How to Remove Boat Decals

by Marina Martin

Many boat owners display the names of their boats with vinyl lettering, which can prove difficult to remove if you rename your boat or purchase a previously-owned one. Decorative stripes and manufacturer labels are also decals. Removal is a two-step process: you must first remove the decal itself and then remove the remaining glue underneath. You can choose from a wide selection of products and tools to remove decals from your boat. While a subtle ghost image of the original decal may remain, you can usually disguise this with new lettering or a new decal.

Heat the decal with a heat gun or blow dryer, melting the adhesive glue. Peel the decal off with your fingers, a plastic scraper or a plastic putty knife. Alternately, rub the decal off with a 3M Stripe-Off Wheel attached to a power drill. This will remove the decal without damaging the surface of the boat.

Wipe off the remaining adhesive with acetone, Goo Gone, WD-40, Goof Off, mineral spirits or a commercial adhesive remover and a white rag.

Buff and shine the surface once you remove all adhesive to remove or eliminate any remaining "ghost" outline of the decal or lettering.


  • check You can "soak" any remaining glue in your chosen remover by saturating a rag and taping the rag against the boat. Let it sit for an hour or more.


  • close Do not use a metal knife or scraper to remove decals; it may damage your boat's surface.

Items you will need

About the Author

This article was written by the It Still Runs team, copy edited and fact checked through a multi-point auditing system, in efforts to ensure our readers only receive the best information. To submit your questions or ideas, or to simply learn more about It Still Runs, contact us.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Images