Over time, the vinyl wrapping and decals on your pontoon boat can become weathered, worn, sun-bleached, and will start to peel off. Your pride and joy can soon start to look very tired, not to mention a little embarrassing.
By removing the pontoon boat decals, and un-peeling the vinyl wrapping, you can then start to shop around for something newer and fresher to apply.
Handy Hint: I’ve compiled a list of the best pontoon vinyl wrap graphics ever seen in the United States. Take a look at what’s possible!
You also might want to remove the stickers and decals if you are looking to sell the boat, changing the state in which you live, your registration, or just want a different look and feel.
You can pay someone else to do the removal, but that’s going cost money. So why not do it yourself?
Removing decals and stickers takes a lot of effort, and you also run the risk of scratching the fencing and panels plus the vinyl tearing. This can leave marks that are hard to remove. If you’ve ever pulled off that horrible sticky backed plastic from a product packaging, then you will know how hard it is – so imagine doing that on a 24-foot pontoon boat!
It’s not easy.
But thankfully, there is a method you can use to remove vinyl wrapping or decals from your pontoon that works and won’t leave you in a mess.
Pontoon Boat Vinyl & Decal Removal
Step 1: Wash the Decals with Warm Soapy Water
The first thing you need to do is wet the decals up with some soapy water. This will help to break down the stickiness and will also help to prevent the decal or vinyl from re-sticking to your fencing panels throughout the removal process.
Step 2: Heat the Vinyl or Decal with a Hair Dryer
Heating up the vinyl decals will make them much easier to peel off and remove. If you can, I would recommend that you heat the fence panel from underneath.
Use a sweeping and circular motion with the hair dryer. This will help the warm air to circulate around the decals, without being concentrated in one place for too long. If it gets too hot, you’re going to give yourself more work to do.
That’s because if you blast it with heat and it gets too hot it can damage the gel coat. If it’s starting to blister and bubble, that’s a sure sign your temperature is too high, so pull back a little so the heat isn’t as close.
If you have blasted too much heat, you might find that the decals will break up if aluminum panels are too hot.
Step 3: Peeling Off the Decals
Once the area has been heated up with a hair dryer, you can peel off the vinyl and decals.
The most efficient way to do this, and to reduce the chance of scratching your boat is to stick some packing tape over the vinyl, and then lift it up.
If that doesn’t work, you might need to re-heat the vinyl wrap, or instead try to get your fingernails underneath the decal. Failing that, you can use a razor blade to slightly lift up one end of the sticker, being sure not to scratch the pontoon boat’s surface.
With a just a little lift of one corner or edge, you should then be able to carefully start peeling back the old pontoon decal. Slow is best here, as if you go too fast it might tear.
It’s best to have someone to help you with this process, as one person can peel, whist the second person continues to apply heat with the hair dryer. By continuing to heat the decals or vinyl, it will reduce the chances of any sticky adhesive residue remaining underneath.
If you have any stubborn decals, you might need to try scraping them. But just be careful. For example, some really old ones can become brittle and won’t come off so easily. Scraping gently whilst applying heat might be your only option.
Try the packing tape method again on these brittle ones, so scrape, apply heat, apply tape, and then pull up. That should do the trick.
Step 4: Removing the Sticky Residue
Hopefully you won’t have too much stickiness left over if you have followed these steps properly. But however well you remove the decals, stickers, and vinyl from your pontoon, there will be some residue left over.
There will be some debris left on the surface, and again, you can use a razor blade to try to scrape and pick it off, but that leaves you very vulnerable to damaging the boat with the odd nick and scratch.
Thankfully there is a product that you can buy on Amazon which will help clean and shift any stubborn glue residue. It’s called Goo Gone (see latest prices) and should do the trick. Alternatively, you could try something such as mineral spirit or cleaning alcohol, but it probably won’t clean as well as the Goo Gone adhesive remover.
Step 5: Clean & Buff the Surfaces
Your last step is the easiest, and that’s the final clean-up operation.
To get rid of that, you should buff it. I use a polisher called the Porter Cable variable-speed polisher. It’s great for using on pontoon boats and is gentle enough not to scratch your panels, fencing, or aluminum.
By doing a decent buffing and polishing job you can get your fencing and panels looking just like new. When you use a polisher tool like the Porter Cable, you should also use a buffering compound.
The best one is a specialist marine grade rubbing compound from 3M. You can purchase that on Amazon too. Work in circular motions and in no time at all there will be trace left of your old decals and vinyl, giving you a great looking pontoon that’s ready to a new design applied.
Pontoon Boat Decal Removal: Final Thoughts
I won’t lie, this is a job that requires a lot of effort and elbow grease. But, it will be worth it, and if you follow the guide above to removing old vinyl and decals from your pontoon boat you will be left with a great result.
In the steps above I have identified everything that you would ever need, with some links to some of the more specialist products. It’s also possible to pick up a vinyl application and removal kit on Amazon that comes with a few of the smaller items I referenced, should you need them.