StickerYou Blog

How to Remove Stickers From Your Boat (Vinyl Lettering & Decals)

January 29, 2024  |  
Guides/Tutorials
A white boat with a vinyl decal of its name.

Boats are usually adorned with stickers, whether vinyl lettering of the boat’s name or other decals that showcase its brand or add a custom detail. These vinyl printed stickers, made of very strong adhesive, are made to adhere to the boat’s body and stay on — even when exposed to water, moisture, and sunlight.

So, when you decide to remove stickers from your boat, you’re looking at a long and labor-intensive process. But it’s not impossible. We give you a step-by-step guide to go about it in this article. 

Why Should I Remove a Boat Decal?

There are plenty of reasons you might want to remove a boat decal or sticker. Often, it’s simply because it’s outdated, faded, or just doesn’t look good anymore. Preferences change over time, and you may be itching to give your boat a new look with some detailing. 

Removing existing decals is a critical part of a boat detailing project to make painting and finishing the surface easier and more comprehensive. 

Black vinyl name lettering in the front of the boat

How to Remove Stickers From a Boat: Step by Step

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

While removing custom single stickers from a boat is a tough job, the good news is you don’t need too many supplies to get it done. The first order of business is gathering your tools and materials, which include: 

  • Plastic scraper or plastic razor blade
  • Pneumatic or electric drill 
  • 4” eraser wheel
  • Heat gun or hair dryer
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Polishing or compounding supplies 

Step 2: Wash the Surface

Before you start removing the decal, you want to have a clean surface free of dust, dirt, grime, or residue. Wash the area around the custom vinyl decal with a mixture of water and boat soap. You can also use a non-abrasive sponge for a soft scrub to get any sediments off. 

Step 3: Remove the Decal

When your decal surface is spotless, you can begin removing it. There are a couple of ways you can choose to go about this, whether through using a heat gun, a plastic tool, or a drill eraser wheel. 

Regardless of which method you choose, the most important thing to remember is to work carefully. Expect the decal to be latched onto the surface strongly, which means that peeling it off forcefully will end up damaging your boat’s paint. 

Pick the most suitable strategy and products, and be patient! It takes a lot of time and elbow grease for a boat sticker to come off properly without causing damage. 

Heat Gun

Applying heat to the decal will help melt the adhesive, allowing you to peel the sticker off easily. Set your heat gun to a low heat setting. If you’re using a hairdryer as an alternative, set it to high. Point the heating tool a few inches away from the surface and begin applying heat. Move the device in a back-and-forth motion, making sure you’re heating up the entire decal. 

After a couple of minutes, you can slowly pull the edges of the decal from the surface. If you encounter any resistance, apply additional heat. 

Plastic Tool

If your decal has been attached to your boat for years, its adhesive may have been compromised enough for you to get away with using a plastic tool to peel it off. Grab a plastic razor blade or scraping tool and gently scrape off the decal. Be careful not to scratch the paint on the boat’s surface. 

Drill Eraser Wheel

You can also use a drill eraser wheel to help you remove the decals in small pieces. This method is the most effective for those particularly stubborn decals. Use a 4” eraser wheel attached to an electric or pneumatic drill. Run the drill at 2,000 rpm and begin using it on the decal.

In this method, it’s important to work in small areas at a time. As you get to the end, you’ll be able to remove bits and pieces of the decal and be left with adhesive residue you can tackle later. 

Step 4: Remove Residue with Adhesive Remover

Removing the decal itself is half of the job done. Now, you have to deal with the leftover adhesive on the surface of your boat. Thankfully, there are plenty of solvents that can help get rid of the residue. You can opt for a commercial adhesive-removing solvent specifically formulated to remove glue remains or denatured alcohol. 

Dampen a clean microfiber cloth with your chosen solvent and rub it over the affected surface in a small circular motion. Keep doing this until the residue is completely removed. 

Step 5: Clean with Mild Soap and Water

After removing the adhesive residue, you’ll want to clean the surface again to remove any leftover solvent. Use a mixture of mild soap and water to rinse the surface, and if needed, follow up with a soft scrub with a non-abrasive sponge. Make sure you thoroughly clean the area to eliminate any traces of adhesive remover. 

Step 6: Dry, Clean, and Finish

Dry the surface of your boat with a clean, soft cloth. If you still notice some adhesive residue, go over the area again with an adhesive remover. 

You may notice a “ghost” image of the decal that used to be on the surface, caused by the oxidation of the surface or atmospheric contaminants that stained the area. You can remove this by polishing the surface with your preferred polishing and compounding products. 

There you have it! You’ve completed the sticker removal process. You can now proceed with your boat detailing project or attach a brand-new decal to update the look of your boat. 

Conclusion

Boat decals were specifically made to last. But that doesn’t mean there’s no way to remove them. With the right tools and products, an understanding of the process, and a whole lot of patience, you can get those old and outdated decals off your boat successfully and without risking damage to the boat’s surface. 

How to Remove Stickers From Your Boat: FAQs

What is the best way to get stickers off a boat?

The best way to remove stickers from a boat is by applying heat with a heat gun or hair dryer. Heat will help melt the adhesive, making it easier for you to peel the sticker off with a plastic scraper. 

How do you remove boat decals from an aluminum boat?

If you’re working with an aluminum boat, you can use the heat gun method to remove decals and stickers. Apply heat on the area until the adhesive is melted and released. Use a plastic scraper to peel the decal off. 

Can I use Goo Gone on my boat?

Goo Gone is a powerful formula that’s made for removing adhesive residue from a range of surfaces. It’s safe to use on boats, as long as you make sure to rinse the solvent off later.