(Updated on October 14, 2021)
On a list of fun things to do with a few hours of free time you probably wouldn’t see vehicle tint removal. This process has a reputation for being painstaking and exhausting, but it doesn’t have to be.
Why Would You Want to Remove Window Tint?
The better your window tint, the longer it will last. With time, most window tint and the adhesive holding it in place break down. This is usually worse in climates that need the tint more, those with a lot of sunshine.
When the adhesive holding the tint in place gets old and damaged by the sun’s rays, air can get in between the window and the tint, causing a bubbly surface.
Both silvery and greenish tint change colors as more UV rays hit them, usually becoming more purple in color. This chemical change in the material also shows that the old faded window tint can no longer protect the interior of the car from the sun very well.
Whether you purchased a vehicle with more tint than is legal (check online to see the specific amount and location of tint that is acceptable in your state) or your teenage self made some poor life decisions decking out your first car, illegal tint should be removed as soon as possible to avoid a fine.
Can I Remove Car Window Tint Myself?
It’s important to note that in most cases, only aftermarket tinting can be taken off. Factory tint is often added by mixing dye into the glass itself, so the only way to remove that tint is by replacing the entire glass.
It’s much cheaper to remove the tinting on your vehicle at home, though you should take into account how much your time is worth to you. It can take several hours to remove old faded window tint, though the duration depends on the method you use and how stuck the glue is.
Thankfully you don’t have to resort to the old “soap and scrape” method that you have probably either tried or heard of. This is where you wet the interior window with soapy water and painstakingly chip away at the tint with a razor blade.
There are several methods of tint removal you can try. For all of them, start by removing any stickers on top of the tint. If your vehicle has defrost lines on the back window, be very careful not to damage them.
Finally, keep safety in mind. Specifically, when using harsh chemicals make sure to ventilate your space well and work with open vehicle doors or windows (the ones you’re not currently working on, of course). It’s not a bad idea to wear gloves and safety goggles to protect yourself from spills and splashes.
Any method you choose will probably leave behind some window tint glue to take care of at the end.
Related: How to Remove Bumper Sticker Residue
EASIEST Way to Remove Window Tint
Steaming is probably the easiest way to remove tinting from your vehicle. It takes much less muscle and time and leaves the least amount of residue to remove later. If you don’t have a fabric steamer yet, you can buy one that is relatively inexpensive online such as a Conair Steam Wand.
- First, prepare and preheat the steamer as instructed by the manufacturer. Roll down each window as you work about ¼” or so, so the top of the tint is exposed.
- Start steaming the inside of the window. Keep the steamer about 2” away, so that the tint itself doesn’t touch the hot steamer element and stick to it. Make sure you heat the entire surface as evenly as possible.
- If you have the time and patience, the removal process works best if you also steam the outside of the window. The back window tends to take about 7 minutes on the interior, to give you an idea of time (some users recommend propping up the steamer in “on” mode, directed towards the back window, and closing the car up for 7 minutes to let the steam do its work).
- Use a razor (at an angle to the window to avoid scratching the glass) to carefully lift the corners of the tint if they aren’t already starting to curl up after the steaming process. Then use your hands to peel the rest away.
- If there is any tint glue left on the window, clean it off. Then follow up by wiping the glass with a microfiber towel and glass cleaner. Make sure to wipe the door frame and anywhere else the water from steaming may have dripped.
BEST Way to Remove Window Tint
The best way to remove all the window tint at once is probably by using the ammonia and garbage bag method. This works best in sunlight and requires that you protect the interior of the car (such as door frame, seats, etc) from overspray of ammonia to avoid damage.
You can also use soapy water instead of ammonia, but it may not work as well. If this seems like it will work well for you, here’s how to do it.
- Start by removing anything stuck to the surface of the tint. Protect the door frame and other interior materials with thick plastic and tape it in place. Open the windows slightly to expose the top edge of the tint.
- Place a black garbage bag (works best because black absorbs the sunlight well) over the outside of the window and roughly cut around the outline of the window itself (it doesn’t need to be perfect). This should give you two identical pieces of black garbage bag, one to tape to the outside of the window now (or spray the outside with soapy water and the plastic should just stick to the glass) and one to attach to the inside later.
- Once the outside of the window is covered with the plastic, spray the inside surface of the window thoroughly with ammonia (Windex works well for this). While the surface is wet, cover it with the garbage bags. Use tape if needed.
- Let the window sit in the sun for 1 to 2 hours so that the ammonia soaks into the tint and loosens the tint glue. Don’t let it dry, check on it if needed.
- After it’s done marinating, use a razor at an angle to lift up the corner of the tint/bag layer. Use your hands to peel it away.
- Take care of any glue remnants, then follow up with a glass cleaner.
Other Window Tint Removal Methods
As before, always remove anything that’s sitting on top of the tint before trying to remove the tint itself, and roll down the window just a bit to expose the top edge of the tint.
See Also: 5 Reasons Your Power Windows Don’t Work
Hair Dryer or Heat Gun
This method uses heat just like the steamer method, but it’s a dry heat instead. The heat should loosen the tint and glue, but you’ll need to peel the tint away as you go so that the tint doesn’t cool and re-adhere to the glass.
- Start in the corner and heat a small section, keeping the hair dryer about 1” to 2” away so that the tint doesn’t stick to the hot hair dryer head.
- Pull away the tint that’s hopefully peeling up at the corner, then heat the next section and pull it up, and so on. Repeat until the whole window is done.
- When peeling the tint away, always peel slowly so it doesn’t rip, or resuming tint removal will be even more difficult than starting.
This method is similar to the ammonia or soapy water/plastic method, but may be more convenient depending on what materials you have at home.
- Spray the soapy water mixture onto the inside of the window after preparing in the same way as for the ammonia spraying.
- Cover the interior glass with newspaper, and ensure that the newspaper stays wet for a couple of hours (you can re-spray as needed).
- Then, try lifting up the newspaper/tint together. Remove any residual glue and clean the glass with an auto glass cleaner.
Tips for Removing Window Tint Glue
Cleaning off the residual glue from the window can be done by scraping at an angle with a razor, though it’s easier to apply a solvent to a microfiber towel and rub the glue off with that.
Isopropyl alcohol (the highest concentration you can find) is usually the best, though you can also try ammonia or nail polish remover. Goo Gone may also work well.
If you used a different chemical to remove the tint, clean the window with a light soapy solution first so that you don’t mix separate chemicals, as some (like bleach and ammonia) should never be combined.
How Much Does Professional Window Tint Removal Cost?
Having a professional do the dirty work for you usually costs $100 to $200 total for the vehicle. You may get a discount if the same company will then re-tint the vehicle. Call around to different locations to get the best price.
If you have more money than time, it might be best to leave this job to the professionals, though anyone can try to do it at home with a little patience.