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How to Remove Sticker Residue To Prep for Vinyl Decals

I get asked all the time the how to remove stickers from 'blanks' so vinyl decals can be applied.

Do a Google or Pinterest search and you'll find countless ideas for how to take off stickers and remove sticker residue. Finally I think we can put this to rest!  Silhouette School monthly contributor Cat from Pocketful of Posies is here today to share the hands down best way to take off stickers. 

We've all been there - we 're ready to apply vinyl but first we need to remove those pesky store stickers from nonporous plastic surfaces. The best way to remove stickers is one of those things that everyone has an opinion on. Today I'm testing three of the most popular ways remove stickers to see which works best and which works fastest. 

I'll be testing: 

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To test out these sticker removal processes I picked up a few bucket at the dollar store. Prior to trying to peel off the stickers, I checked to make sure each sticker was securely stuck to my buckets this way there would be no favoring one process over another. I labeled all three of my buckets so I knew which bucket belonged to which process. Then I applied my sticker removal remedies.

I sprayed the blue bucket with water in a spray bottle. The sticker on the green bucket was wiped mineral oil on using a paper towel. The yellow bucket was sprayed the WD-40.

3 Minutes Later

After 3 minutes I went back and checked my stickers to see how they were coming along. 

Spray Water - You can see that the sticker that was sprayed with water started to lift in some areas, but was still dry in others. Even in the fully saturated areas the sticker could be scraped away but still left the majority of the sticker residue on the bucket. 

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Mineral Oil - With both oil based products you can't visually see the sticker lifting but you can see that the sticker has completely changed colors turning a semi transparent, unsaturated version of the previous image. When I tested the corner of the sticker that had been wiped with Mineral Oil it was starting to easily lift off, but was still leaving bits of the sticker residue behind.

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WD-40 - As with the Mineral Oil the sticker on the WD-40 bucket took on a different unsaturated hue than before. But unlike with the Mineral Oil, the WD-40 sticker peeled completely off with out leaving any sticker residue behind after only 3 minutes!!!

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6 Minutes Later

Water Spray - After 6 minutes and a second misting of water, the sticker was almost completely saturated and was more willing to scrape away that before. However, it required a good amount of scrubbing to remove the sticker residue.

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Mineral Oil - After 6 minutes the mineral oil sticker was ready to easily be peeled away. The only bit of scrubbing to do is where I first tested the sticker at 3 minutes when it wasn't quite ready yet.

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9 Minutes Later

After trying to remove the sticker on the blue bucket with spray water I decided the reason why the sticker wasn't coming off quite as well was perhaps because the sticker wasn't thoroughly saturated. After all it is very tricky to get the water to stay in one place do to the round shape of the bucket and that pesky gravity. So I grabbed one more bucket and filled my sink up with a couple inches of water. Then I soaked my bucket sticker side down submerged in the water for 9 minutes.

When I pulled the bucket out of the water, the sticker was thoroughly saturated and easy to scrape off but it still left a lot of sticky residue behind. Creating a sticky mess that would still need to be scrubbed off.

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Why WD-40 Works Best

There are a couple of reasons why the WD-40 worked the best to take off stickers.
  1. The aerosol spray allows the oil to come out in smaller particles that are absorbed into the paper at a much faster rate. 
  2. Unlike water, the oil actually breaks down the adhesive that is used to adhere the paper to the plastic. While water only breaks down the outer paper layer exposing the adhesive which will still need to be removed.

Prepping The Plastic Surface For Use

The only draw back to using an oil based sticker remover is you need to remove the oil from the plastic surface before you can get vinyl to stick to the plastic surface. This is where the rubbing alcohol comes in. 

Simply apply some rubbing alcohol to a paper towel and thoroughly wipe all over the plastic surface, then dry with another paper towel. After about 30 seconds the plastic will be completely dry and you'll be able to see if you missed any oily areas. It is very important to remove all of the oil otherwise your vinyl decal will not stick to the surface. 

As you can see after I thoroughly removed the oil residue from my buckets my 651 vinyl stuck beautifully! 

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It is also important to note that I conducted this experiment on nonporous plastic items. For more porous surface that have the ability to hold onto the oil, like unglazed ceramics, natural or unfinished wood or similar products I do not recommend using oil.

Oil can stain or change the color of the item. Always test the oil on a small area of the item first before applying all over. Thank you all so much for taking the time to stop by and check out my Sticker removal methods. Hopefully it will save you some time on your next Silhouette project!      

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. By clicking on them and purchasing products through my links, I receive a small commission. That's what helps fund Silhouette School so I can keep buying new Silhouette-related products to show you how to get the most out of your machine!


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