How Hard is it to Remove Vinyl Wall Decals?

Posted by Katie Marks | Aug 27, 2013
Get free quotes »

Photo: Vinyl Design, Flickr.

Those nifty wall decals are all the rage these days, and no wonder: with the application of a simple sticker, you can completely change the look and feel of a room and totally spice up the paint. Trees, plants, birds, and so many more shapes are available for people who want their walls to have a little more fun and texture, and you can also make your own using specialty kits.

But you may have a lingering question on your mind: how hard is it to remove wall decals?

This is an important question for people who know they may want to redesign at some point, as well as those concerned about resale value. When preparing a home for sale, it's common to take out these personal accents and return to neutral paint colors and interior design so prospective buyers can imagine themselves in the home, rather than having to look past the taste of the current owners. And for those thinking ahead about redesign, those cute butterflies in a child's room might be a source of much eye rolling once the teen years roll around.

So before you bust out the decal kit, it's worth knowing what you're in for, and what you'll need to do once removing the decals to return walls to their prior state. The good news is that removing wall decals is actually relatively easy, but it does need to be done carefully and patiently for the best results.

These vinyl decals are designed to stick, potentially for years, but also to come off relatively easily. If they're well made, all you need to do is get a corner started with a fingernail or a tool like a sharp knife, and you should be able to gently peel it back. Once you get a headstart, you can peel the rest of the decal away. Make sure to do it slowly so you're not left with individual strips of vinyl you'll need to remove.

If the decal is being stubborn, trying using a hairdryer on a low setting to loosen the adhesive. Don't hold it too close, because if you start melting the vinyl, you're going to end up with a massive mess. Pull gently on the slightly warmed decal now and then to see if the adhesive has loosened, and watch out; it may be leaving a stain on the wall that you will have to deal with. As you pull, keep using the hairdryer to loosen the next section.

Do not apply pressure (which will make the decal stick even harder) or use water in an attempt to get it off. These can both create more of a mess than you started with. Once the decal is removed, you're probably going to have some adhesive left behind, and it's important to get all of it off before you start preparing the wall for its next adventure. Much of it may come off if you gently roll your hand across the wall: it should ball up for easy disposal. Rinse the wall with an ammonia solution to get the rest off and allow it to dry completely before taking the next step.

If a wall decal was removed correctly, the paint underneath should be intact. It may be possible to just gently wash the whole wall and allow it to dry without doing anything else. However, repainting may be required if the paint is old, faded, or chipping, or if there's an area of sun damage and fading around the former site of the decal. A painter will need to assess the wall to determine what kind of paint and brush to use, and whether primer will be necessary to ensure even application of the covering coat.

This is an important step, because if the paint is not applied correctly, the design of the decal can keep bleeding through subsequent layers of paint. This ghosting can become quite obnoxious, and it's not desirable whether a home is being prepared for sale or a room is being redone for a new purpose.

Katie Marks writes for

Get free quotes »

Top Cities Covered by our Painters: