How to Get Vinyl Lettering Off of a T-Shirt

by Shelley Moench-Kelly

    T-shirts are a fashion mainstay, with pop culture quotes and logos seen every day on men, women and children. But if you have a brand new T-shirt with lettering you want to deliberately age to give the shirt that vintage look, or if you want to remove the lettering altogether, the process can easily be done at home.

    Step 1

    There are a few ways to remove vinyl lettering, depending on how long it's been on the shirt and even the type of glue that was used. The only way to know which way works best is to try each of them. Heat an iron to medium heat. Cover the lettering completely with wax paper. Press the iron on top of the wax paper for 5 to 10 seconds -- don't leave the iron on too long or it will burn the shirt. Peel away the wax paper and the letters should come off with it.

    Step 2

    If the ironing method doesn't work or you're wary of burning your shirt, throw it in a clothes dryer on high for about 20 minutes. The heat makes the adhesive soft and the letters easier to peel away. The minute you take the shirt out, peel the letters off with your fingers or with some tweezers. Depending on the number of the letters, the size of the decal and your speed, you might need to repeat this process a few times.

    Step 3

    Have a decal that still won't budge? Try nail polish remover. But first, put a dab of remover on a cotton swab and rub it on an inside seam to see if it discolors or bleaches the fabric. If not, proceed by dabbing one letter at a time with remover then using an old towel to rub the vinyl off. Wash the T-shirt immediately to remove any traces of nail polish remover.


    • To distress the vinyl letters but not remove them completely, use the nail polish removal method and tweezers to pull away only portions of the letters or design.


    • If you opt for the nail polish remover method, make sure your work area has adequate ventilation. Nail polish remover fumes are strong and toxic.

    About the Author

    Shelley Moench-Kelly is a writer and editor whose clients range from L'Oreal and to the McGraw-Hill Companies and FIDM. She has interviewed notables such as Dr. Andrew Ordon of “The Doctors” and the legendary Vidal Sassoon. Her first book, "Egg," is slated for release in 2016.

    Photo Credits

    • Michael Greenberg/Digital Vision/Getty Images