8 Ways How to Remove Heat Transfer Vinyl From a Shirt

Are you bothered by the vinyl cracking from your shirt? You badly want to peel it off because it is unpleasant to look at. Is there a solution to your dilemma?

If you are working on a vinyl project and you accidentally made a mistake, will you be able to fix it? Is there a quick and easy fix?

Transferring a heat transfer vinyl may be fun and easy. But, removing it can be tricky. You don’t have to worry about removing heat transfer vinyl (HTV) from your shirt because it is possible.

If you have a lot of unused shirts in your closet and you want to overhaul them, then this article is for you. This article aims to guide you on how you can remove iron-on vinyl without destroying your shirts.


how to remove vinyl from a shirt

Image from Flickr by Tim Regan

What Is Vinyl Transfer?

vinyl for shirts

Flock Heat Transfer Vinyl Sheets from TeckWrap Crafts

Heat transfer vinyl is a popular crafting material that gives individuals the chance to create DIY projects for their homes. HTV is a special heat-activated adhesive that is easy to apply to bags, t-shirts, and other fabrics.

Design creators make use of cutting machines to create a heat transfer vinyl design for their project. Then, a heat press transfers the HTV to the fabric. HTV is more time and cost-efficient than directly printing the design onto the shirt. This is why HTV is preferred by many.

HTV comes in a variety of colors, patterns, finishes, and weights. The good thing is most iron-on transfers, regardless of variety, respond positively to similar removal treatments.

Reasons for Removing HTV

There are two common reasons you may want to remove heat transfer vinyl from your shirt. First, you made a mistake, and you want to save it and be able to do the project again. It is easier to fix the mistake than start all over again.

Second, you have an old shirt where the vinyl is peeling off. You want to remove the vinyl so you can revamp your shirt. Revamping your old shirts can be refreshing for your wardrobe without you spending a lot of money on new shirts.

Aside from the reasons mentioned above, there are other reasons why you want to remove heat transfer vinyl:

  • You want to recycle. If you are a crafter and love to recycle, then removing heat transfer vinyl from your shirt is a good project idea. You don’t have to throw your shirts away.
  • It is simple, easy, and fun. Applying and removing vinyl is easy. If you are a beginner, you will enjoy doing this, and you could be inspired to start a crafting hobby or career.

What Are the Different Methods That Can Remove HTV?

The common and best way to remove the vinyl from your shirt is to use heat or steam. You can do this by using a hot iron, clothes dryer, or hairdryer.

You may also consider using acetone, commercial vinyl removers, and Goo Gone to remove vinyl. These chemicals can be effective in removing HTV and vinyl residue. It is also possible to use alcohol and petroleum jelly.

Whichever method you use, you will need tools to help remove vinyl, such as tweezers and an X-acto knife. Some methods may take longer to do than others. Some methods are safer for you because the ingredients are all-natural.

knife to remove vinyl from shirts

X-Acto Hobby Knives

Image from Flickr by Marco Verch Professional

Consideration of the type of fabric is important. If your fabric is made of 10% cotton, you can try removing the vinyl with most of the available removal methods. However, if your fabric is polyester, you should avoid using heat-based methods in removing HTV.

Method 1: Using Commercial Heat Transfer Vinyl Remover


Commercial Heat Transfer Vinyl Remover


Commercial Heat Transfer Vinyl Remover

Full video on instruction on How to remove heat transfer vinyl from fabric using a commercial vinyl remover

YouTube Source: A Girl and a Glue Gun

Commercial vinyl remover is effective in dissolving adhesive backing which allows the vinyl to be peeled or scraped off easily. Vinyl removers produce unpleasant fumes due to strong chemical components. You should work in a well-ventilated place and use gloves when using a vinyl remover.

If you like making your t-shirt designs, it would be best if you invest in commercial vinyl remover. It is easy to use, and you can easily remove the vinyl if you make mistakes.

You should read the fine prints on the packing of vinyl removers to get the desired results. Most vinyl removers follow these steps:

  1.  The T-shirt should be turned inside out. Locate the backside of the vinyl which often feels stiffer and is often visible through the fabric.
  2.  Apply enough vinyl remover to the backside of the vinyl.
  3. Keep tugging or pulling the sides of the vinyl decal with your hands. This will cause the decal to loosen up.
  4.  When you see that the edges of the decal are slowly detaching from the fabric, you can use tweezers in removing the decal.
  5. Gradually pull off large portions of the decal.
  6. To remove the solvent and possible vinyl residue, run the shirt through the washer.

Method 2: Rubbing Alcohol

If you don’t want to use strong chemicals, you can opt for a safe chemical that can remove vinyl which is rubbing alcohol. Alcohol is also cheaper than a vinyl remover.

However, using alcohol may not be as effective as a vinyl remover. Here are the easy steps on how to remove vinyl using alcohol:

  1. Turn the t-shirt inside out and hold the backside of the decal over a sink or basin.
  2. Gently pour alcohol over the entire backside of the decal or you can use a wet towel soaked in alcohol and wipe it over the vinyl.
  3.  Using your hands, tug and pull the fabric around the decal to loosen it.
  4. The decal may not easily separate from the fabric, so be patient. You can soak the decal with alcohol again if necessary.
  5.  Rinse the shirt with cool water.
  6. You can use petroleum jelly to remove vinyl residue.

