Vinyl Lettering Removal
What follows is a description of techniques we use. There is no implied guarantee intended of any sort, if you should choose to use any of these techniques for your own purposes. The heat and peel method is described here. There are also stripping wheels that are sometimes used on autos.
Vinyl lettering removal is a simple procedure but it must be understood that it is destructive of the vinyl. On glass simply scrape off the vinyl lettering using a razor blade scraper being careful not to damage the glass. On painted metal surfaces vinyl lettering removal without damage to the underlying surface becomes much trickier. If the vinyl is good quality and was properly installed and if the paint is comparable to automotive or baked-on enamel, removal can be accomplished using just a hair dryer and your fingers. Heat guns can also be used but care must be taken since they can over heat the surface and your fingers very easily.
Start by choosing a warm sunny day with little breeze. Alternatively you can choose to work indoors if you have a room temperature space to do so. If indoor temps are not warm enough, heat lamps might be beneficial. Before you start, determine what is behind the metal you are about to heat. This can be very important as, for example, a contractor’s trailer with potential combustibles or flammables inside or a car door which might have flammable insulation inside. Or a liquefied gas storage tank. Gently heat a section of vinyl to start loosening the adhesive. Be careful to not overheat by keeping your heat source moving at all times. When the area is warm focus your heat at the end of a letter or a point or corner and increase the temperature gradually by bringing the hair dryer closer. Pick at the vinyl with a finger nail until it slips loose and you can grab it. Gently peel but not out and away from the surface but rather fold the vinyl over and pull along the surface. If the piece of letter you are peeling tears off, it is because you have applied either too much or too little heat. The heat must be just right to allow the vinyl and it’s adhesive to soften enough to peel but not so much that the vinyl breaks or the surface scorches. As you work one section of the vinyl, aim your waste heat towards the area where you will be working next so as to pre-warm it. It is very tricky to arrange your hands and heat so as not to burn your fingers. But do not give up on this because the more patient you are, the more adhesive will come off with the vinyl so you do not have to work it off separately. Expect that some cleaning of adhesive and gum will be necessary. We use a citrus based adhesive and goo remover available at our local hardware store that works well. To then clean up the goo remover use a degreaser of your choice.
If the above has not worked it is probably due to age or poor materials. There are some older decal type products that are especially stubborn. We have had reasonably good luck applying the citrus based goo remover directly to the vinyl and allowing it to ‘work’ for ten minutes or so. This softens the vinyl so that it can be scrapped using a soft plastic scrapper like a credit card or plastic spatula available from hardware stores. Reapply and let sit on tougher spots. If this does not work, auto body supply stores offer a vinyl stripping wheel for use in an electric drill which through heat and friction breaks down the vinyl and adhesive into a gum. Finish by using the goo remover in successive applications to clean up the gum. This takes quite a bit of effort and repeated applications. Finish by using a degreaser to clean the surface.
This is just our approach to vinyl removal. Contact your local professional for best results. Auto body shops as well as sign shops do alot of this kind of work.