Archive for the ‘How To….’ Category

How to Remove Vinyl Decals- Part 5: “DO NOT’s”

Monday, August 1st, 2011

As tempting as it may be to “shortcut” the process, remember, there is no shortcut!

1. NEVER use a razor blade. NEVER. NEVER, with one exception….
If you are removing decals from glass, it may be easier to begin with a brand new, sharp razor. The vinyl may peel off in ribbons, leaving very little residue behind. This is especially perfect for removing small letters. Larger areas may require several blade changes. Depending on the glass surface and age, the blades may scratch, so take your time and be careful. Also, heat on glass may crack it, so utmost caution is required when working with glass surfaces.

2. NEVER use EZ OFF. Just don’t.

3.  Do not “rush” the process. Do a good job. If the vehicle arrives at our shop and there is still adhesive etc. left, we will have to charge you to remove the offending areas. We cannot install decals over residue; it will lead to adhesion failure.

4.  If you just cannot complete the task, DO NOT FEEL BAD!!! It has taken us over 20 years of removal experience to get the feel of the process. We still get burned fingers (and a bit crabby), but realize that it does take time, and eventually it will be finished!

How to Remove Vinyl Decals- Part 4: “Cleaning this Mess up…

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Now that you have the decals removed, the surface will have some adhesive left. The amount will vary depending on the heat used, the vinyl used and the success of your removal.

For small areas of adhesive, we spray the remover of choice (Trapper) or another product called Rapid Remover available through sign supply distributors, on the area, wait a minute and wipe off with a paper towel. We may need to do this a couple of times to make sure all residue is gone. Make sure to wear the rubber gloves and eye protection. Even though the Trapper is a “natural” product, it will sting if it makes it into your eyes and for some people, contact with the skin causes burning and redness.

For thicker, larger areas of adhesive, we will use the same process as above, but after a bit longer wait, use a soft squeegee to scrape off the first loose layer of adhesive. At this point, DO NOT try to remove the adhesive that is not loose yet. You will just take a risk of scratching the vehicle. Repeat the spraying process, wait, then scrape. It may take 3-5 times to remove the thicker adhesives. When you are at the last thin layer, utilize the paper towel to do the final clean up.

During this process, you really cannot walk away. You are committed. The chemical properties of adhesive removers are such that if they are left on a vehicle for longer than a few minutes without being neutralized (soap and water wash with a clear water rinse) they will soften and damage the factory paint. If you do need to step away, for more than 10 minutes, run clear water over the surface until the “milky” coloration from the remover is gone. Once you return to the project, you may need to dry the surface to resume removal as any water will impede the remover’s strength.

Once the adhesive is removed, wash the entire vehicle with soap and warm water, changing as needed and rinse with clear water. Check for any missed spots and do a quick touch up with remover. Wipe the small area with a wet paper towel.

How to Remove Vinyl Decals- Part 3: “Get to it!”

Monday, August 1st, 2011

So now that everything has been prepared, where do you start?

In the shop, we begin by seeing if any of the decals will peel off by themselves without and assistance from a heat gun or chemicals. Hopefully if a high quality vinyl was used and the truck or trailer was well maintained, some of the decals will come off without any heat and without leaving any residue behind. Usually, this does not happen. We then apply a little bit of heat to the decals to see if they will peel off.

The heat stage is a bit tricky; not enough heat, the adhesive will stay on the surface. Too much heat, the face stock melts and becomes goo. It takes a bit of practice to get the heat settings correct for each material that we remove. Different brands and quality levels will remove differently. Be careful not to heat the surface too much, as you will burn the paint under or around the decal.

Try to heat the decals so that the adhesive removes WITH the colored face stock. Depending on the quality of vinyl, this may or may not be possible. A high performance or air-release vinyl is manufactured so that the adhesive is sprayed on to the colored face stock, making the product “one” piece and usually removes together. A calendared vinyl or intermediate is made by applying pressure to a sheet of colored face stock and a sheet of adhesive to bind them together. This type of material usually comes apart in (2) layers as well; colored face stock peels of easily form the adhesive that is still stuck on the vehicle.

To actually remove the decals, heat the decal evenly and pick at an edge of the decal with your fingers to try to get a “hold” section. Move the heat gun away from your fingers and the decal while you are pulling with the other hand.(We hold the heat gun in our left hand-as we are right-handed, and pick with our right hand.)Once you are able to get enough to pull, alternate heating the decal and pulling at a 45 degree angle. Try not to heat the decal while you are pulling it as this will cause the decals to stretch too much and most likely break away from the balance left on the vehicle. Expect your fingers to be hot and sore after a few minutes. This goes with the territory.

