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….