Do you need to learn how to remove decals from your RV?
Decals are a lot of fun, but they don’t always age well, and deteriorating vinyl stickers detract from the appearance of your RV.
Even the best decals will fade or peel over time, so knowing how to easily remove decals from your RV is going to be a handy skill.
There are a few simple methods available, and you probably have everything you need for most of them already in your RV or garage. and if not, we have added some quick links for you.
Also, keep reading to learn a bit more about where to place your decals and how to protect them. and who knows, maybe this post will get you in the mood for cleaning more parts of your RV!
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5 Tips for Removing Old Decals From Your RV
There isn’t a lot of preparation to remove old decals from your RV and from bumpers.
You’ll need some paper towels or an old rag, some soapy water, and a scraper.
For best results, always work from one side of the sticker to the other, scraping carefully to avoid tearing the decal and making it more difficult to remove.
Tip 1. Using HEAT to remove decals from your RV
Heat is far and away the best way to remove old RV decals.
If you don’t have a heat gun, a blow dryer-style hair dryer will do the trick.
As you heat an RV decal, peel it up from one edge. You can use a toothpick to get a place to peel from, and then use a plastic scraper to slowly work the decal off as you heat it.
Avoid using a razor blade or other metal blade for decal removal as you can scratch the metal surface, leading to rust or corrosion on your RV.
On a hot day, parking your RV in direct sunlight may loosen decals enough for removal.
The problem with using the sun is that it won’t work on older, baked-on decals, and leaving your RV in full sunlight is going to make it hard to keep the interior cool.
A blow dryer or heat gun applies heat where you need it and will loosen even those decals that have baked onto the RV exterior.
Tip 2: What about adhesive removers?
Getting the outer layer of vinyl graphics is the easy part.
With that removed, you can use an adhesive remover to get the gummy glue off.
Most generic adhesive removers will work on old and new decals alike.
No matter what type of solvent you use, you should clean the area with soapy water to remove solvent residue.
Tip 3: Eraser Wheels (no, that those…)
For the sake of clarity, we’re talking about an eraser wheel attachment for your cordless drill, not the small hand-held eraser wheels used in school.
You could use those small wheels, but the job would take much longer to complete.
Eraser wheels take a little more work than most adhesive removers, but eraser wheels are safe for any surface and don’t leave behind residues that have to be cleaned off after the decal is gone.
Eraser wheels are a good solution for removing small stickers or taking decals off places where solvents may damage soft rubber or other materials in the vicinity.
Tip 4: Using Traditional Solvents
You can use traditional solvents like mineral spirits and paint thinner for removing vinyl decals and the glue residue they leave behind.
Mineral spirits will work better on the residue, but paint thinner will remove the paper or vinyl outer surface as well. For removing decals or bumper stickers from chrome, traditional solvents will probably yield the best results.
Soak a rag or heavy-duty paper towel with your solvent of choice and then place that over the decal. Allow the solvents to soak in for a few minutes before you begin scraping.
Rushing to begin scraping prevents the solvent from doing its job and makes the removal task much harder than it needs to be.
Tip 5: Use The Right Tools to remove decals from your RV
Using the right tool for the job makes removing bumper stickers easier.
A putty knife will work after the backing has been heated, but the first step is to prepare the area for removal.
It bears repeating that using a metal scraping tool can cause more damage than other methods. Use a plastic scraper instead, and you’ll get great results with lasting scratches.
But what about removing oxidation?
Over time, the surface area around a decal will become oxidized.
When the decal gets removed, it leaves behind a fresher painted surface that has been protected from oxidation.
This “ghost” of the previous decal cannot be removed because it is the original color, but you can use a deoxidizing cleaner on the surrounding area to bring it back to the original finish.
Deoxidizing cleaners are available at hardware stores, automotive parts locations, and specialty companies like West Marine Supply.
It can be used on a variety of materials and can be used to brighten paint, rejuvenate faded chrome, and more.
For the RV lifestyle, deoxidizing cleaners can keep the vehicle looking sharp for years.
BONUS Tip for Placing Vinyl Decals
With the understanding that any vinyl you put on your RV is going to have to be removed or replaced in time, where you put the decals can make eventually removing them easier.
Avoid placing vinyl on textured siding like most travel trailers are sided with.
The adhesive with work itself into the texture and removing it later will be more challenging.
Instead, place vinyl on smooth surfaces like your bumper or even molded panels like doors or slideouts.
BONUS Tip for Protecting Your Decals
You can increase the lifespan of decals by adding a protective coating or layer.
Clear vinyl film can be cut to cover most decals and adds a new level of protection. Because the natural elements are still at play the outer surface will still degrade over time, but it will keep the underlying graphic looking sharper for a longer time.
How to Remove Decals from your RV – Conclusion
Decal removal is not a difficult process, but it is labor-intensive. Unless you decide to pay someone else to remove them for you, it is going to require time and patience to do the job right. Solvent and heat guns are shortcuts of a sort, but they are the only options for easy removal of bumper stickers or vinyl.
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