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How to Safely Remove Decals or Emblems From Car Paint

Every now and then you may need to remove a decal, sticker, or emblem if you just bought a new or even a used car. I just went to the dealership about a month ago and the car we wanted was plastered in vinyl lettering AND emblems. As a professional in the business world, the classic car dealer decal is one of my personal pet peeves!

Truth is, you don’t need 11 different products or home remedies, just one or two effective products 🙂

In this post, I’ll show you how I remove car decals and emblems safely in a few easy steps–without damaging your clear coat.

Before you begin

The decal removal process is similar for vinyl decals and paper stickers, but you’ll want to take some precautions. Emblems require a slightly different process I’ll explain later, but first consider:

  • Is the decal on a painted surface?
  • Is the decal on plastic, metal, or glass?
  • Is the decal or emblem relatively new or baked-on?
Quick Tip

A heat gun or hair dryer can help soften adhesive on emblems or stuck on decals, but be careful not to melt plastic or rubber. Never apply high heat when softening adhesive, and for no longer than about a minute.

Older stickers and decals are often brittle and will come off in pieces, so take your time.

​Supplies you may need

  • Plastic razor blade or scraper
  • Hair dryer or heating gun
  • Microfiber towels
  • Detailing spray for lubrication
  • Trash can or plastic bag
  • Car polish and polisher (optional)
  • Isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol (optional)
  • Wax, sealant, or other coating (optional)

How to remove a vinyl decal from your car

Step 1: Slide a plastic razor blade underneath the edges

If the decal is on glass or paint and made of vinyl, a thin plastic scraper or plastic razor blade can make removal easier. I like to use a detailing spray during this process to lubricate the surface as I work with the scraper. Spray on, and gently slide the blade or scraper underneath while you follow up with a microfiber cloth.

Plastic Razor Blade Scraper

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For glass surfaces, you don’t have to worry about scratches and can use a metal razor blade if needed.

Always try to lift a corner of the decal and peel off the entire decal in one piece if you can. Once you remove some decals, the residue underneath will need to be treated separately.

Quick Tip

You can also use a microfiber cutting pad with polish to remove tiny paper fragments or residue. Just throw away the pad after use (since particles will get trapped in the fibers).

Step 2: Remove any remaining adhesive or residue

If you have a paper bumper sticker or decal, apply a liquid adhesive remover like Goo Gone and let it soak through.

Goo Gone Adhesive Remover

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Once saturated, it’s easier to carefully scrape off the particles. Never jab or rub a microfiber towel over a disintegrating sticker as you can scratch the paint.

For any remaining glue or particles, apply an adhesive remover to a microfiber towel and blot the area. When all the sticky residue is gone, I recommend cleansing the surface with isopropyl alcohol diluted with about 50% water; since adhesive removers can sometimes leave a film, the isopropyl alcohol applied with a clean cloth can remove it.

It’s a good idea to apply a a coat of wax, ceramic coating, or other protective coating once the surface is clean; this will add protection to the paint previously covered by the sticker and now exposed.

How to remove emblems from your car

Emblems are best removed by first softening the adhesive underneath. I’ve found car dealers often stick cheaper emblems on the paint, which are a bit easier to remove without heat compared to badges applied by your auto manufacturer.

Step 1: Use a heat gun or blow dryer to soften adhesive

Assuming the surface is clean, apply heat using a heat gun on a low setting for about a minute; you can also use a hair dryer for a couple of minutes.

Step 2: Use dental floss or fishing line to pop the decal off

I typically use dental floss to gently saw through the adhesive, careful not to make contact with the paint. Bring the floss toward you as you slide it back and forth. Never try to pry or pop these off with a scraper or tool.

If the decal is snug to the surface of the vehicle, try fishing line.

Step 3: Apply adhesive remover and remove any residue

Similar to decals, apply Goo Gone or a solvent with a clean cloth and carefully remove residue. As a final step, cleanse the surface with the isopropyl alcohol solution.

Compound or polish the paint as a last step

Since you can sometimes still see an outline of the emblem, consider blending the area with a polisher and light polish or compound. I recommend claying the surface first since iron deposits often accumulate around lettering or decals.

Check out our video on detailing polishers for beginners if you’re new to detailing your car.

As a final precaution, don’t rush when removing decals! You’re a lot more likely to damage paint or scratch the paint when in a hurry. Good luck and happy detailing.

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Baxter Overman is the founder of Carwash Country and has been been cleaning up dirty vehicles for nearly 20 years. Since 2017, he's helped thousands of beginners see better results by learning the fundamentals of washing and detailing. He's on a mission to make the car wash process more fun...and way easier.

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