How to Remove Decals From Any Metal, Plastic, or Painted Surface

by Allen Moore

Automotive decals range from factory pin striping and model designation to political bumper stickers or other decals that declare your personal interests or modifications to the vehicle. When striving to remove the decals, remain aware of potential damage you can cause to the surface sporting the decal; take it off the wrong way, and you can cause serious damage to the vehicle. Once you've removed the decal, properly care for the area with your preferred wax.

Heat the decal with a hair dryer to loosen the adhesive that holds the decal to the vehicle. Touch the decal to gauge the surface temperature, and once it feels consistently warm to the touch, turn off the hair dryer and set it nearby.

Work under the edges of the decal with a detailing razor to lift it from the surface of the vehicle. Detailing razors are made of plastic and look like metal razor blades. Purchase detailing razors at most auto parts retailers or other stores with a significant automotive wares section.

Peel the decal back and away from the vehicle while cleaving the adhesive away with the detailing razor. Continue this until you remove the entire decal from the vehicle.

Apply a quarter-sized spot of acetone to a clean, cotton rag. Wipe the leftover decal adhesive from the vehicle with the rag and acetone --- do not pour the acetone directly onto the vehicle. Repeat this until you've removed all the adhesive.

Clean the area thoroughly with a quality brand of car wash detergent and water. Dry the area with a clean, cotton rag.

Apply a layer of car wax to the area with a car wax applicator to protect the finish.


  • Follow this procedure to remove automotive badges and emblems as well, with the exception of using dental floss to cut through the adhesive between the emblem and the vehicle's surface before moving to the adhesive removal portion of the procedure and continuing from there.

Items you will need

About the Author

Allen Moore's career includes awards in poetry and creative fiction, published lyrics, fiction books and nonfiction articles as well as a master certification in automotive service from the Ford Motor Company. Moore is a contributing writer for RF365.com and various other websites, a ghostwriter for Rainbow Writing and has over a dozen works of fiction currently in print.

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