Be sure to keep track of the hot end of the heat gun while you are working. Make sure it is not leaning against the vehicle, heating up an area you don’t want heated! But most importantly, make sure that the hot end of the gun NEVER TOUCHES YOU! We have had some close calls with clothing burning through by just touching the end quickly and unfortunately have been branded permanently by the tip grazing our legs upon setting the gun down. We do leave the gun on while we are heating and pulling; there would be too much heat loss if we shut it off between heatings.

We have experimented with gloves and squeegees and all sorts of things to remove decals. Unfortunately, the best method for us still seems to be the “burned finger” method. We can feel the tension on the edges of the vinyl, it comes off a bit easier than being stuck to a glove and it is just faster.

(If the decals are old, dry and cracked, we will utilize a decal removal disc that is mounted on a corded drill. We use a corded vs a cordless so that we can get the RPM’s high enough to remove the decal and adhesive quickly without heating the surface much, which causes streaked decal residue and surface warping.

This would be the point in the removal process where it is best to let the professionals handle it. It is a messy process, with decal material flying about, requiring safety equipment and quite a bit of shop and personal clean up after.)

How to Remove Vinyl Decals- Part 2: “The prep-work stage ”

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Step # 1: Identify the decal materials and surfaces

If you are setting up a design for new lettering on your vehicle with Image Advantage, and you have existing decals to be removed, we have you bring the vehicle to our shop so we can attempt to identify the age, type and manufacturer of material. We will remove an inconspicuous piece and give you recommendations on problem areas you may encounter. We will also recommend chemical cleaners to remove adhesive residue.

Step #2: Assemble tools and cleaners

To a job correctly, you must have the right tools and this is true for any project. In the case of removing decals, there will be an investment in a few tools, which don’t have to be “top of the line”.

The most important, in my opinion, is a high-temperature heat gun. Hair dryers can work, but most of the time they do not get the face stock (colored part) of the vinyl hot enough to penetrate through to the adhesive. Hair dryers can burn out if used for a long period of time (several hours long) and will make you wife a little less than happy with you. In our shop, we use dual temp Milwaukee heat guns, but a lower end single temp gun will suffice.

A garbage can. A large garbage can. When you pull the vinyl off, resist the urge to just throw it on the floor. At this point, the adhesives have been heated almost to a liquid stage and like to stick to anything and a concrete floor or driveway are favorite places for them to hang out. Besides, then you have to pick them up/off the floor. Try not to handle things twice…it just makes it a longer process. Drag the can with you as you work around the vehicle.

A plastic squeegee for body work or decal install.  We set aside our old squeegees for adhesive removal. You do not want to use the same squeegee for adhesive removal and decal install. First, the adhesive will make the squeegee sticky. Second, if it gets near a heat source, it will warp the straight, flat edge.

Adhesive remover. In the “old days”, we used all sorts of (in my opinion) “evil” solvents; MEK (methyl, ethyl ketone), Prep-sol, turpentine, Xylol (Xylene) to remove paint and adhesive from surfaces. In our shop, ever since the formation of Image Advantage Signs, and before the “green” movement, we have used natural, plant based products to remove adhesives. Our favorite adhesive remover is Trapper by Northwoods/Superior Chemical. It is a citrus peel based de-greaser that removes adhesive. It is also a great cleaner for stains on trailers. We purchase Trapper in 5 gallon drums and use about a gallon per year. Why only a gallon per year? We utilize the heat gun to it’s potential to remove the adhesive with the face stock, without leaving much on the vehicle. Also the Trapper is super concentrated and you only need to use a fine mist from a spray bottle to activate the adhesive. It does however, need to be neutralized with a water rinse, in order to not damage any painted surfaces.

PPE: Personal protection equipment  Chemical resistant gloves, safety glasses/goggles just because…

“Wipers” or paper towels to wipe off adhesive etc.

Wash bucket with soap and a hose. To clean and neutralize adhesive removers.

“How?” See the upcoming Part 3 post….

Removing Decals..Part 1: “Do I Really Want to do this Myself?”

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Sometimes you have to remove decals from a vehicle or item you have and you wonder if there is a “correct” or “professional” method to remove them.

Well, unfortunately, decal removal is not an exact science, and even us “professionals” have to put a lot of time, energy and effort into decal removal.

Remember, when we install decals, they are semi-permanent; they are meant to stay on through all kinds of weather, washing and for many years. So something that should stay on so well is not going to be that easy to remove.

If you ask sign professionals, we may all give the same answer; “We can remove the decals for you at $X per hour. Without knowing what type exactly of material is on your vehicle/trailer, we have to charge it out at a Time and Material rate.”

Hmmmm, so it could cost $X or it could cost $Y or $Y+ or $X+Y+3.14 times pi…you see the dilemma as the client.

Often, sign shops will offer to give you some tips on how you can remove the decals yourself. This usually results in 1 of 3 possible outcomes:

Outcome #1: You follow the tips to a “T” and realize that even though it took MANY, MANY hours and some burned fingers, a lot of mess and a feeling that it would never be done, it was worth saving the extra cash. Now you can invest that toward some neat effects for your new lettering or upgrade to a wrap.

