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Vinyl Graphic Removal Made Easy

Vinyl removal can be a pain…that's a fact, but there's a new kid on the block that can help to make your vinyl removal projects less labor intensive and quicker to complete. And that's worth reading about.

By Johnny Duncan

Every sign business owner knows that the key to making a profit is being able to precisely estimate the project and to perform the work efficiently and effectively to the complete satisfaction of the customer.

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  • While this task may be quite challenging with some installations, it is even more so with projects that require the removal of vinyl. Many sign companies have come up with their own solutions for removing vinyl. According to the substrate used, products such as Goof Off, Goo Gone, and even WD-40 have been used to assist with removing that work that may have been applied years ago.

    Along with heating and steaming the vinyl off, some hand tools such as the Little Chiseler can come in handy for vinyl removal. These have all worked well in the past for most sign professionals. However, some of the problems associated with using a heat gun and other creative tools are the bubbling of the vinyl that might occur during heating and the patience and man-hours required to complete these tedious projects.

    Depending on the substrate, there are many challenges in removing vinyl and according to Janie Lasik, of West End Products, most sign businesses focus on creating and installing new signage rather than taking off vinyl--- unless they must to land the contact.

    “There are two main reasons that this is so,” states Lasik. “First, it’s so difficult to accurately estimate the time involved in taking it off. Let’s say someone wants the vinyl removed from 10 trucks. So you take a look at one of them, estimate from there, right? But there’s nothing that guarantees that all the trucks were done with the same material. Or, perhaps you looked at the one that was garaged rather than one of the four left in the desert heat!”

    It is quite a challenge to accurately estimate vinyl removal unless you have the history of the vinyl application as well as the particulars of the substrate used. “There are so many variables that lots of really experienced businesses struggle on this one. The cost of putting it on is so much easier to estimate,” says Lasik.

    “Problem vinyl can cause your labor estimate to be wrong by as much as a factor of 10. That’s hard to overcome with any profit left at all. Most customers won’t go with an hourly charge; most customers don’t think pulling the vinyl off should be costly. Also, it’s a hard, dirty, three-stage job. You have to remove the vinyl layer, and then remove the adhesive layer, and then you have to clean up. Each has its own challenges depending on the method chosen to do the job.”

    Lasik also points out that there is another area most installers fail to consider, and that is their own safety. Many commonly used products are poisonous and carcinogenic to the people using them. If you are handling vinyl all of the time, this should be a serious concern for yourself and your employees.

    Janie Lasik and her husband Dennis came up with a solution that should come as a relief for all of those who have cringed when called to remove vinyl. “We were working in the truck graphics market and kept running into this problem. Everyone wanted us to pull graphics. We kept hearing horror stories about “problem graphics”. So we tried it, experienced the problems firsthand, and couldn’t find any non-hazardous products that did a decent job,” states Janie.

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    Here are some pictures of a customer, who has a vinyl installation business, using Vinyl-Off 10-4 to remove signage prior to installing new graphics. He shared with us that he had estimated/quoted this job based upon removing, cleaning up, and re-applying vinyl decals to 2-3 vans per day. When using Vinyl-Off, he was able to completely do 3 vans BEFORE LUNCH! He applied Vinyl-Off using a cloth, warmed the vinyl with propane, and pulled. He re-applied Vinyl-Off to the small amount of adhesive remaining and was done! Images as shown are used to demonstrate examples using CRYSTALTEK Products. Logos and graphic elements on vehicles pictured are not intended to imply endorsements by or from their respective companies.

    “The second thing we saw in the industry was a lot of money being wasted because of failed material claims. We realized that many claims could have been avoided if the graphics had been properly maintained. Instead we saw a lot of vinyl being cleaned using acid-based chemicals that eat the ink right off the vinyl or oxidation problems caused by a lack of protective coating. The manufacturers, printers, and installers were caught in contentious situations with unhappy clients. Again, we saw a potential solution with products to safely maintain a reasonable life-expectancy for vinyl signage.

    Removal Solution
    The breakthrough in vinyl removal came about when the Lasiks decided that they had enough of the potentially harmful products that may work over time and with extensive labor so they developed Vinyl-Off 10-4. It is a one-step vinyl remover that is safe for human use and for the environment.

    Vinyl-Off is applied to the vinyl to be removed and allowed to penetrate (this usually takes less than 15 minutes). Then a corner of the vinyl is lifted and pulled and the vinyl and adhesive come off at the same time.

    If the temperature drops to below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, it is recommended that the vinyl be warmed just before pulling it off. Warming can be done with a torch, heat gun, or by putting the surface in sunlight. Sometimes a small amount of adhesive is left and this is removed by reapplying (using a cloth) to the adhesive and wiping it off.

    Remember that most signage in the past was heat removed. The vinyl may come off in small or large pieces, but either way, you still have to use an adhesive remover to take off the adhesive. There are several very good, safe adhesive removers on the market. These products are applied and then the jelly-like globs are scraped or pressure-washed off. After that comes the clean-up.

    Of course there are other, mechanical or chemical methods on the market. They all still require the three-stage effort of vinyl removal, adhesive removal and then cleanup. Most of the vinyl-removal chemicals are bad for your health and the environment.

    Vinyl-Off is about as safe as bath soap and one gallon typically covers approximately 1500 square feet of vinyl.

    Profit Potential
    Whenever a new product is brought to the market that can save time and ease a burden of a sign professional, there is always potential for increasing profits. The key is to use these new technologies to your advantage by offering a better service for your customers while putting more money in your pocket.

    In looking at the vinyl graphics market, the growth of vinyl application is soaring. At the same time, the need for vinyl removal from various applications is also growing. Looking at the transport market as Lasik does, it is obvious that the vinyl application and removal business is here to stay.

    “Trucking is stronger than ever with no alternatives for shipping for probably ten years at least. Businesses can not survive without visual identity, so vehicle wraps, especially car wraps, will be more popular than ever. Small businesses are a major growth factor of this economy and that is projected to continue. Storefronts will require frequent changes to maintain consumer interest. In my opinion, the vinyl business will continue to grow for all these reasons.”

    Lasik recommends that business owners look at the customer or contract as more than a one time shot. “Think of ways to help them with that vinyl from start to finish. Everyone out there wants to put on the new vinyl. Distinguish yourself by a willingness to handle the whole job. Take it off, replace it, and recommend products to maintain it as well.”

    While there are many good vinyl removal products on the market today, the Vinyl-Off solution is another time-saver to add to your arsenal of tools that can help to make the vinyl removal projects less labor intensive and quicker to complete. Keep in mind that if your quote to remove the vinyl is good, you increase the probability of winning the new install part of the contract that comes along with it.

    For more information about Vinyl-Off and other West End Products, go to or call, 770-643-8501

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