How to Remove Old Vinyl RV Graphics and Ghost Letters

I do have some helpful tips to share about how to remove old vinyl lettering off an RV, but first I have to mention why we might take the graphics off our mobile headquarters that have been advertising Team Agreda everywhere we’ve been over the past seven plus years…

vinyl lettering on rv office of agreda.com

The cat is out of the bag.

The first time those words appeared in this blog, we had just sold our sticks and bricks business and not yet even picked up the brand new 2007 Arctic Fox 245N fifth wheel trailer we purchased with plans to travel the country for a year with Jerry. That rig served us well, very well. But as Rene eluded to in her recent rant about the evolution of our lifestyle, the time had indeed come for another major life upgrade.

So upgrade we did. But more about that to come, much more.

We don’t mean to be so secretive, it’s just that we’ve been pretty busy during this transition—preparing the old rig for trade-in and buying the new one, not to mention certain roadblocks, unexpected upgrades and bit of remodeling I’ll be writing about soon! Suffice it to say, we are pretty damn happy with our new (to us) 2010 Arctic Fox 275B.

But there I go digressing again. Back to that sticky issue of those graphics…

Removing Seven Year Old Vinyl Ghosts

After doing our homework, and finding our perfect next home office on wheels, we wanted to get the best trade-in value for our old rig. The dealer gave us a quote over the phone, with the usual “subject to inspection” disclaimer. Our first thought was that we shouldn’t show up with our websites and taglines plastered all over it with vinyl letters.

How To Remove RV Vinyl Lettering

But after seven years on the road, we had to remove more than just the vinyl graphics—which are much easier to put on!

Without getting to technical, exposure to the elements causes oxidation of any vehicle coating. This can create a ghosting effect behind any applied graphics. Removal of the graphics reveals the original vehicle color, creating a ghost image of any vinyl that gets removed.

So, here are those tips I promised for removing vinyl lettering, graphic adhesive and ghost images caused by oxidation…

1. Use Heat to Help Release Vinyl

Many people recommend using a rotary vinyl eraser to quickly remove vinyl letters and graphics. After spending much of my previous life in the graphics industry, however, I believe the best tool to remove smaller vinyl letters without damaging the surface below, is your fingernail. Most lettering will peel up with ease once you get under an edge.

Use Heat to Help Remove RV Vinyl

Using a hair dryer set on Hot will make the job much easier. Warm each letter for 10-20 seconds first. Pick at an edge enough to pinch the vinyl and start peeling. Keep the heat applied while slowly pulling up and follow the contour of the letter to avoid tearing the vinyl. Maintain a distance of at least a few inches to avoid melting the vinyl or damaging fiberglass beneath, if applicable

2. Use Professional Vinyl Adhesive Remover

Getting the vinyl off is only the first step. The adhesive will still remain. As tempted as you may be to use some industrial strength solvent, do not use harsh chemicals or abrasives. Chemical based solvents are potentially dangerous to use on painted surfaces, can damage fiberglass, and have numerous health hazards.

remove vinyl adhesive with rapid remover and sponge

The best vinyl adhesive remover we found is Rapid Remover by RapidTac. Rapid Remover is a water-soluble non-toxic adhesive remover that works fast! Spray it on the exposed adhesive, wait a few minutes and wipe away the residue with a sponge or plastic squeegee.

Rapid Remover Best Vinyl Adhesive Cleanup

Rapid Remover works fast without causing damage to most surfaces. After removing lettering, spray any glue residue with Rapid Remover and let it penetrate for 30-60 seconds. Rub the moistened adhesive with a sponge or rag, then rinse with water and wipe surface clean.

3. Get Rid of Ghost Letters

As I mentioned, vinyl lettering or graphics left on an RV for any extended period of time will leave behind a “ghost sign” image when removed.

RV Vinyl Ghost Lettering After Graphic Removal

You cannot remove these ghosts, since they are actually caused by the oxidation discoloring the area around them. You must remove the oxidation on the vehicle’s surface to match the color beneath the vinyl that has been protecting its surface area from oxidation.

Ghost Off Oxidation Remover does the trick! This product will restore weather-exposed surfaces, eliminating ghost sign images from vehicle surfaces covered by graphics. Just spray Ghost Off onto the oxidized surface, wait about a minute and agitate the area with a soft brush. Rinse from top to bottom and watch the the oxidation flow away.

Depending on how long the lettering has been applied that you are removing, you may need to repeat the application of Ghost Off—we had to do it a few times. That’s why I recommend getting at least a gallon! You may be able to save on other RV Oxidation Removers at Amazon.


Best Tips For Removing RV Vinyl Lettering

I have two final tips for anyone preparing to remove vinyl graphics or lettering from an RV, truck, trailer or boat.

1. Use Elbow Grease.

To avoid damaging the surface, take your time and use some muscle. But don’t be tempted to use abrasive pads or harsh cleanser. You can do it, put you back into it!

Removing vinyl letters from RV

2. Don’t Put Vinyl Letters On Your Rig!

Most importantly, to avoid all the costs, effort and time of removing lettering and detailing your RV, the solution is simple.

Do not apply any vinyl graphics in the first place! If we add any lettering to our new rig, believe me, it will be discreet and only be applied to the windows where it can be easily scraped off!

The URL on our satellite dish is advertising enough.

 Solar Powered RV Satellite Internet

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3 Responses to “How to Remove Old Vinyl RV Graphics and Ghost Letters”

  1. People like graphics on their RV so if not vinyl decals, what do you advise?

    • I advise applying whatever graphics you feel are worth the effort to remove when the time comes, now that we’ve provided tips for removal here! 🙂

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. How To Remove Vinyl Decals & Lettering – Best Deal Signs - December 9, 2015

    […] How long has this vinyl been on the surface? Removing anything with adhesive that has been on a surface for a long time creates several problems.  First, the adhesive changes over time and can be more difficult to remove. Also, aged vinyl lettering or decals removed from the painted area of any vehicle will leave a “ghost image”. This can be removed with the right materials and techniques and look good as new. We found this great tutorial that can help you:  http://www.liveworkdream.com/2014/10/23/old-rv-vinyl-removal-tips/ […]

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