As a homesteader and aspiring self-sufficienteer, I'm a big fan of DIY. Except when it comes to installing window film. Some things are an art that require countless errors before retaining quality, and film installation is one of those things. However, removing old window film is something almost anyone can do to save themselves money, and I'm about to teach you how some pros do it.
First, I highly recommend reading the entire article, as I will give tips and warnings throughout. Here's your first warning, there is a reason full removal jobs start at $110 at our shop ($60 for the sides and a minimum of $50 for the back window), and that's for one that only takes around an hour. They are completely unpredictable and often take much longer than anticipated. It all boils down to the films age, quality, if it comes off in strips or in one piece, and how temperamental the adhesive wants to be. I'm going to make it sound relatively easy, and in some cases, it is. But unfortunately, it is often something that can take a skilled professional hours to do, even with a professional steamer in a professional setting.
-Your favorite dish soap
-Rubbing alcohol (optional)
-32oz spray bottle
-13 point 9mm Snap-off knife (optional)
-Pack of 1" razor blades
-Razor blade handle - however long you choose (optional)
-#0000 Steel Wool
-Microfiber towels and/or paper towels
-Steamer (Wagner makes one for wallpaper and is sold at Lowe's for $40, or clothes steamers elsewhere for around $100.)
-Totally Awesome All-Purpose cleaner (sold at Dollar General for $2)
1) Fill bottle with water to bottom of neck
2) Add 10 drops of dish soap
3) Add one tablespoon (or so) of rubbing alcohol
4) Shake well
1) Spray decal with solution
2) Separate the edge of the vinyl from the glass with a razor blade
3) Pull the rest of the vinyl off the glass
4) Spray then scrape the remaining adhesive until it is gone
Procedure for Vehicles and Flat Glass (Home & Business) Without a Steamer:
1) Roll window down enough to expose the top edge of film (if working on a vehicle)
2) Slide razor blade between the glass and film until enough is pulled back to grab
3) Slowly, but firmly pull the film as straight down as possible until the top 6" of the glass is clear of film. Keep your hand and film as close to the window as you can. You can pull the film from whatever angle you need to, as long as you be sure to pull down towards the ground and not outward towards you.
4) Spray the leftover adhesive with solution
5) Pressing firmly, scrape adhesive off with razor blade 3-4 inches down from top. You must do this with lubrication or you run a high risk of scratching the glass. Whether freehand or in a blade handle, you always want to keep your blade at a 45 degree angle of sharper when using it against the glass. Failure to could result in cutting or scratching the glass. Be sure to have scraped the adhesive clear of the glass along the sides thoroughly. A 13 point snap-off blade would come for that, but not necessary or always safe without experience.
6) Roll window up.
7) Pull film down to the door panel, but not all the way off, if possible. The old film should be attached at the bottom, but curling over the panel to protect it.
8) Scrape adhesive down toward the old film. Sometimes you can go all the way down to it, but other times you'll only be able to go a few inches at a time. All depends on the adhesive.
9) Run a blade sideways along bunched adhesive to collect and move out of the way. Repeat this and step 8 until the bottom is reached.
10) Finish removing old film from the bottom of the glass
11) Scrape away remaining adhesive, usually horizontally at this point. Only take your blade to the ceramic etching on the inside of the glass at the bottom when you're done using the blade. Whatever cant be scraped off can usually be scrubbed off easily with a microfiber.
12) Roll window down to scrub out adhesive from the molding. It usually rolls right off.
13) Roll up and wipe down.
14) Double check sides and spot treat any remaining adhesive with lubricated blade.
The removal below was two separate film layers that had to be stripped without steam or it would've broke the slanted glass in the sun easily. It was terrible, and easily the worst flat glass removal I have ever had the joy of experiencing. But, it was worth it. The picture after it is one after installing new film in place of the old.
Back Glass Film Removal Without Steamer - Bagging
1) Cut side seams off of trash bag with knife, razor or scissors. Leave the bottom alone, so it opens up to be one big sheet.
2) Mix a solution with SOAP ONLY, and evenly coat the inside of the back glass and film
3) Stick opened bag up against the glass, and smooth it out against the glass the best you can with your knuckles or fingertips. Careful not to squeegee out too much solution.
4) Park the vehicle with the rear window facing the sun for about 10 - 15 minutes. The solution in the sun will create steam. Be sure to check on it on hot days every 10 minutes or so, and do not allow it to completely dry, if possible.
5) Peel back film as far as it'll let you.
6) Respray and repeat as necessary.
Film Removal with Steamer
1) Hold steam pointed at the top of the glass for 20-30 seconds, then move it out of the way.
2) Wait for a few seconds before attempting to remove the edge of the film from the glass. Use a blade if need be, but steer clear of any antenna or defrost lines.
3) Pull down as far as it will go before it attempts to stick again. Some adhesives will release with the film, but most often than not, there will be some left behind no matter how you steam. We will handle that later.
4) Place steam behind the film while pulling down with consistent pressure. Some adhesives release better when steaming from the adhesive/glass side of the film. Play with it and do what works best until all of the film has released from the glass and all that's left is adhesive.
Sometimes the film wants to come off in little strips at the defrost lines. If that happens, then CONGRATS!
^^^ This is You ^^^
You're the recipient of the "worst case scenario," and all the more luck to you. Only thing that's gonna help you is patience, good music and a bottle of ibuprofen, because you're gonna be in there awhile. If you don't have a steamer, then it is quite possible you will pick up a new drinking habit by the time you are done. Regardless, take your time and don't rush or you'll only make your life harder in the long run. After all, you're either doing this to make money or you're doing it to save money. No need to make it anymore difficult than it already will be.
Back Window Adhesive Removal:
1) Cut the side seams off a trash bag, open it up, and lay it flat on the back deck to protect it
2) Evenly coat Totally Awesome on the adhesive
3) Slide your arms under the trash bag to lift it up and stick it on the glass
4) Use the back of your hand and to spread the liner out evenly across the glass and adhesive. Make sure it is evenly tucked behind third brake lights.
5) Soak for 15 minutes
6) Pull trash liner back down to the deck
7) Wipe as much adhesive and Totally Awesome off with paper towels as possible. If you get lucky and can wipe it all off on the first try, then BE GRATEFUL.
8) Repeat steps 2 through 7 until it all comes off.
If there is adhesive left over around the defrost lines, tear off a piece of steel wool, spray the glass with solution, and lightly scrub along the lines. Often times a microfiber will do what you need here, but if adhesive is plentiful, then it is worth a scrub with solution and a soft scrub pad or steel wool. Otherwise, you should be all done and good to go. Unless you're about to retint it, and then you basically need to go over everything all over again or you'll be redoing tint patterns all over again.
I'll update this article and others with pictures and videos as I go, so stay posted! Thanks for reading, and as always, if you need any help or have any questions, contact the shop or comment below.