Removing your car’s window tint is easier than it looks if you know what you’re doing

Car window tint is one of the more underrated accessories that you can put on your car. It doesn’t matter if you want to be protected from the sun’s heat or you just enjoy an extra amount of privacy, the tint that you put on your car will go a long way in achieving those goals. Unfortunately, even the most durable car window tint can be subjected to degradation over time.

At some point, you’re going to have to remove and replace them with a new tint. The good news is that the process of removing window tint is easier than it sounds, provided you follow this step-by-step guide on how to do it.

Preparation is key

Preparation matters, even when it comes to something like removing the window tint on your car. For this task, you’re going to need a lot of supplies, though the kind of supplies you’ll need will depend on what method you use in removing the tint on the windows of your car. There are a few methods that you can do.

First, there’s the soap-and-scrape method, which is exactly as it sounds. You put soap on the windows and scrape the tint off once it softens. For this method, you’ll need the following items:

  • ordinary dish soap
  • ordinary glass cleaner
  • spray bottle
  • paper towels or clean pieces of rags
  • razor knife or blade
  • water

If your preference is to do the soap-and-newspaper method, you’ll need the same materials that I listed in the soap-and-scrape method minus the spray bottle. Additionally, you’ll also need to have the following items within reach:

  • bowl or bucket
  • newspaper
  • sponge
The ammonia-and-sun technique is another proven method to get the tint off your car window.

All you need to do is wipe the ammonia on the tint, let it soak for up to two hours so the sun can heat up the glass. This helps the ammonia dissolve the adhesive holding the tint to the windows. For this method, you’re going to need the following items:

  • unused plastic garbage bags
  • spray bottle containing ammonia solution
  • ordinary dish soap
  • scissors
  • razor knife or blade
  • paper towels
  • spray bottle
  • steel wool

The hairdryer method is another go-to process that can get the job done. This method does not require as many materials as other methods, but you will need specialized items like a hairdryer to go with the following items:

  • ordinary glass cleaner
  • clean piece of cloth
  • razor knife or blade
  • paper towels

Last but certainly not least is the steamer method, which requires steaming the inside and outside of the windows to soften the adhesive that sticks the tint to the windows. This method obviously requires a fabric steamer, but you’ll also need these items to get the job done:

  • adhesive remover
  • clean piece of cloth
  • razor knife or blade
  • water

The patient needs to be prepped, too

The patient, in this case, is your car. Before you go about removing the tint off the windows of your car, you also need to make specific preparations so other parts of your car aren’t affected by what you’re about to do. If you, for example, have decals or stickers on your car windows, you’ll have to remove them first using any of the above methods. Removing the tint film becomes trickier if there are stickers and decals over the surface of the tint.

You’ll also need to have an extension cord nearby if you need to plug something like, say, a hairdryer or a steamer. Make sure it’s long enough that you can reach the interior with it. You’ll have to work from inside the cabin, especially if you have tint on the interior window.

If heat and/or ammonia are involved in the tint-removal process, you’ll have to roll down the windows that you’re not working on. If your car has a sunroof, do open it.

It’s time to execute!

Preparation only gets you so far; from this point on, it’s all about execution. Choosing the method you want to use will dictate how you proceed in removing the tint from your window.

If you’re using the soap-and-scrape technique, you’ll first need to lift the corner of the tint film using your razor blade. Be very gentle when you’re doing this. Once part of the tint has been lifted, you’ll have to carefully peel it from the surface of the glass. Again, be careful when you’re doing this; if you tear the tint, you’re going to have to repeat the peeling process with your razor blade.

The soap-and-newspaper method is a little trickier, in part because you’ll need to use more materials to get the job done. The first thing you need to do is to spray the soap solution, not the tint film.

Once that’s done, cover it with a newspaper and leave it as is for about an hour and so. Be mindful not to let the outside surface of the newspaper dry up. If that happens, soak it again with the soapy solution. After about an hour or so, peel off the newspaper using your razor blade. If done correctly, the tint film should be stuck to the newspaper, making the peeling process a lot easier. If it hasn’t stuck to the newspaper yet, repeat the process until it does.

