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The Best Way to Remove Any Car Bumper Sticker or Decal

Instead of ruining those fingernails, today I’m going to walk you through how exactly to remove a bumper sticker or decal from your car’s back glass, paint…or any exterior surface.

Truth is, you don’t need 11 different products or home remedies, just one or two effective products 🙂 Here’s everything you need to know.

What’s the best way to remove decals or stickers from a vehicle?

Spoiler alert: There is no single best way to remove a sticker or decal from a car. The best way depends on factors like the adhesive used, and if the sticker is on glass, painted metal, or plastic. Many bumper stickers can be easily removed because they have a weak adhesive backing. That said, some stickers with strong adhesives sometimes wind up on cars too!

Most vinyl stickers are single-layered and easy to remove; others have 2 or more layers or a paper layer that may require a lot of time, patience, and scraping.

Before we dive in, there are some best practices to keep in mind:

Do: Use a plastic scraper carefully on painted surfaces

Do: Use a detailing spray or soapy water for lubrication when scraping

Do: Try to remove all layers at once if a multi-layer sticker

Don’t: use razor blades on painted surfaces

Don’t: Apply heat too close to the paint

How to remove a sticker from car paint

A fast and effective way to remove stickers from car paint is to use a heat gun—so long as you don’t get too close. A hairdryer can work too. I recommend picking up a plastic razor blade for this job for any painted, plastic, or metal surface.

Plastic Razor Blade Scraper

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Step 1: Clean the surface

To start, use a mixture of soap and water or a detailing spray to remove any light dirt or gunk on the sticker itself. If the entire vehicle is very dirty, go ahead and wash it first.

Step 2: Use a heat gun to loosen the sticker adhesive

On a low setting, use a heat gun or hair dryer until the sticker warms up. Heat will make it easier to peel off stickers by softening the adhesive.

Caution!

Hold the heat gun several 4 to 5 inches from the paint, careful not to heat up the surface too much. Try to concentrate the heat on the sticker or decal. As soon as the sticker surface turns from warm to hot to the touch, turn off the heat. Don’t use a heat gun on or near plastic trim, as it can and will melt it.

Step 3: Carefully peel up the sticker

Work quickly to peel off the sticker before the adhesive cools. Since paint can obviously get scratched, it’s ideal to use plastic vs. metal blades to pry a corner up. Try to make contact with only the sticker and remove it by hand if you can.

If you have one small sticker, you can likely skip the heat gun and use a plastic scraper (or an old credit card) in combination with WD-40. A penetrating oil can help soften baked-on stickers, although some may require heat.

Simply put: if you have a bunch of stickers…heat or pressurized steam will make removal much easier.

How to remove a window decal on a vehicle

To remove a decal from the back glass or window, the best way is to use a razor blade.

With the blade in one hand, use a detailing spray or soap as a lubricant and try to peel the sticker up. Some stickers may flake off in a million pieces, others you can peel off by hand once you get it started. Window decals are generally the easiest to remove since some are actually clings or designed to be removed easily. 

Since auto glass is harder than a paint’s clear coat, you can use a razor blade the entire time and probably won’t need to apply heat.

How to remove sticker residue on a vehicle

You may notice an outline or layer of adhesive once the sticker is removed.

To remove leftover adhesive or a sticker outline, apply an adhesive remover like Goo Gone using a microfiber towel.

Goo Gone Adhesive Remover

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You can also use a clay bar and lubricant for this task since contaminants will bond to the clay.

One final step

Once the sticker is removed, spray a mixture of 10% quick isopropyl alcohol and 90% water—called an IPA wipedown—only if you used any kind of adhesive remover or WD-40. This will ensure these products don’t leave a film once dry. For glass, re-apply a quality glass cleaner like Invisible Glass for a streak-free finish.

Have a ton of stickers to remove? You may want to consider a professional detailer. Any good detailer or detailing shop will be able to remove stickers easily.

Need to remove imperfections on your paint?

With your sticker or decal removed, now’s a good time to remove contaminants on your paint; you can then polish out a few scratches.

If your paint looks dull or feels rough to the touch, start by claying your car to remove contaminants soap alone simply can’t.

Check out our walkthrough on how to clay a car for beginners for a complete tutorial.

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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