Outcome #2: The client (you) uses the tips the shop gives you, but you decide to “speed up” the process. After burned fingers, cut hands, some chipped paint and being only a quarter of the way done, you decide to let the pros handle it. Some things just aren’t worth the time and energy. However, it may take longer and have some additional cost to repair the damage done with the razor blade.

Outcome #3: After pondering the pros and cons of the removal process, you decide to just let the shop take care of it. They know what they are doing and you won’t have any burned fingers!

Let’s assume you have opted to give it a go and try your hand at decal removal.

What do you need to know and what materials do you need? (See Part 2)

How to install vinyl decals.

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

At times, you will be able to install some of the decals from your local shop.

Usually, they will be smaller sized decals for equipment, tools or other items. Sometimes they will be large graphics, for a trailer or race car.

At Image Advantage, 90% of the decals we cut are 3M Comply which has an awesome air-release adhesive that virtually eliminates bubbles and creases during installation. The balance are high performance 3M vinyls that can be applied with a “wet” solution or as-is “dry”.

The following link and post, will help guide you through the steps. In either case, the method for install is the same, as shown:

How to apply your vinyl graphics

Friday, May 08, 2009

Proper prep and careful application will yield the best results

By Roland R. Irish III

So you have to install some vinyl lettering! Here are some instructions to help you through the process. First, keep your decals away from any liquids and overspray. While cleaning and doing prep work, put the vinyl graphics in a safe place to avoid damage. The backing paper will wrinkle if it gets wet,and the transfer tape adhesive can also be affected by moisture.

Above all,take your time and be careful during installation. This material cannot be peeled up and put down again if you wrinkle it during application. We are not responsible for graphics damaged by application problems.

The sign surface must be warm for proper application. Our rule of thumb is that it must be at a minimum of 60 degrees for several hours before application. We do not recommend applying graphics outdoors.

The surface must be clean and dry. Wash vehicle door panels with degreaser (an automotive product or dish detergent is fine) and rinse off. Wash same area a second time with spray-on window cleaner and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Do not leave the surface wet.

To begin, mark off a straight line on the top of the decal with a pencil and straightedge. Mark center points on the top and bottom of the decal then proceed as follows.

1. Choose a straight line on the vehicle and measure up or down from that line to the line you drew on the decal to position the decal on the door. Measure and mark center points both vertically and horizontally. Center the decal on the panel using the center points you made on the decal.

2. Apply two strips of masking tape down the center of the decal. Then, tape down the left edge to the truck. If your masking tape doesn’t stick, you didn’t dry the surface adequately. Remove everything and start over!

3. Fold back the right side of the decal and separate the backing (also called the liner) from the decal.The vinyl graphics will remain stuck to the application tape. Cut the backing paper up close to the tape “hinge” you made. Keep a good grip on the vinyl—don’t let it flip down or fold over. It sticks like crazy to whatever it touches.

4. Now, holding the vinyl away from the vehicle with one hand, use a squeegee in the other hand to press the vinyl down to the surface, as you see Dave Collise doing here. Always begin in the center and rub out and away towards the edge. Work up and down, away from the center hinge and out towards the right.Take your time.The slower you, go the fewer bubbles you’ll end up with!

5. Once you have finished the right side, remove all the masking tape. Lift the left half of the decal and remove the remaining backing material. Hold the decal in your left hand, keeping it away from the surface of the door. Squeegee from the center up and down, working towards the left edge. Once the graphic is down, use very firm pressure to re-squeegee the entire image again, starting at the center and working towards the edges.

6. Starting from a corner, peel back the application tape and pull it diagonally. Pull firmly, keeping your hand close to the surface so the application tape is peeled off almost over itself. Don’t pull it out towards you—you’ll lift the letters. If your decal starts to lift off, odds are the surface was not completely dry after cleaning. Rub the tape back down, squeegee hard, and let the decal stand for 24 hours. Then try again.

7. After the tape has been removed, cover the squeegee with the Teflon sleeve. Working from the center out, rub the graphics down firmly, rotating the sleeve around the squeegee as you go. (The sleeve will last for weeks if you do this.) If you have a few small bubbles prick them with a pin to allow air to escape and squeegee down. (Or you can wait for the sun to do it.)

8. Another quick way to remove bubbles, and also seal the vinyl down is to use a heat gun or a hair dryer to warm the film. As you warm the bubble, it will enlarge slightly. Prick it with a pin and it will pop right down flat. Remember, that it takes pressure to bond the adhesive to the surface, and heat helps the bond. Use heat if you must seal the film around a rivet or other irregularity.

This article may be reproduced by SignCraft subscribers for the expressed purpose of a customer handout. —Editor

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