Removing sticker from kayak / surfski?

I bought a new surfski from a SoCal surfski dealer and it came with two giant stickers advertising their store.

The stickers are pretty difficult to peel off by hand. I tried picking at a couple corners to see if I could peel the sticker up and, while it’s possible to take part of the sticker off, the adhesive is much stronger than the sticker itself, so every time I successfully pick at it, I remove something like a 1mm x 0.25mm area of sticker. The stickers are each 15cm x 25cm, so it would take forever to try to peel off the stickers by hand.

Any suggestions for something that would make removing the sticker easier? Is there something I could soak the stickers in that would loosen the stickers or dissolve them that wouldn’t impact the ski? It’s a fiberglass Fenn ski in case that matters.

I would try a hair dryer to loosen them and Goo Gone to get the adhesive off. A plastic spatula might come in handy.
I’ve used a piece of cloth to cover them and poured acetone on it also.
The cloth keeps the acetone from evaporating too quickly.
Follow the cautions on the acetone container.

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Call the company and ask them what they would use, it might give them some feedback about creating a mess for you to deal with.

Strings’ idea for goo-gone is good, I’d be reluctant to heat the sticker much if at all. You can also try some rubber cement like the red can of Weldwood, but don’t let it harden, you might be able to buy toluene or xylene at a paint or hardware store, or citrus based surfboard wax remover. Using a fairly sharp plastic spatula or very dull plastic wall board tool. The solvent that will work depends on what was in the glue in the first place so you may need to experiment.

Try WD 40 and a rag.

Goo gone melted my truck dash pad.


Ditto string’s suggestion, but be careful with the acetone - it will likely cut the gloss from the area, Check it on a small spot first or you may have to buff the area out after to restore the gloss. Citronella usually works. The hair dryer and spatula help. (Used to work at a sign shop so I’ve had some experience with this.) Its a bit trying on one’s patience no matter what you do. If the vinyl sticker is old and has been exposed to sun for a long time it will be brittle and break off in little bits…

I used to build sailboats and use a razor blade scraper to remove everything. Try it on a warm day. Remove the last of the adhesive with lacquer thinner or acetone.

Agree WD-40

WD-40 is also the only solvent I found that dissolves silicone grease for polyurethane bushings.

Seadart has the right idea: call the dealer. If it’s who I think it is, both husband and wife will be very helpful and knowledgeable. (I bought my second wing paddle from them.)

If they cannot offer a solution, you could try e-mailing the manufacturer.

Bet this isn’t the first time someone has wanted to remove stubborn decals. Also, you probably know that many ski paddlers put pipe wrap on the gunnels to avoid damage from paddle whacks and tiedown straps. Maybe also ask what people use to remove the adhesive from those.

I use starting fluid in a can which is ether. Spray on rag and rub.

What has worked for me is a heat gun on low to get the decal off, followed by acetone. Then I thoroughly wash the area with sudsy Dawn.

You can try a hair dryer on high to see if it makes it easy to get an edge started. My guess is that you’ll need a heat gun (they aren’t expensive). Keep the heat gun moving and try to use as little heat as possible. You can use a plastic putty knife to poke at the edge if you like. Decal should come right off. In my experience GooGone works to remove the residue but acetone works better. It’s important to remember to put the top back on the acetone. :smile:

Lots of YouTube videos showing decal removal.

What I’ve found works:

  • gentle use of hair dryer to heat the sticker. Modulate the heat by starting with low setting AND distance–I’d start about a foot away and bring the hair dryer closer as needed
  • to get of the remaining adhesive: I start with a rag wet with isopropyl alcohol. It’s less aggressive than acetone. If that doesn’t work, I move to acetone. I’ve used acetone on the gelcoat of multiple fiberglass kayaks for years with no problem and no damage to finish. Wear “exam” gloves–available at any drug store–to avoid getting this stuff on your skin. Both alcohol and acetone are irritants and toxic.

If you can get the sticker off I’ve had good luck removing the goo with kerosene, also sold as lamp oil. Charcoal lighter fluid would probably work too.

You can get delrin/plastic straight edge “razors” for pretty cheap. I use them on so much stuff, it won’t scratch the way a metal razor will. We use them on the boats at my work.


Lee Valley sells packs of plastic razors. Orange ones and yellow ones, each of different stiffness. I’ve been using these for years, to remove windshield stickers and old registration tabs. If needed, I clean off any residual goo with a bit of odorless mineral spirits, available from art supply stores. But I would not use spirits on gelcoat without checking if that works without harming the gelcoat.

Google decal removers. 3M, CRC, and Permatex all make spray on products that usually work very well. Body shops often use them. Goo Gone might also work, although I haven’t had much luck in using it to remove Keel Easy adhesive with it. Be careful not to get these products on any decals that you might want to keep, like striping.

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