How to take vinyl off a shirt

How To Take Vinyl Off a Shirt

by Jane Melcher
Updated on

DIY products have been in the market for long, and their popularity has made them a great choice for many crafters. These designs are even more popular as they are cheaper in time and money. You probably also have a shirt with a DIY design like HTV, and you would like to get it off. It is understandable if you want to take vinyl off a shirt.

If you want to remove vinyl from a shirt, you need time and patience so that you can do it safely and without damaging the shirt. You probably have your reasons for wanting to remove the vinyl. Maybe you used to be in a club, and you like the shirt, but you do not want to wear it with the logo.

Well, that's not part of our discussion, so let's focus on how to take vinyl off a shirt.

What is Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV)?

Heat transfer vinyl (HTV) is a special vinyl used to customize T-shirts, clothing, and other fabrics. HTV has a heat-activated adhesive backing that allows the vinyl to adhere to your clothing permanently when heat pressed for the appropriate amount of time, temperature, and pressure.

You can cut digital designs into vinyl with a vinyl cutter and then heat press the graphics onto your T-shirt or garment. As a result, you end up with high-quality, tailored clothing with excellent durability, look and feel.

Something great about heat transfer vinyl is that there are different varieties of finishes, including matte, glitter, glow in the dark, and stretchy, among others.

You can use different methods to remove these types of vinyl, but the best method depends on the shirt's fabric. So, how about we go through the methods used to take vinyl off a shirt?

How Do You Take Vinyl Off a Shirt?

There are different methods that you can use while removing vinyl. However, as already mentioned earlier, the best method highly depends on the shirt fabric. One method may work excellently on a certain fabric and fail when used differently.

So, remember that as you go through these methods to remove heat transfer vinyl. You can take vinyl off a shirt by using chemicals, but you can also do it without the use of chemicals. Let's see these methods.

1. Taking Off Heat Transfer Vinyl with Heat and Steam

The heat and steam method is among the best to use if you want to remove the applied vinyl but did not stick well. However, if it is vinyl that has been there for a long time, you may need to try a different method.

What you'll need;

  • Ironing board
  • A towel
  • Hairdryer


i). Lay your shirt on an ironing board

ii). Place a towel between the front and back of the shirt. The purpose of the towel is to protect the other side of the shirt.

iii). Using a hairdryer on its hottest setting, blow air close to the vinyl design. This will make the vinyl's adhesive malleable as it weakens and loosens.

iv). Next, use tweezers and a knife to loosen the transfer. Be careful when working with a sharp knife, as you can prick or cut yourself if you are not keen.

v). Repeat the process until all the transfer comes off.

This process is simple, but it may take time. Also, before applying too much heat on a shirt, read the care instructions and confirm that it can take that much heat.

2. Using Hot Iron

If you want to remove HTV from a cotton shirt without chemicals, a very hot iron is the solution. It will remove the vinyl quickly and more easily than most other methods. However, this process may damage your iron if you are not careful.

What You'll Need

  • Ironing board
  • Iron
  • A towel
  • A large piece of paper


i). Turn the iron to the highest temperature the fabric can take.

ii). Place the towel inside the shirt and lay it on your ironing board. Ensure that the side of the shirt with the vinyl decal is facing up.

iii). Cover the decal with a piece of paper. You can use a brown paper bag or printer paper, but not wax paper.

iv). Iron or heat press for 30 seconds over the decal to loosen it.

v). Most of the vinyl decal should stick to the paper. After heat pressing the whole area covered by the decal, peel away the paper.

vi). Repeat the process with another piece of paper to remove any remaining vinyl. Do this until all the vinyl decal comes off.

If the paper method does not seem to be working, you can try to apply the iron to the backside of the decal and leave it there while scraping the vinyl away with a knife. However, this method puts your hands close to the hot iron, so use caution! Also, be careful not to burn your shirt with the hot iron as you scrape off the vinyl decal.

3. Use of Heat Transfer Vinyl Remover

You can find many HTV removers online. These can help you remove vinyl from a shirt easily.

AlbaChem Heat Transfer Vinyl Remover for Fabrics

Heat Transfer Vinyl Remover for Fabrics 20 fl. oz
3,157 Reviews
Heat Transfer Vinyl Remover for Fabrics 20 fl. oz
  • Most Powerful Residue Remover
  • Can Remove Siser, Thermoflex, Chemica, Prime,...
  • Quick Dry
  • Contains no Chlorinated Solvants
  • Must have for Crafters and DIYers

You can use this AlbaChem Heat Transfer Vinyl Remover from amazon. VLR is powerful and does not contain any chlorinated solvents. You can use this vinyl remover to remove heat transfer vinyls like Thermoflex, Prime, Siser, and Chemica.

To use this vinyl remover, you can follow the following steps.


i). Apply this product to the back of your shirt where the vinyl decal is, then wait for a few minutes.

ii). The next step involves turning the shirt around. Then slightly pull, tug and lastly, stretch the decal to break the bond between the vinyl and the fabric.

iii). At this point, you can use either your fingernails or tweezers to pick at the edge of the decal.

iv). It will start to lift off. Now peel the vinyl from the shirt.

v). If there are still adhesive residues, you can put some cleaner on a rag and wipe it over that area.

vi). Let it dry completely, and then heat press again.

