Bumper stickers: They might be funny, serious, thought-provoking or political. One thing’s for sure, if they’ve outlived their time or if you buy a vehicle decorated with them, you may want to know how to remove bumper stickers from your vehicle.
Vinyl bumper stickers were designed to stick to a vehicle regardless of temperature, weather, time and everything else. Being able to remove a bumper sticker and all of its sticky adhesive residue takes more than just elbow grease, so we’re going to cover a few solutions for how to get a sticker off a car.
How to get stickers off a car
There are a few different approaches for this, and they depend on the sticker and the surface. In general, the process involves heat, solvents or scraping. In most cases, the process is similar to removing dealer stickers.
Heat gun or blow dryer
When it comes to removing a bumper sticker from a car, a blow dryer can be useful, but you really have to be careful.
- Hold the hair dryer about six inches from the bumper sticker, with the heat setting on low. Any closer and you can possibly blister paint or soften and deform a plastic bumper cover.
- Gently sweep the hair dryer back and forth for about a minute until every part of the sticker has been warmed.
- Starting at a corner, gently peel the sticker off and wedge a plastic putty knife or rubber spatula under the sticker to work it off a bit at a time.
- If the sticker tears and leaves a chunk behind, you need to use the blow dryer again on that part to carefully persuade it to come off as you peel it away.
- Once the sticker is off, put rubbing alcohol on a soft cloth to remove the adhesive residue.
- Now that you have most of the adhesive off, use a buffer pad to remove the last of it. A plastic kitchen scrubby can usually get the job done without damage, especially on a plastic bumper cover. If you’re concerned about the paint, car-safe buffer pads are available for this step.
- Apply a bit of automotive polish to the area where the sticker was.
NOTE: if you use a heat gun rather than a blow dryer for this job, the precautions apply even more. Heat guns can develop about twice as much heat as a blow dryer, so use them very carefully (if at all).
White vinegar is a low-cost, universal household disinfectant, cleaning agent, deodorizer, bug repellent and sanitizer. You can use this do-all solution to take stickers off a car, as long as you know a trick or two:
- Saturate a clean paper towel in a bowl of white vinegar, then drape it over the bumper sticker. The wet paper towel should stick to the finish on its own.
- Let the paper towel sit for three-to-five minutes; by then, it should saturate the sticker and work its way into the adhesive backing.
- Start peeling the sticker off carefully from one corner, helping it along with a plastic putty knife, rubber spatula or credit card.
- Remove any sticky residue with more white vinegar and a buffer pad.
- Apply some wax over the area where the sticker used to be.
Lubricants or Goo-Gone
Something to remember about a product such as WD-40: It’s not really a lubricant. It’s actually a water dispersant and penetrating oil, a mix of solvents, paraffins and hydrocarbons designed to dissolve rust and oxidation and loosen a stuck part to be more easily removed. With that in mind, it just makes sense that it might help remove the sticky adhesive residue from a bumper sticker.
- Spray a generous amount on the sticker and let it sit for three-to-five minutes.
- Start from one corner and gently, slowly peel the sticker off the finish.
- If any residue is still sticking to the finish, spray a small amount of the penetrating oil on it and gently scrape with the spatula or plastic putty knife.
- Remove any remaining adhesive with the buffer pad.
- Apply car wax over the area where the sticker used to be.
Bear in mind penetrating oils have a lot of hydrocarbons in them and shouldn’t be ingested or even have contact with your skin for long. Gloves and safety glasses are advised.
Here’s a more environmentally-friendly solution for how to get stickers off a car. It uses a similar principle as a hair dryer, without using electricity or chemicals.
- Boil water and pour it over the sticker.
- Once the sticker is softened up from the heat, start working it off from a corner and use your plastic tool to help it along.
- Apply more boiling water as needed.
- Remove the remaining adhesive with more hot water and the buffer pad.
- Apply wax over the spot where the sticker was.
How to remove bumper stickers from glass
Getting a bumper sticker off a window is a different ballgame. Usually, the removal part itself is easier, but you really don’t want to use penetrating oil on glass. You’ll have a hard time getting all of it off. Acetone, aka nail polish remover, works well on glass for this job, but you don’t want the acetone to come in contact with paint because it can act as a paint stripper.
Otherwise, the methods are pretty much the same. You can use boiling water, direct heat or white vinegar as outlined above. For glass, you can use a razor blade or a plastic razor blade (available in detailing kits) to get the last of the stubborn stickiness off—but don’t ever use a razor blade on a painted surface. Detailers also use a scraper tool with a long handle for removing an inside sticker, such as a registration or inspection sticker, from the difficult-to-access spot where the windshield and dashboard meet.
Avoid the problem in the first place
If you want to personalize your vehicle with a sticker or two, consider applying the sticker to the vehicle’s glass rather than a painted surface or a plastic bumper cover. Just remember, if you really want the sticker to stick to glass, prep the glass first by cleaning any dust or dirt off, then apply some rubbing alcohol or white vinegar and wipe them off.
If you really want the sticker on the vehicle itself, you can also apply a coat or two of wax or polish to the area where you want to put the bumper sticker. That makes removal a lot easier when or if the time comes. Finally, there are plenty of magnetic “bumper stickers” out there—maybe one will have the message you’re looking for or you can just apply your bumper sticker to an appropriately sized vinyl magnet.