How To Remove Vinyl From Shirts?

When it comes to shirts custom designs are likely the main distinguishing factor in the market. After all, the basic shape of a shirt rarely changes, and this means that they have to stand out solely based on their fabrics and what is printed on them.

However, it is for this exact reason that some of us would prefer to know how to remove vinyl designs from a shirt. Whether you are a customizer who made a mistake, or just a shirt owner that wants to give new life to an old shirt, there’s a lot of reasons why you might be interested in removing part of a shirt’s design. And that’s why today we’ll focus on how to remove vinyl from shirts. So you can give your spin to your favorite shirts without having to worry about hiring a specialized service.

What exactly is vinyl?

At its core vinyl is plastic, however, it’s a particularly popular option for decoration due to how light and thin it is. As plastic vinyl can be cut and molded in countless shapes including logos, tribal patterns, and complex sentences. But due to its light build, it can also be applied to clothing without affecting its weight or flexibility.

Almost all “printed patterns” we see on shirts are stamped vinyl. Thin layers of vinyl have been used for decades to add elaborate patterns on top of fabric without needing to rely on advanced sewing techniques. Vinyl also has the advantage of being sufficiently resistant to water and heat, meaning that once applied it will likely endure on your shirt for a long time to come.

Of course, this durability also raises the question of how can we best remove vinyl from shirts without damaging the fabric it’s applied to. The good news is that removing vinyl is considerably easier than you might imagine, and despite its great durability there are a few ways to remove vinyl from your shirts right at home just with the tools and products we all own.

How to remove vinyl from shirts with an iron?

The most common way to remove vinyl from shirts is to use heat, and the safest way to use heat on clothing is to grab your iron. So for this first technique, you’ll need to grab the shirt you want to remove vinyl from, your iron and table, rubbing alcohol, and an exacto knife or tweezers.

Take all your tools and lay them out safely on the table to have them readily available as you need them. Then prop your iron vertically so the base is facing forwards, plug it, and then set it at a temperature that is appropriate to the fabric your shirt is made of. You just need to use the regular temperature you would use to dry the shirt but feel free to research online if you aren’t sure of the exact temperature. Shirts can get ruined if you expose them to excessive heat.

Once the iron is properly heated you’ll need to open your shirt and place it over the iron. You need to make sure the backside of the area where the vinyl is applies is pressed to the hot plate. You can use clippers or your own hands to press the shirt flush towards the iron, but keep your safety as the priority.

Once the shirt is properly pressed you can try to lift the vinyl with the knife or tweezers based on your personal preference. The vinyl will start coming off thanks to the heat, but it likely will come apart as you try to lift it. So keep that alcohol handy and clean your tools as needed, with some patience you’ll be able to completely remove the vinyl design.

What’s the logic behind the iron technique?

Most vinyl used in clothing is classified as “Heat Transfer Vinyls” which means that their adhesive is completely reliant on heat. Pieces of vinyl can be easily applied at home with just an iron too, so the above method works under the same principles as vinyl application does.

While heat does allow vinyl to stick to fabrics it’s important to note that there are limits to how much heat the material can take. So while a quick ironing session is enough to get a vinyl firmly stuck, prolonged heat can easily get the adhesive undone. Similarly, this is why vinyl will most likely tear apart as you try to pull it off, the prolonged exposure means that it’s dealing with more heat than it’s designed to endure.

How to remove vinyl from shirts with petroleum jelly?

If you have some stubborn pieces of vinyl left on your shirt you don’t need to worry, there is still a way to get rid of them: Petroleum Jelly.

First grab a can of petroleum jelly and your favorite shirt detergent, next once your shirt is at room temperature start rubbing the jelly over the remaining vinyl parts. Keep at it for a while and then rub the detergent over the same area. Wash hand your shirt and once you are done you should have a shirt completely free of any vinyl residues.

Do keep in mind however that the jelly technique is only really meant for small pieces of vinyl, so always make sure to use the ironing technique first. Petroleum Jelly needs heat to break the bonds first to work, and you should see both techniques as complementary instead of as alternatives to each other.

What’s the logic behind the petroleum jelly technique?

The reason why petroleum jelly works to remove vinyl is that jelly is good at removing any sort of adhesive residues. Whether it’s glue, tape marks, or the adhesive used on vinyl enough petroleum jelly can break its bonds and make it easy to wash away those residues.

This is also the main reason why jelly only works after using the ironing method. Petroleum Jelly on its own is going to have a hard time removing large pieces that are solidly applied to the fabric. But for leftover residue whose bonds have been weakened, it proves to be a great follow-up alternative.