I believe at this point, all the vinyl decal and the adhesive have come off your shirt, and it is ready for a wash.

4. Removing Vinyl From a Shirt Using Acetone

You can also use acetone or nail polish remover to remove vinyl, especially if it is on a fabric that cannot stand the high heat removal methods. To work with acetone, you must ensure that it is 100% pure. Also, before you start the procedure, do a small test patch. This helps you know whether or not it will damage or stain your shirt.

You Will Need;

  • 100% acetone
  • Tweezers or a sharp-edged knife


i). Firstly, you will turn the shirt inside out. The vinyl decal should be to the inside and its back facing up.

ii). Spray acetone on the shirt at the back of the vinyl decal. The acetone is supposed to soak right through the shirt material and loosen the adhesive holding the decal.

iii). Stretch the fabric and wiggle it to loosen the adhesive on the decal.

iv). Next, turn the shirt o its right side and gently peel the decal using a pair of tweezers or a knife

v). If you see any more adhesive residues, add a little amount of acetone to a small towel and wipe out the shirt in circular motions gently till all the adhesive is completely removed.

vi). The last step involves washing your shirt in the machine or by hand, as necessary.

5. Rubbing Alcohol

To remove vinyl decals from your shirt, you can also use much safer household products. For example, rubbing alcohol does not contain any hazardous compounds and does not emit toxic fumes. It's also a lot less expensive than using a commercial remover! This method also saves your fabric as it does not involve heat, damaging synthetic fabrics.

However, rubbing alcohol is not as fast or as effective as commercial chemical solvents.

What You'll Need

  • Sink or large bucket
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • A sharp knife or a pair of tweezer


i). Set the workspace with a large bucket or sink

ii). Turn the shirt inside out and hold it with the decal facing up.

iii). Hold the shirt over the large basin or sink.

iv). Pour a generous amount of rubbing alcohol over the unwanted HTV. This ensures that the shirt is well soaked in the liquid.

v). Tug and wiggle the shirt using your hands to loosen it from beneath the vinyl transfer.

vi). Turn the shirt back to its right side. Then, using a knife or tweezers, pry up an edge of the heat transfer vinyl design.

vii). The design may come off easily, or you may have to deal with chunks of small pieces of vinyl, in which case it will need patience.

viii). If the design does not come off well, repeat the process to ensure you remove all the residue. Finally, clean your shirt as necessary.

6. Use of Petroleum Jelly

This petroleum jelly method takes a long time and a lot of effort, but it's a perfect complement to any of the other vinyl removal methods we've discussed. It is not be the most efficient way to remove a complete HTV design from a garment, but it's great for removing HTV residue after you've tried another method.

What You'll Need

  • Liquid laundry detergent
  • Petroleum jelly


i). Start by turning your shirt inside out.

ii). Place cardboard inside the shirt to make it stretch and place it on a flat surface.

iii). Scoop a tablespoon of the petroleum jelly and apply it on the back of the decal gently.

iv). Add a small amount of the liquid laundry detergent on the same spot as the jelly and rub.

v). Adhesive should start clumping up by now. Use warm or hot water to rinse it off.

vi). Repeat the process until all the adhesive comes off.

Note that petroleum jelly will leave the oil on your shirt, so once you are done, hand wash it to remove the dirt.

How Do You Remove Adhesive Residue After Removing Heat Treated Vinyl From a Shirt?

You can easily remove HTV residue with petroleum jelly or wash the garment in the washing machine. After you've tried any of the procedures above, the glue residue will usually lift quite simply with continuous scraping.

Repeat the clean-up process if any residual residue is difficult to scrape away. For instance, acquire a fresh piece of paper and attempt the iron process again. Alternatively, you can soak another cloth in acetone and scrape away the residue.

If you are a professional maker of HTV shirts, this method may be too slow and time-consuming for you. Therefore, instead of repeating the process to remove the residue, you may consider getting a commercial adhesive remover which is more effective and takes less time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is Cricut vinyl used for?

Cricut Vinyl allows you to make easily removable decals, labels, and more for personalized food containers, gifts, home decor, and just about anything else. Every color in the rainbow is available, from bright, bold, and beachy to stately and classy, so there's something for everyone and their different projects.

2. What is vinyl transfer used for?

HTV is a type of vinyl used for decorating t-shirts, clothing, and other fabrics. HTV has a heat-activated adhesive backing that allows the vinyl to adhere to your clothing permanently when heat pressed for the appropriate amount of time, right temperature, and pressure.

3. Can you iron on all vinyl?

In general, all iron on vinyl should work on any fabric or material that can withstand the heat of your iron or heat press; thus, the appearance you want to achieve is the most important factor to consider when selecting an HTV.

About the author

Jane Melcher

Jane is a stay-at-home small business mom. She makes more than her husband selling her creations on Etsy.


HayFarmGuy - Get Info About Farm Animals in Your Inbox

Read Our Reviews

Leave a Comment