How to remove sticker residue glue from your boat or substrate

sticker glue removal

Wanting to know how to remove sticker residue glue from a substrate surface? This is an informational guide that’s perfect for boat owners or anyone else needing to remove glue residue left by stickers and decals.

First things first. Let me share some important information on substrate surfaces. This is important because if you use the wrong product you can damage your substrate surface.

My experience in making vinyl lettering for the marine industry started from 2008.

I am also an experienced vehicle sign writer, have completed a fibreglassing course and I am a trade qualified woodworker.

I am using these experiences to help write the information found on this webpage.

Getting Started removing Sticker and Decal Glue

Firstly I want to say that I cringe when I watch a video or read a webpage and the person sharing the information suggests only to use Acetone as a residue glue cleaner. This suggestion is made without even mentioning what substrate this suggestion is for. Acetone is a high strength chemical that will remove paint from a painted or clear coated surface. The longer applied the more damage Acetone will cause to your painted or clear coated substrate surface.

DO NOT use Acetone or paint thinners as a residue glue cleaner on any painted or clear coated surface. If you do, this chemical will damage your painted surface area.

Acetone and thinners removes paint from a painted surface and is like a liquid paint stripper. It does not matter if your paint is a single or 2 pack finish

Using Acetone or thinners as a residue glue cleaner on any painted surface will damage your paint surface.How to Remove Vinyl Letters

If you need to remove any vinyl lettering this is going to depend on the age of the lettering.

You will need a hairdryer to warm up the letters and as they are heated you need to pick and peel the letters.

Only use a low heat setting on your hairdryer. This is one of the best ways on how to remove sticker residue glue.

If you are removing a whole large section of printed vinyl which is around 500mm x 150mm remove with caution. A large sticker like this has the tendency to also lift and remove paint from an Aluminium or painted boat.


DO NOT USE A HEAT GUN. The heat coming out from a heat gun may burn and peel away your painted surface. So keep heat guns away. If you decide to use one do so at your own risk.

How to Remove Sticker Residue Options

Here are some options for you. Please only use a hairdryer in a warm setting mode. Use any heat source at your own risk.

Also please note that the process of removing any sticker glue residue adhesive isn’t as easy as a simple one-off spray and wipe away process.


Isopropyl alcohol – This is my go-to cleaner I use when I need to install some signage on a vehicle or boat sticker decals. This is an amazing cleaning product and can be found in the paint section of your local hardware store.

This is one of the main ingredients used in surface disinfectant cleaners or in hand cleaners. Some of the approved Covid-19 surface cleaners, for example, contains a portion of 100% pure Isopropyl alcohol.


WD-40 is used for a variety of things around the house. This is a cheap way of removing sticker or decal residue glue if you have a can laying about the house.

To use both options mentioned above simply do the following.

  1. Slowly warm the sticker glue residue on your substrate with a heat dryer with low heat.
  2. Spray WD-40 on the surface and with your finger rub it all over the residue. Then spray again and start wiping away the glue residue and repeat.

It might take a dozen wipes until you see the glue residue coming off.


Meguiars Oxidation Remover – Suitable for fibreglass boats with original Gelcoat finish ONLY.

Not suitable for any painted or clear coated finish.

You can use this product with a buffing machine.

Will also remove any oxidation.  You can get this product fast shipped by clicking here.

Glue Residue remover

Overall Glue Removal Summary

There are commercial versions available.

Some available products however may contain 60% of Acetone.

Some products are also citrus-based.

Whatever method you decide to use this is entirely up to you.

Before you choose which option you decide to remove your sticker residue glue, perform a small test on a hidden part of your surface where you want to remove the glue.

The reason for this so that you can see if whatever you are using isn’t going to damage your substrate surface.

As always do some tests and see what works for your boat when needing to remove residue glue left by stickers.

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