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Stickers are fun, easy to make, and are a great way to add a little personality to any surface. But what happens when you want to remove that sticker and it is, well, stuck? While some stickers are fairly easy to remove, as detailed in our previous blog post How to Remove Vinyl Stickers, how do you remove a sticker that is purposefully designed to stay in place? It is possible, with the right tools and a bit of patience. Read on to learn how to remove a permanent sticker.
What makes a sticker stick?
To understand how to break the bond between a sticker and the surface it is adhered to, we must first understand what makes them stick in the first place.
All stickers work on the principles of adhesion, which is, simply put, a method used to make something stick to something else. Some glues, pastes, and adhesives have molecules that are stickier than others. This is why you can have stickers formulated to be removed whenever you wish, or waterslide vinyl sticker paper that allows you to move the piece around until the adhesive sets. Adhesives formulated with large molecules are tightly packed and lined up for maximum surface area create the most permanent bonds.
How to break that bond
When it comes to removing permanent stickers, don’t think about pulling them off the surface. The bond is simply too strong. You may remove the top layer of the sticker, but still be left with the glue – which makes things look even messier! Instead, focus on breaking the bond of the molecules. You can do this by dissolving the glue or heating it up so that it releases more naturally.
Remove a permanent sticker by dissolving the bond
Rubbing alcohol is a great way to remove a permanent sticker. First, however, note that you will destroy the sticker in the process, and this method is best suited for a sticker on glass, metal, wood, or any other surface that can stand up to the potency of rubbing alcohol. This method will damage a painted surface.
Rubbing alcohol contains water (a natural solvent) and isopropyl (a chemical solvent). Due to the nature of isopropyl, it not only aids in fast dissolving of things like sticker glue, it evaporates quickly leaving less of a mess behind. It also has drying properties, which further break the bond of adhesives as it, quite literally, “dries it out.”
Isopropyl, or rubbing alcohol, is a common household item, but you may prefer not to have this in your home due to young children or extra curious pets. If so, you can still use this principle to remove a permanent sticker by using acetone.
Acetone is an ingredient used in making some forms of isopropyl. It’s easy to get acetone – just buy acetone nail polish remover. This humble yet potent formula dissolves not only nail polish but can soak off gel nails (which have a very, very solid bond). With that strength you know it can be used to remove a permanent sticker!
Remember, safety first. Alcohol-based solvents like isopropyl and acetone are harsh chemicals with strong odors. They are also flammable. You don’t want to be working over a lit fireplace, smoking, or without ventilation when dissolving a permanent sticker in this way. If you have sensitive skin, you should also use gloves.
So, what happens if you prefer not to use any harsh chemicals at all? You still have options to remove a permanent sticker.
If the sticker in question is attached to an object like a glass, tumbler, sheet of plastic, or any other water-safe smaller object, you can remove a permanent sticker by submerging it in hot, soapy water. Let it sit in the solution for 15-30 minutes. Give the edge of the sticker a tug and it should remove. There may be some sticky residue left behind. The longer you soak, the easier it will be to remove this residue. To speed things up you can gently scrape it away (it will be soft and pliable) with a coin or your fingernail. You could also use a pot scrubber, but only if it will not damage the surface of the object.
Remove a permanent sticker with heat
If the sticker is attached to a surface that you can’t easily soak in the sink, such as a wall or electronic toy, you can remove a permanent sticker using heat.
Using a heat source, like a hair dryer, relaxes the molecular bonds of the adhesive, making it much easier to peel the sticker away. This method takes a bit of time and you must be careful not to melt the surface or burn yourself. Start at one corner of the sticker and apply the heat. Gently work that corner loose, then aim the hair dryer between the loose end and the surface, continue to heat and peel slowly until the sticker is off. For any residue left behind, use a warm soapy cloth or a solvent like rubbing alcohol to finish the job.
Super stubborn permanent stickers
From time to time you’ll come across a sticker that just won’t budge despite your best DIY efforts. To remove permanent stickers that seem baked onto the surface, take a trip to your hardware or craft store for a product like Goo Gone, 3M adhesive remover, or HG Sticker remover. These are powerful products that muscle through the tightest bonds. Read the directions carefully, as each manufacture will have safety precautions you must follow.
When you need to remove a permanent sticker, you need to break its molecular bond.To break the bond you must dissolve it or apply heat – both in some cases. Isopropyl alcohol or acetone are two common solvents found in most households that can be used to remove a permanent sticker. These are strong solvents that can irritate the skin and damage the surface, so use these with caution. Submerging the object, if safe to do so, in hot soapy water is another way to help dissolve strong sticker glue. A hairdryer and some patience work well for removing a permanent sticker from a wall, or surface that cannot be soaked. For extra stubborn stickers, buy adhesive remover from a hardware or craft store.
It’s handy to know how to remove a permanent sticker, but the fun is making your own stickers! Royal Elements sells printable sticker vinyl for both laser and inkjet printers in our online store and our blog has plenty of design tips. While our sticker vinyl creates a great bond, it is also easy to remove when needed. We love to see the projects you make using Royal Elements products. Post your results online with the hashtag #royalelementsstickers so we can feature your designs on our social networks (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube). Visit https://www.amazon.com/royalelements and https://www.royalelements.com/ today to learn more.