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What is the Best Way to Remove Window Film?

By Sherry Holetzky
Updated May 16, 2024
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Removing window film is probably the last thought to enter your mind when you’re having film installed. Over time, however, the adhesive bond holding the film in place will start to break down. As it begins to show signs of wear, you should realize that it won’t be long until the adhesive no longer holds, and you will need to come up with an effective way to remove it. In many cases, you can use an ammonia-based cleaner to dissolve any remaining adhesive and gently pull the film off of the window.

The best way to remove window film often depends on the type of window being treated. Some window films, particularly those used in store windows or other commercial applications, may have a special type of adhesive that requires a specialty removal spray. There is one process that is generally safe and effective for most windows, however, including windows in vehicles that may have defroster strips that shouldn’t be scratched or damaged.

The tools needed to remove the film are things you probably already have around the house. They include a razor or penknife, and you will also need ammonia or ammonia-based window cleaner. You will also need something to cover the vehicle interior or other surfaces below windows that are being treated to catch the drips of ammonia or cleaner as you work.

First, lift the corners of the window film gently. For this step, you will probably need the razor or penknife, but you can try lifting it with your fingers. Pull it slowly, pulling away as much as you can without tearing the film. Spray ammonia or cleaner on the uncovered area and work it under the film as much as you can. Try to pull more of the film away, and continue applying cleaner, working it in, and pulling.

To remove window film on windows that do not have obstructions such as defroster strips, you can also score, or cut several areas. Spray cleaner onto the entire window, working it into the scored areas with a clean, damp rag. Begin pulling at these areas as they begin free up. In this case, it doesn’t matter if the film comes off in strips instead of all in one piece.

Once the window film has been pulled off, make sure that all remaining adhesive residue is removed too. This can be accomplished by gently scouring the area with steel wool, taking care to work around defroster strips if they are present. Wipe with a clean, dampened cloth as you go. You can also try cleaning products designed to remove sticky substances and glues, or you can look for specialty products made to remove window film.

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Discussion Comments

By anon130689 — On Nov 29, 2010

I tried the oven cleaner and it did not work!

By anon100205 — On Jul 29, 2010

Don't waste your time. You need a steamer. Once steam is applied to the edge of window tint it removes like butter with no residue. this is the only way to remove tint properly.

You can buy a cheap hand held steamer from your local store or on the rubbish tv channel. It's the only way also to remove tint without destroying defroster lines.

Jonathon (Tint guru)

By Glasshouse — On Jul 06, 2010

@ Pelestears- Wow! That sounds like such an easy solution to such a tedious job. It makes sense though.

I tint windows for a living, and I have always used a heat gun on the exterior of the window to loosen the adhesive so I could peel off the tint. I then used ether alcohol and a razor blade to tediously scrap and polish the windows.

I'll have to try your technique some time. If it works, it will definitely beat the dry cramped hands of that come with my method.

By PelesTears — On Jul 06, 2010

I bought a used car that had a bad tint job. My friend used to work at a custom shop so I asked his advice on removing window tint. To prep the tint for removal he told me to peel the corners and wet the tint with a watered down dish detergent mix. Then I taped the windows off from the inside with black plastic. Next, I parked the car in the sun for a few hours to let the detergent work under the corners and begin to soften the glue.

After peeling off the tint, I sprayed the glue with oven cleaner. After waiting a few minutes, I took a shop rag and easily wiped the oven cleaner off. The oven cleaner is fine to use on glass and the metal defroster wires, since these are practically the same materials used inside of an oven. I was just careful to wipe any oven cleaner off plastic parts, because I was not sure what it would do.

Oven cleaner made the most tedious part of the job easier than I had imagined.

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