Faded Memories Still Beaming from Your Bumper? How To Remove Car Decals and Stickers

Are the bumper stickers on your car no longer funny? Did that political candidate disappoint? Here's how to remove car decals and stickers- an instant makeover!

Decals Featured. Photo: Alice Pye
Decals Featured. Photo: Alice Pye

A bumper or window makeover will refresh your ride.

Whether you bought a used car or have had your car for so long that your bumper stickers need an overhaul, the question of how to remove car decals is a nagging task; removing those gunk-y things can be a real pain. In the process you stand the chance of scratching the glass or damaging the paint, both of which are harder and more expensive to repair than any sticker is even worth to begin with. Yet the thought of leaving those decrepit, peeling, sun bleached reminders of the past seems too embarrassing; you are willing to risk it all for a clean slate. There are a few simple things to remember when you want to remove a car decal without making a mess.

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Related: Spring Car Care: 7 Ways To Prepare for Warmer Temperatures

I'M Not Into This Sticker Anymore. What Do I Do Now? Photo: Alice Pye

I’m not into this sticker anymore. But how to remove car decals without doing damage to the car? Photo: Alice Pye

Cleanliness Is Next To Un-stickiness

No matter if your sticker is on glass or paint, the first thing you should always do is wash the area with the offending sticker with some soap and water gently and thoroughly without scrubbing too much.

Related: Help! The Car Window Sticker is So Confusing; This is What You Need To Know

This will get any sand, grime, or debris that may have found its way under the adhesive. These tiny hitchhikers could scratch and damage your paint while you are diligently working on scraping the sticker off.

Get it: Meguiars Mist & Wipe Detailing spray

Clean The Sticker And The Area Around It. Photo: Alice Pye

Clean the sticker and the area around it. Photo: Alice Pye

To Peel that Sticker off, Heat it Up

Now that the area is prepared it’s time to operate. Next step is to help the glue let go of its death grip on your vehicle. For that we will need a simple tool, yet one not always found in the garage but rather in your bathroom: the handy dandy hair dryer! A heat gun will work in a pinch, but may get too hot and damage the paint or finish of your car. Blast the sticker area with the hair dryer on the hottest setting for a few minutes, or until you just see the edges of your decal start to curl up.

Related: Spring Cleaning: Have You Cleaned Your Car Lately?

Have an old credit card handy, or anything plastic with a relatively sharp edge, so you can start to scrape the sticker off if you can’t quite grab it with your fingers. On glass, you can use a safety razor for scraping as long as you are careful.

Get it: One of our favorites, the L’Ange Hair Soleil Professional Hair Dryer

Keep Gently Lifting The Sticker Using An Old Gift Card. Trust Me, There Was No Money Left On This One. Photo: Alice Pye

Keep gently lifting the sticker using an old gift card. Trust me, there was no money left on this one. Photo: Alice Pye

Removing a Sticker from your Car Means you Need to Remove the Glue, Too

Once you’ve got the entirety of the sticker off you may be left with some adhesive residue where the sticker used to be. If the adhesive isn’t coming off with some soap and water, try using vinegar or vodka or cooking oil. All will work to get that pesky sticker gunk off, so just try whatever you have on hand. If even that doesn’t work, there are plenty of goo removers on the market you can try.

Get it: Goo Gone Adhesive remover + Scraper 

And She'S Off! Photo: Alice Pye

And she’s off! Photo: Alice Pye

After you’ve successfully removed any and all traces of whatever emo band someone’s teen brother was into in high school you will want to give one final wash with soap and water. If you’re working on a glass area, clean the class with a glass cleaner and wipe dry with a soft lint free cloth. If you’re working on the body of your vehicle and you worry about keeping a pristine finish, you may want to wax and buff the area to protect the paint.

Get it: Microfiber cleaning towels perfect for cleaning your car

Give The Area A Good Rinse To Remove Remaining Gunk. Photo: Alice Pye

Give the area a good rinse to remove remaining gunk. Photo: Alice Pye

Tabula Rasa for Your Car

Now your decal journey begins anew. You are holding the reins to your bumper sticker future. All the prime bumper real estate is yours for sticking on! But before you go hog wild, future proof yourself before deciding on how many stickers you will stick on and where they will go.

Get it: New stickers for your car! 

Removing A Sticker From A Window. Photo: Alice Pye

Removing a sticker from a window. Photo: Alice Pye

Do not stick anything on or near any part of your vehicle that gets hot, like your exhaust or your hood. Your sticker will melt faster than soft serve on the 4th of July. Not only will it melt, it will probably burn up to a crisp. The smell will be pretty horrible but you can also damage your paint, or even risk setting your entire car on fire. Also, don’t cover up any access panels needed for maintenance with stickers. Think about where the edges of the sticker might end up and try to position them where they are accessible in case you change your mind about which political candidate you plan on showing your support for. Finally clean the area with soap and water before putting on any new stickers to make sure you are not trapping grime under the adhesive. Skipping this step will definitely leave scratch marks when you do end up removing your decal.

Clean Back Window! Photo: Alice Pye

Clean back window! Photo: Alice Pye

Now that you know everything there is to know about removing decals from your car, go ahead and try it out yourself. Collect a bumper sticker from every kitschy roadside attraction or scrape away all traces of your identity from your car to retain anonymity, but do it without fear of damaging your car or your sanity.

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On a sunny April Fools’ Day, Alice bought a stick shift 1963 Ford F-100 on whim with absolutely no... More about Alice Pye