How to Remove Car Decals (from Paint or Windows)

Last Updated on July 28, 2021

Everyone has this thought at least once through their car ownership lifetime. Maybe you just purchased that car and there’s still a dealership sticker on the window. Maybe you think:  “A window banner? That would look so cool! That way my car will look like a real racecar!”

If you’re into NASCAR, maybe you’ll even throw a Fig Newtons sticker on the windshield and a couple of numbers on the back of your bumper. Drift boys? Don’t even start! Let’s sticker our whole car and maybe even throw some cute anime girl on the hood!

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but like some tattoos, you may reach a point where you want to have that bumper sticker removed.

Related: 6 Tips for DIY Auto Detailing

Best Way to Remove Car Decals From Paint

remove car decals from paint

Removing bumper stickers from your car’s paint can be a bit tricky as blemishes reduce the value of your car should you decide to sell it. Here are some suggestions as to how you can remove vinyl decals from your paint.

See Also: How Much Does it Cost to Repaint a Bumper?

#1 – Wash Your Car

The main reason you’ll scratch up your paint is if you have a bunch of dirt that is trapped around your decal’s adhesive portion. As you scrub off the adhesive, you’ll also be pressing debris into your car’s paint, leaving gouges and scratches galore!

This isn’t ideal, so make sure to give your car a bath first and at the very least, clean the decal area with soapy water.

#2 – Heat Up That Stubborn Decal

Don’t use a heat gun, we recommend grabbing a blow dryer and a long extension cord. Use the blow dryer on the sticker to melt the adhesive a bit. This will allow you to peel off your decal easily along with the adhesive without damaging your paint.

If you need to, use vinegar to get the rest of the adhesive off of your paint without destroying your clearcoat. Please also keep in mind that you should still wash the surface on and around the decal before attempting this.

Another alternative to the blow dryer is to pour very hot water over the decal in order to soften the adhesive. Then, gently use a credit card to get underneath an edge of the decal. Go around the whole circumference of the sticker and try to grab parts with your fingers as you peel off the decal.

#3 – Chemical Removal

As mentioned up above, you can use vinegar or soapy water to get rid of that decal, but my favorite to this day is a little product called “Goo-Gone”. It’s a bit more heavy-duty, but in a world where you really just want to get that sticker off your car/laptop/window right now, it is a godsend.

Simply apply Goo-Gone to the sticker, wait a couple of minutes for the chemical to do the work, then grab your credit card as you peel the sticker off! I have yet to run into a sticker where this doesn’t work.

Related: How to Remove Plasti Dip From Wheels

Best Way to Remove Car Decals from a Window

remove car decal from window

Newer Window Decals

If the sticker hasn’t been on the window and you just messed up a couple of letters, then you should be able to get it off with a wet sponge and a putty knife:

  1. Wet the sponge with some cold or warm water.
  2. Rub the sponge over your fresh decal until the water is evenly applied.
  3. Then, use the putty knife to slide under the decal as you remove it.
  4. Get enough of the sticker folded up so you can grab it with your fingers.
  5. Peel off the sticker gently, it should come off in one piece.
  6. If it doesn’t, or there is some residual stickiness, don’t worry! We have stronger ways.

Old Window Decals

If the sticker has been stuck on your rear window for longer than you can remember, we recommend you use vinegar in place of water:

  1. First, wet the same sponge with vinegar
  2. Then apply the vinegar to the window decal with your sponge
  3. Let the vinegar soak in for a couple of minutes
  4. Then, use the putty knife to peel off the sticker 
  5. This should remove the sticker and the adhesive residue
  6. Many people then clean their glass with glass cleaner and a microfiber towel at this point

Alternate Method

If the above solutions don’t work, the next, more severe step is to use WD-40 in place of vinegar and water. (Note: do not spray WD-40 on the interior of your vehicle as the chemicals inside will destroy your interior fabrics.)

  1. Make sure you have a sponge, WD-40, paper towels, and your putty knife.
  2. Spray the sponge with WD-40, then sponge the decal .
  3. Let the decal sit for a couple of minutes.
  4. Then, use your putty knife to peel of the sticker as you tried above.
  5. You may need to scrub harder with a paper towel at this point, as the decal and adhesive will start to clump up as you remove it.

I will also add that auto parts stores do sell commercial adhesive removal bottles that are specifically designed for this purpose. The method will be very similar to the above suggestions, except you would use the purpose-built cleaner.

Other Decal and Bumper Sticker Removal Methods

Maybe the above suggestions aren’t working for you, or you’re wanting to be a little bit different? Here are a few other bumper sticker and car decal removal methods worth trying.

Baking Soda

Try using baking soda and warm water, which you can apply with a toothbrush to the sticker area. As with all of these suggestions, try it first in an unnoticeable area to make sure it won’t mess up your paint job for some reason.

Petroleum Jelly

Do you have some petroleum jelly in the medicine cabinet? Throw that on there for good measure, then peel off the sticker with a Whole Foods gift card because you eat healthy!

Tea Tree Oil

Another method is to use Tea Tree oil, which doesn’t release harmful chemicals into the environment while allowing you to peel off your decal a little easier.

Lighter Fluid

If Goo-Gone isn’t intense enough for you, I’m betting you have some lighter fluid in the garage just waiting to get some good use. Not that you need it to start a fire, it’s just there in case of rain, don’t worry, I understand. Throw some Kerosene or Lighter fluid on that sticker, if you’re so inclined.

Make sure you don’t let it set for more than 2 minutes as you don’t really want that stuff sitting on your paint for too long. If that doesn’t get rid of the goo, but lets you peel off the sticker with relative ease, then use mineral spirits or WD-40 to get the rest of the adhesive off.

Final Thoughts

As is the case with all of the above methods, make sure to wash and wax the previously-gooey area once you’ve removed the decal. This will protect your paint for years to come! Now, that wasn’t too hard, was it? Let me know in the comments below if there’s a tried and true method I’m leaving out.

 

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