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3 Ways to Remove Car Window Tint

Stephen Fogel
January 3, 2019

removing car window tint

Car window tinting can be a big plus — but it’s not for everyone. Whether that tint you added a few years back has gotten scratched or you bought a used car and want to lighten things up, there are ways to get rid of it.

We recommend professional installation for adding window tinting to your car. But you can remove car window tinting by yourself fairly easily. Let’s get started!

The key to removing car window tinting

Car window tinting is a clear polyester film, made of several layers. An inner adhesive layer bonds the film to the inside of your windows, a central tinted layer adds the desired amount of darkening, and a scratch-resistant outer layer helps protect from wear and tear. 

The key to removing car window tinting is dealing with the film’s adhesive layer. If you use a technique that removes the adhesive along with the film itself, you’ll save yourself many hours of scraping the sticky residue from your windows.  

The other important thing is not to damage any important mechanisms that are part of the glass. This includes your rear defroster wires, which are usually silk-screened onto the inner surface of your rear window. Some cars also have on-glass radio antennas that use this process. Never use a metal scraper or razor blade around these wires.

Tinting removal techniques

There are a few different ways to remove car window tinting film. Let’s start with the easiest, and proceed from there.

1. Steam

Steam heats the film to the point where the adhesive softens, releases its grip, and peels off while still attached to the film. It’s the most effective and least hazardous way to remove car window tinting film. Just be careful not to scald yourself.

You’ll need a clothing steamer for this process. If you don’t own one, you can purchase one for around $30, or you can rent one. Here’s how it works:

  • Fill the steamer with water and turn it on.
  • Start at one corner of the tint film, steaming it until you can start to peel it away from the glass.
  • Continue to direct the steam at the point where the film and the glass meet, slowly and gently peeling as you go.
  • When the entire panel has been steamed off, use a clean cloth and an adhesive remover such as Goo Gone to get rid of any residue on the glass.

2. Ammonia

This technique uses undiluted ammonia and the heat of the sun to remove the tinting film. The ammonia dissolves the adhesive, while the sun’s heat speeds up the process. Because ammonia is toxic, you must wear goggles, a respirator, and vinyl or latex gloves. 

An alternative version of this technique uses isopropyl alcohol instead of ammonia, but the protective equipment is still required. Either way, this will work best on a hot, sunny day.

With both ammonia and alcohol, you’ll want to use plastic tarps and masking tape to cover all the non-glass surfaces inside your car, so they don’t absorb fumes or spills.

  • Park your car where it will be fully exposed to the sun for several hours.
  • Cut large black plastic bags into pieces that match the size of each tinted window. Make two covers for each window.
  • Spray a mixture of dish soap and water on the exterior of each window.
  • Place one piece of black plastic bag on the outside of each soaped-up window, smoothing it out so it adheres to the glass.
  • Spray the ammonia or alcohol onto the inside of each window, wetting the tint film thoroughly. Keep the doors open for ventilation.
  • Place the second piece of black plastic bag over the inside of the window, just as you did with the outside.
  • When every window is done, close the car and let it sit in the sun for at least one hour.
  • Starting with the first window you treated, remove the inside piece of black plastic.
  • Start peeling the tinting film off at one corner, using a razor blade scraper to help the process.
  • Spray additional ammonia or alcohol as needed where the peeling film meets the glass, to loosen any undissolved adhesive.
  • Once you have removed the entire piece of tint film, clean the surface with additional ammonia. Superfine #0000 steel wool, dipped in soapy water, can help get any undissolved bits of adhesive off.
  • Remove the outside piece of black plastic and follow up with window cleaner.
  • Air out the car thoroughly.

3. Hair dryer

This technique uses the heat produced by a hair dryer to remove car window tinting. It’s similar to the steaming method, but not quite as efficient — it’ll leave more adhesive residue for you to clean up. But it’s also not as hazardous as the ammonia method. 

  • Starting at a corner of the window, heat up the tinting film.
  • After 30 seconds or so, use a fingernail or a razor blade to pry up the corner of the film.
  • Peel the film slowly away from the glass, directing the airflow at the point where the tinting film meets the glass.
  • Continue the process until you have removed the entire panel of tinting film.
  • Use a clean cloth or microfiber towel to remove any remaining adhesive. Use the hair dryer to soften it up.
  • Use an adhesive remover like Goo Gone to remove any residue.
  • Finish up with window cleaner.

Of course, if you prefer, a tinting shop will be happy to remove the film for you — it'll just cost you a little bit of money. Call a few and find the one that works best for you.

Stephen Fogel

About the Author

Stephen has been an automotive enthusiast since childhood, owning some of his vehicles for as long as 40 years, and has raced open-wheel formula cars. He follows and writes about the global automotive industry, with an eye on the latest vehicle technologies.

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