How can I remove sun deteriorated plastic decals from a painted bicycle frame without damaging the paint?

Peeling off is not an option, I have tried scraping off with a plastic scraper to no avail. Have also tried Goo Gone (citrus based solvent) and Oops! (a stronger solvent) with a non scratch scrubbing pad. I was able to peel the decals that werent' cracked from the sun but the others are basically baked on from the Arizona heat. Would a heat gun work? How careful do I have to be not to damage the paint? What about something like 2000 grit wet/dry sandpaper?

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BobK32 years ago

I tried vegetable oil to try to remove a stubborn decal, and TO MY SHOCK it actually works!! I never would have believed it.....

qwertyman108 years ago
What I do for removing decals I dont like is (Very) hot water, let it soak, and while its still warm and gooey, try some steel wool , im not sure what it will do to the paint though, Try softly if you decide to do this. 
paqrat8 years ago
Just a thought, but since you have tried heat perhaps trying cold is in order. If the decals are brittle adding a freezing cold to the mix might cause expansion that would crack the hold to the painted metal. Perhaps some dry ice (be sure to wear heavy gloves) or a co2 extinguisher. I don't think it would harm the paint but I cannot be sure of that.
Gorfram8 years ago
So, you've already tried:
- peeling
- scraping
- Goo Gone
- Oops (solvent)
- WD-40
- heat gun
- (you've probably already tried the rubbing alcohol, too.)

So, what else is there...?

  • You can buy an "eraser wheel" at an auto parts store - it's a big round eraser with a shank that fits into a power drill chuck. Auto body shops use these to remove decals from cars.
  • Some people swear by vegetable oils or peanut butter. I get good results with margarine to remove sticky residue from household stuff - don't know how it would work on a bike.
  • Along similar lines, you could try paraffin candle wax. If you applied it warm enough to mold to all the odd little bits & edges of decal, and then let it cool before breaking it off, it just might work pretty well. (Beeswax melts hotter and therefore might be more effective, if it's not too hot for the paint.)
  • UV light deteriorates most plastics, and probably did some of the existing damage to your decals. If you were able to beg, borrow, or rent a strong UV light and try dosing your decals with it; it would probably make them more brittle and break them up further - not sure if that would make things better or worse.
  • As a last resort, decals are usually made out of vinyl, which is just about the same thing as PVC, so you could try the solvent used to solvent-weld PVC pipes. It's nasty stuff, so follow all the safety precautions you can think of, as well as all the ones listed on the solvent bottle.
Of course, you should test any of these (especially the last one) on some inconspicuous part of the bike first. (Or else you can always go for the after-the-last resort: get the bike blast-cleaned and repainted. :)

Good luck!

Bookdemon8 years ago
Isopropyl alcohol, don't rub hard Acetone, but that will take paint with it
try using lighter fluid zippo or ronsonal
DebH578 years ago
Use WD-40 to soak the labels and let it sit a while them wipe it all off. You may have to do it more than once depending on how strong the adhesive on the labels is. This also works for removing grafitti from automobiles without damaging the paint.
goodgnus (author)  DebH578 years ago
I tried WD-40 already, but not letting it sit on the sticker. Maybe I'll try that by soaking a paper towel in WD-40 and letting it sit over the sticker. Thanks.
DebH57 goodgnus8 years ago
I just removed stickers and magic marker from my car door thanks to my best friends little darling wanting to give me a picture. LOL The magic marker wiped off right away the stickers I had to soak and let it sit overnight. They came right off but left a little goo behind so I redid the application and you can't even see where they were now. Good luck
I would try a heat gun. If you need to take the paint off later use "aircraft coating remover" just be careful with it, nasty stuff, it will bubble the paint off the metal in about 5 min.
goodgnus (author)  Swishercutter8 years ago
Didn't work. I tried it on both heat settings, 500w and 1000w. I was able to melt the sticker a bit but when I went to scrape it off with a plastic scraper it took a little nick out of the paint, presumably heated up the paint quite a bit too. The paint is in excellent condition so I'd like to preserve it. If I was going to strip the paint anyway I wouldn't bother trying to remove the stickers I'd just have the entire frame soda blasted.