made from soft rubber and works by wearing away the car sticker. This means regardless of how old the Decal is, it can still be removed.

The 2nd most common question we get is “will the Whizzy Wheel affect the paint on my car?”.

If your car has a factory finish paint job (i.e. not a respray), then the Whizzy Wheel will not affect that paint.

That said, we always recommend to test in a small discrete area first to check and give you peace of mind.

The easiest way to see how the Whizzy Wheel makes decal and car sticker removal an easy job, check out the below video

 

 

The good news today is that if your car has stickers that have been on for less than 1 year, there is a good chance that the standard household hair dryer or heat gun will remove the sticker.

The steps to follow are

  1. Clean the surface of the decal with a damp rag to ensure any mess or dirt is removed
  2. Turn on the hair dryer of heat gun and slowly heat up the car decal, moving the hair dryer back and forth at a distance of 6 – 10 inches (10 – 15 cm) from the surface
  3. As the sticker heats up, slowly start to peel the sticker off

 

You can tell if this method works, if you are able to get larger sections of the decal to peel off from the car.

If the sticker starts to break into smaller pieces, then the decal has already bonded to the surface and you’ll need the Whizzy Wheel.

The below video shows a successful car sticker removal job when using a heat gun/ hair dryer. You’ll notice the sticker comes off in relatively large sections which is often the sign of a car sticker that has been on the surface less than 12 months

 

 

Note:

The following options to remove a car sticker were not discussed for the following reasons:

  • Plastic razor blade: too slow for removing large areas of stickers. Not effective on old decals
  • Metal razor blade: potential to damage the paint work through scratching ruled out this method
  • Citrus Degreaser: only effective at removing adhesive and glue that has been left on the surface once a car sticker has already been removed

 

The GHOSTING Effect

 

If you remove decals from a car, truck or bus, or any outdoor surface that has been out in the sun for a few years, then you will suffer from the GHOSTING effect.

What is the Ghosting effect?

When stickers are left on a surface such as a car, then the hot sun will slowly fade the paint work on the car. However, the paint work under the Sticker will remove looking brand new and fresh.

What this means is when the stickers are removed from car that has had them on for say 5+ years in the hot sun, then you’ll see a faint mark where the old sticker was.

This is due to the surface where the sticker has been removed from is a slightly different colour tone to the rest of the car. (i.e. the rest of the car has slightly faded)

The only option is this situation is using a lot of polish to try and make the surface colour look the same is by polishing the surface.

However, this still does not guarantee success in removing the GHOSTING effect.

 

2.  Removing Boat Decals and Stickers

 

Due to the nature of boats mainly being in salt water, the decals are bonded on extremely tightly to the surface. This makes them tough to remove and rules out most of the common methods.

You can try and use a hair dryer or heat gun, though we find that the Whizzy Wheel is the most effective tool to use, or potentially plastic razor blades in some scenario’s.

The approach to use is slightly different to a car, due to the different type of materials used in a boat. The scenario’s are:

 

  • Metal haul boat: the Whizzy Wheel will definitely work and have not impact on the surface, except for leaving a Sticker free boat
  • Fibre glass boat:
    • we recommend using caution here with the Whizzy Wheel as there has been a situation where the Whizzy Wheel marked the surface. We only have 1 recorded case, though recommend being caution
    • plastic razor blade: if the boat stickers are small, then a plastic razor blade is an option as won’t damage the surface or take too long. As fibre glass can be fragile, we don’t recommend metal razor blades

 

The below video shows a Wonder Wheel (the version before the Whizzy Wheel) removing boat stickers and decals very easily, which puts a smile on the boats owner having a sticker free boat

 

 

3.   Removing Decals and Stickers From Glass Window

 

This is a common situation, often when shop owners and retail shops need to remove stickers from the glass shop window.

The most common scenario’s is the store has sale that has ended and needs to remove the “sale stickers” or a new shop opens up and need the branding to be removed or has store advertising stickers need to be removed.

Even though this is a common situation, we rarely get questions about this as there is an easy option.

Using a Metal razor blade…

Now we don’t recommend the Metal Razor blade due to the potential to cut yourself, though it does easily remove stickers.

A better option is to buy either a plastic scraper of metal scraper from Home depot or Bunnings  with a wide blade. I recommend purchasing a scraper with a blade width of atleast 4 inches (10 cm’s).

 

Note: for the plastic scraper blades, usually the cheaper one (i.e. under $5), don’t have a sharp edge. We recommend paying a bit more, and getting a higher quality scraper, with a sharper edge that allows you to get under the edge of the decal to make it easier to take off.

The higher quality plastic scrapers can cost between $15 – 20’s.

 

plastic scaper

 

You’ll see below a classic example of a sale ending and the retail store needing to remove the advertising decals.

If you purchase a metal or plastic scraper, these jobs can be done in under 30 minutes as the Decals are relatively new (often less than a few months old) and the glass surface is flat which makes it easy to get under the sticker.

Note: on old windows, which can be quiet thin, we don’t recommend a metal scraper due to the potential of cracking the window with too much pressure

 

shop window stickers

 

The below video shows a plastic blade, that though not very wide, easily removes the stickers as it has a sharp plastic edge. This makes it easy to get under the lip of the sticker, making it easier to remove

 

 

4.   Removing Glass Frosting and Film

 

I can speak from personal experience that removing frosting from a house window is a fairly straight job (though removing the adhesive that was left over wasn’t much fun)

Frosting on windows is usually used for privacy reasons as it distorts what people outside can see in, though still provides a lot of sunlight

 

frosted window

 

In my home, I had used some film (that was not high quality) and within 1 year has bubbled and wrapped. (I didn’t expect my local hardware to stock low grade frosty).

