Window film is a popular choice for businesses and residences looking to improve the efficiency of their windows. Most types of commercial-grade window film come with a ten-year or even a lifetime warranty. But what goes up must eventually come down, and one day, the time will come to remove and replace your window film.
Maybe the film is starting to show its age. After a decade or more of battling direct sunlight, it may begin to discolor, bubble, or peel. Or perhaps you want to upgrade your old film to something fresh and new. Whatever the reason, we’re often asked how to safely remove window film, and we’ve got you covered!
How to Remove Your Old Window Film
First things first, gather the proper tools:
- Vinegar or an ammonia-based cleaner
- Handheld blow dryer
- A steamer
- Spray bottle
- Plastic wrap, sheet, or tarp
- A straight razor
Method #1 to Remove Window Film Adhesive: Dissolve it!
To safely remove window film from glass, you need to break the hold of the glue keeping it in place. Both vinegar and ammonia will dissolve film adhesive, but it can take a couple of hours.
Create a vinegar or ammonia and water mixture in a spray bottle. Spray the window and then respray again as the solution dries—the goal is to keep the glue moist with solvent until it dissolves. To help seal in moisture and speed up the process, you can apply plastic wrap around the frame of the window.
Now, this sounds pretty simple, and it is, but both of these liquids, well, they stink. Ammonia fumes are also hazardous when inhaled. Dissolving window film glue is a great method, but it’s best used in a well-ventilated area.
After you’ve waited a few hours, overnight is usually a safe bet, you can remove the window film pretty easily. You should be able to get the edges up and start peeling the film away from the window. If you are having trouble lifting the edges of the film, try using a straight razor.
Warning: Ammonia fumes mean serious business. For example, if you are trying to remove car tint with ammonia and you seal the vehicle shut, the fumes might accidentally loosen other adhesives, damage electronics, or stain fabrics. Always use ammonia with caution.
Method #2 to Remove Window Film Adhesive: Heat it & Steam it!
Okay, so maybe using chemicals isn’t your style. And that’s fine! When in doubt, it’s time to turn up the heat. Another way to loosen window film adhesive is to apply heat directly to the glass. It’s time to get out a hairdryer and a handheld steamer.
Now some DIY-guides for removing window film will tell you to use either one or the other and try the next option if you’re not getting the right results. Our advice? Alternate between using both the hairdryer and the steamer. By heating then steaming in repetition, you can loosen the adhesive holding the film in place faster.
Hold the hairdryer about two inches from the glass. The steamer can be pressed closer to the film. Eventually, you’ll notice that the adhesive is becoming tacky—good! Now it’s time to get peeling! Carefully start to pull the film away from the glass.
You will still have to apply heat during the removal process. Just angle your heating element to where the film and the window meet and slowly peel the softening glue back. Don’t forget to watch your fingers during this process! Steam and hot air can toast your fingers.
Professional Window Film Removal and Replacement
While it’s possible to DIY removing window film, having a professional assist you is usually the best way to get crystal clear results. This is especially true for larger commercial properties that are upgrading their windows. When you go with the pros, you don’t have to worry about caustic chemicals, scratching your windows, or leaving behind residue from the old film adhesive.