How To Safely Remove Stickers From Your Car

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Some hot water, a razor blade, and a little sticker cleaner is all it takes to remove that tramp stamp

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The Psychology of Car Stickers

Personalizing your car with labels and logos may sound fun, but when it comes time to remove a sticker from your car, you may find yourself instantly regretting the decision. A car is, in many ways, an extension of who we are; just as we dress ourselves up, do our hair, or even get a tattoo or piercing, we may want to customize our vehicle to reflect our personality. This can take the form of a humorous sticker of Garfield exclaiming his hatred of Mondays on the back of your Honda CR-V, or it could be a bit more specific, like a campaign sticker for a candidate you truly believe. Over time, though, our interests and priorities change, and you may eventually want to remove it, only to find that it's a lot harder than just slapping it on.

Regardless of where the ticker is situated, it is likely going to leave some adhesive behind, or it may tear and flake. If you were reckless enough to apply it directly to the paintwork of your car, then you could be looking at some serious repainting after you finally scrape it all off. But, before you go and make another decision you'll regret later, take a gander at this guide on how to remove stickers from your car window or bumper without leaving any lasting damage.

Car With Stickers unsplash.com
Sticker On Car unsplash.com

The Different Types of Stickers

First off, you should know that there are a few different kinds of stickers, and exactly where they are placed can have a serious impact on the method you use to remove them. It is far more difficult to get stickers off the paintwork than it is to simply peel or scrape them off the windshield. So, if you decked your Dodge Charger out in full racing decals, prepare for an arduous task.

First of all, stickers are usually designed to be applied either to glass or directly to the car body, like a bumper sticker. Depending on the material used in the production of said sticker, it may be more suitable in one place than another. The different options you get when choosing a sticker for your vehicle include:

  • Clear vinyl
  • White vinyl
  • Reflective vinyl
  • Glow in the dark vinyl
  • Perforated film
  • Permanent adhesive
  • Front-facing adhesive
  • Front-facing cling
  • White cling
  • Clear cling
  • Magnet material

What the sticker is made of will also affect the method used to remove it later. If you want something a little more temporary for your low-key Toyota Corolla, a magnet sticker uses no glue, so you can safely remove it without needing to use an adhesive remover or sticker cleaner. However, it cannot be applied to a plastic surface, and will have to be placed directly onto the paintwork, risking scratches.

Remove Sticky Residue From a Car pexels.com
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Tips to Remove Stickers From Car Windows and Paintwork

It is much easier to remove stickers from glass than car paintwork, but some of the tips and preparation are the same. Here are some tricks you can use to get rid of old stickers the easy way:

  1. Clean the area: It's important to remove any dirt or grit from on or around the sticker with soapy water to avoid scratching the glass or paint when you start the removal process. You don't need any special tools for this, but a soft microfiber washcloth would be best.
  2. Apply some heat: A simple hairdryer is all you need to help loosen up the adhesive. Just be sure to hold it several inches away from the sticker if it's over the paint, as high heat can cause warping or cracking. If you're the rugged type and have one of the more rugged truck models to clean up, we won't hold it against you if you use a heat gun instead.
  3. Start peeling: You can use your fingernail or something thin and plastic to get under the sticker. A razor blade is also an option, but metal runs a higher risk of scratching the surface. Coating the area in ammonia-free automotive glass cleaner can help to ensure the blade runs more smoothly across the surface when scraping. To avoid ripping or tearing, you may need to loosen the sticker from multiple angles.
  4. A sticky situation: If the previous steps weren't sufficient to loosen up the sticker, then you can employ a few other tricks. These include soaking the sticker in white vinegar, spraying some WD40 under any loose edges, or using commercial solvents like Goo-Gone.
  5. Dealing with sticky residue: Things aren't done once the sticker is off. You will likely still need to remove some sticky residue from the car afterward. You can use the same products mentioned in tip 4, but rubbing alcohol, baking soda, or nail polish remover (acetone) are also effective at dissolving glue - be sure to rinse the area with soap and water afterward, though, as leaving these on can wear away at the top coat of the paint.
  6. Wash and wax: Once you are satisfied that the sticker has been removed and all the adhesive has been cleaned up, wipe the area down again with a soapy cloth. If you were removing a bumper sticker or another type of decal, you will want to wax the area, too. It is not unlikely that some of the clear coat will be lost in the process, so adding another layer of protection is the best way to ensure your car keeps looking its best.
Car Sticker pexels.com

FAQs

Do car stickers come off in the car wash?

For the most part, stickers are designed to withstand a certain level of washing. Only EZ-Stick vinyl stickers are less durable. You will generally need a tool to remove stickers, such as a plastic spatula or razor blade, along with lots of heat to loosen up the adhesive.

How do you remove car decals without damaging paint?

Whether you need to remove dealer decals or regret a spur-of-the-moment decision to spruce up your ride, there are some easy steps you can take to remove auto stickers. Simply clean the area with soapy water, heat up the sticker with a hairdryer or heat gun, peel it off, clean up the residue, and wax the exposed paint.

Will rubbing alcohol hurt car paint?

When diluted accordingly, isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol shouldn't put your paint job at risk. However, it should never be used on freshly painted cars, and never at full strength - always wash the area and polish afterward, too.

Where do you put car stickers?

Most people park their cars facing forward, so the best place to put a sticker, if you want it to be seen, is the rear. This is why campaign stickers are almost always designed for the bumper. However, the rear window is also a good place. This is why, if you drive minivans, you should always place your 'children on board' sticker on the back window, where it can be seen clearly.

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