For the ammonia-and-sun method, you’ll need to cut several pieces of a plastic garbage bag to cover the inside and outside surface of the car window.

Spray the soapy solution on the outside of the window and then cover that with a plastic garbage bag. Repeat the process on the inside surface of the window, but instead of using the soapy solution, use the ammonia solution and cover it, too, with a plastic bag. Let it sit for an hour or so, and once that’s done, slowly peel off the plastic bag. The tint film should peel off with it. If some parts of the film remain on the windows, get your razor and simply scrape them off. That shouldn’t be difficult at this stage of the process.

The hairdryer method is probably the simplest among all these techniques. All you need is a hairdryer that you need to set on the highest possible setting. Once done, direct the airflow on the corner of the tint film that you want to peel. Make sure to keep the hairdryer about two inches from the surface of the film, and after a few minutes, the corner should curl up, making it earlier to peel the entire tint film off.

Then there’s the steamer technique. This method needs a lot of prep work, including getting the fabric steamer ready before you start.

If you’ve done that, you simply need to follow the same technique that we laid out in the hairdryer method. Direct the steam coming out of the fabric steamer on the corner of the tint film. Be mindful, though, that the steamer needs to be a lot closer to the tint as the hairdryer. An inch away should be enough. Eventually, the corner of the tint film should curl up, too, and, from there, direct the steam to the section where the tint is being peeled off.

Remove the stranglers

If you’re lucky — or good — you can remove the entire tint film in one peel. But that rarely happens, in part because there will always be adhesive residue left on the window of your car. Similar to the tint-peeling process, there are a number of ways that you can remove the sticky leftovers on your window.

You can spray soapy water on the area and carefully scrape off the residue using your razor blade. Keep on spraying the soapy solution until all the residue has ben scraped off. If you’re using the ammonia-and-sun method, you can spray the ammonia solution onto the surface and scrape the residue off the window with a steel wool. Be careful, though. The steel wool can scratch the glass.

You can also wipe the residue off using the hairdryer or the steamer. Simply direct heat over the area where the residue remains and wipe them off with paper towels. They should come off easily after that.

If none of these methods are up to your liking, you can just buy an adhesive remover or glass cleaner and let them work their magic on the ever-so-annoying residue.

Glass cleaners are your closers

When you’ve peeled off the tint and done aftercare work on the adhesive residue, there’s still one last step before your windows look clean as new. This process involves putting the finishing touches on the windows to make them look as pristine as they should be.

For this, you’re going to need a glass cleaner, and you’ll need to spray the glass cleaner generously across the window surface. Use a glass cleaning cloth — or just a simple paper towel — to wipe everything down. At that point, your car windows should look about as clean as they were when you drove your car out of the dealership.

How to remove window tint?

Removing car window tint requires a lot of preparation and attention to detail. If you adhere to the specific method that you follow, removing your car’s window tint can be done easily.

How to remove old window tint?

The same process is involved in removing old window tint. In this case, though, you might have to use more soap solution or more ammonia in case the adhesive that keeps the tint intact might be a little more difficult to loosen.

How to remove window tint glue?

Window tint glue — or window tint adhesive — can be removed in several different ways. You can use heat to remove the adhesive. You can use a soapy solution. You can even use ammonia to do it. Be sure to do it properly, though, because you could end up ruining your car windows if you don’t do it properly.

How much does it cost to remove window tint?

DIY methods of removing car window tint cost as much as the materials you need cost. The total cost could sit anywhere from $20 to $50 depending on the materials that you buy. Incidentally, professional tinting services typically charge around the same price, plus labor costs. If you want a high-quality tint removal service, you might have to fork over as much as $500 for the most professional of services.

How to remove window tint from the back window?

Removing the window tint from the back window involves the same process as any other window in your car. Just be very careful not to cut the defroster lines.

Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert - kirby@topspeed.com
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read More
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