The result was the frosting film needed to be removed and new film installed. To remove this film I used plastic scraper and took off the frosting within 10 minutes. The other tools available to use when removing frosted film are:

  1. Plastic scraper
  2. Metal scraper
  3. Finger nails
  4. Whizzy Wheel (only for commercial windows or thick residential windows)

Note: As our house window is quiet thin, we would not recommend using a whizzy wheel as the pressure you apply my cause cracking.

As the frosting film we used was not a high quality, unlike reputable brands such as 3M Vinyl  who provide frosting film, the film from the local hardware store didn’t even last one year before bubbling and losing it’s shape.

The result was a vast amount of adhesive was left on the surface window which was not easy to remove if used standard approach of metal/ plastic scraper, mentholated spirits, hot soapy water or household cleaning detergent.

Great success was had when we used a citrus degreaser such as available at Home Depot.

Over the years, we have found that citrus degreaser is clearly the best product to clean up surfaces when a sticker has been removed. It’s perfect for wiping away the left over adhesive and glue

 

5.   Removing Stickers or Decals from Bicycles or Motorcycles (motor bikes)

 

This is not a common question we receive, though some people have a need to take off a sticker from a motorcycle petrol tank or bicycle frame.

Bicycle frame: most bicycles have a clear lacquer around the frame which protects them from the weather and rust.

You can tell if your bicycle has a lacquer on the frame if you are unable to find a lip or edge on the sticker (note: the majority of road bicycles or bikes over $1,000 have a clear lacquer).

 

Bicycle sticker

 

Unfortunately in these situations, you can not remove the sticker unless you cut the lacquer which will then expose the frame to rust (unless you re-lacquer the area).

If you still want to remove the bicycle decal, then you can use a metal razor blade to cut the lacquer, peel off the sticker, then re-apply the lacquer to ensure you have a clean seal.

(I have not personally removed a bicycle sticker, though the following link may help in a sticker removal forum (note: a lot of people say respray the bike, use WD40 or Nail polish remover. The latter 2 won’t work if the bike has clear lacquer coating)

Motor Bike petrol tank: whether you have a road or dirt bike, we suggest only using a plastic razor blade to remove decals from your petrol tanks

(FYI – most road bikes have metal petrol tanks and dirt bikes often have a plastic petrol tank)

A plastic razor blade is recommended to avoid any potential scratching of the paint or cutting yourself.

You’ll also need to clean the petrol tank surface after the job to make sure the adhesive and any left over glue is remove, otherwise, riding your motor bike maybe not as comfortable as the adhesive will slightly stick to your pants.

 

6.   Removing Stickers or Decals from Wooden Basketball Court Floors

 

We have had one occasion where we helped a company remove advertising stickers from a basketball court. (and unfortunately it was not an NBA team)

Stickers generally come off fairly easily from wooden surfaces and would recommend

  1. Plastic scraper
  2. Metal scraper (only if a community basketball court, i.e. not a professional court in an arena)

Note: we don’t recommend a heat gun to remove stickers from a wooden basketball court as often the wood has a lacquer coating to protect it, and using a heat gun may affect the protective coating by slightly melting it.

 

We also would not recommend the whizzy wheel in case you take off the protective lacquer coating

 

basketball court stickers

 

7.   Removing Stickers or Decals from Public Signs

 

In Malaysia, they have a serious issue with people using stickers to advertise their products which are then stuck on street signs.

I had never heard of it until we helped out a customer with a Whizzy Wheel to help speed up the process of taking these sticker off street signs.

Often the removal of decals stuck onto public signs is outsourced to companies where the biggest driver is cost and getting the streets clean again.

In these situations, we would recommend using metal scrapers to take the stickers off the street signs. The main reasons are:

  1. It doesn’t matter if the street sign is slightly marked when the sticker is removed
  2. Cheap to buy

 

public street sign stickers

 

Now we have finished telling you the best ways to remove stickers, from all types of situation, let’s give you some bonus material.

 

Bonus Stuff:

How to clean the surface once your decal or sticker has been removed?

The bonus tip we can recommend is if you need to clean the surface once a sticker or decal has been taken off, is citrus degreaser such as sold by Home depot.

This is magic at getting rid of any left over grim, adhesive or glue. Generally, we recommend spraying it on the surface, leaving it for a few minutes, then wiping clean the surface.

Note: citrus degreaser is not suitable for plastic surfaces as can slightly damage the surface (i.e. it eats it away).

So Citrus Degreaser is a great cheap way to remove any adhesive, and usually only costs about $10 for a bottle. Make sure you have a nice ventilated area when using it and use rubber gloves or wash your hands thoroughly after use.

 

Our closing thoughts

Overall, the best sticker and decal removal tool is really dependent on the job. We have summarised our views in the “Best Sticker Removal Tools” table below.

 

 

Whizzy Wheel

Heat Gun

Metal Scraper

Plastic scraper

Metal razor blade

Cars – decal < 1 year old

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

Cars – decal > 1 year old

Yes

No

No

No

No

Boats

Yes

No

No

No

No

Glass windows

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Frosted Windows

Yes

No (residential windows)

Yes

Yes

No (residential windows)

Yes

No

Bicycles/ Motor Bikes

No

No

No

Yes

No

Public Signs

Yes

No

Yes

No

No

 

If you need any assisting determining the best sticker removal tool or how the Whizzy Wheel can help you take off stickers and decals, then please contact us (peter@pacificwebb.com.au or + 61 421 001 613).

 We would love to help continue to the quest to remove the world of ugly and unsightly stickers