Archive for August, 2011

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.)