Method 3: Using an Iron

how to remove vinyl with an iron
how to remove vinyl with an iron

See a Detailed Instructional Video on How to Remove HTV With Iron

From the YouTube Channel of Better Life Blog 

For cotton fabrics, using a hot iron is the easiest and quickest way to remove HTV, but this method could also be the trickiest. Here are the steps on how to remove heat transfer vinyl using iron:

  1. You need to set your iron to the hottest temperature possible. To avoid burning your shirt, you can refer to a temperature guide.
  2. You need to have a stable and firm grip when holding the iron. You have to make sure that the shirt is pulled tight over the iron. Remember that the decal should be facing up. Alternatively, you can lay the shirt on an ironing board.
  3. When you see that the vinyl is starting to separate from the fabric and looks wrinkled, you can start peeling it off. You can start peeling off from the edges.
  4. To remove the residue, you can throw your shirt in the washing machine. After it is washed, you put it in the dryer and expose it to a hot setting. This can remove the adhesive marks. If this doesn’t work, you may use a steamer.

Method 4: Hair Dryer

You may have doubts about using a flat iron in removing vinyl on your shirt. It is understandable that iron is an important house tool. Instead, you can use a hairdryer. A hairdryer is better used for cotton fabrics than polyester. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Place cardboard or a towel inside the shirt to avoid leakage through the back of the shirt. Place the shirt flat on an ironing board.
  2. Set your hairdryer to the hottest temperature possible.
  3. Setup your decal facing up. Position the hairdryer closest to the shirt without touching the vinyl. Move the hairdryer over the decal back and forth.
  4. After 30 seconds, the decal will start to peel off. You can use tweezers to remove them.
  5.  Repeat the process until you have peeled off all the vinyl.

Method 5: Acetone (Nail Polish Remover)

using acetone to remove vinyl from a shirt
using acetone to remove vinyl from a shirt

See a Detailed Instructional Video on How to Remove HTV With Acetone

From the YouTube Channel of Lorena’s Quilting

Acetone is a chemical solvent but is technically safer to use, like rubbing alcohol. You may use a nail polish remover for it is 100% acetone. The procedure in using acetone to remove HTV is similar to the procedure when using rubbing alcohol.

Method 6: Goo Gone


Goo Gone to remove vinyl from a shirt

Image from Amazon (sold by Goo Gone Store)

Goo Gone contains toxic chemicals that provide a quick and effective manner of removing HTV from fabrics. Careful handling is important when using Goo Gone.

Goo Gone is readily available for you to purchase, and it doesn’t cost much. When using Goo Gone, it is advisable to work in a well-ventilated space. It is also advisable to wear hand gloves and goggles for eye protection.  Here are the steps in using Goo Gone:

  1. Cover your working table with a large plastic trash bag or tablecloth.
  2. Turn the shirt inside out and spray the back of the decal with Goo Gone.
  3. Let the Goo Gone sit for 30 seconds.
  4. Once the decal separates from the fabric, you can use tweezers to peel off the vinyl transfers.
  5. Apply Goo Gone if the vinyl decal still sticks firmly to the fabric.
  6. Rinse the shirt in a sink to remove the chemical and vinyl residue before throwing the shirt into the washing machine.

Method 7: Petroleum Jelly

Using petroleum jelly may be the longest method that requires a lot of work among all the methods mentioned. But, on the other hand, using petroleum jelly is great in following up with the other methods.

Petroleum jelly may not be as effective and efficient in removing HTV as compared to other chemicals and tools, but it provides great results in removing HTV residue. This is how you can use petroleum jelly in removing vinyl:

  1. Turn the shirt inside out
  2. Place a piece of cardboard inside the shirt to lay it flat.
  3. Get a spoonful of petroleum jelly and rub the jelly in a circular motion on the back of the decal using your hand.
  4. Mix a few drops of liquid laundry detergent with the jelly
  5. You will start to see the clumping of adhesive. To remove the adhesive, you have to rinse it with hot water.
  6. Repeat the process until the adhesive is removed.
  7. As soon as you are done removing HTV, wash it right away to remove the oily patch left on the shirt.

Method 8: Dryer

using the dryer to remove vinyl from a shirt

Image from Flickr by Marco Verch Professional

Using a dryer is best when you want to correct the mistake you made during the initial setting of the HTV. The dryer is also a good method in following up after doing the other removal methods in getting rid of vinyl residue.

How do you carry out this method? This is the simplest method of all. Throw the shirt into the washing machine. As soon as the washing cycle ends, place it in the dryer. Once you remove it from the dryer, start scraping the HTV residue.

What to Avoid When Removing Heat Transfer Vinyl on a Shirt

As much as possible, you should avoid making mistakes. Constantly fixing mistakes can cause damage to the fabric and could waste your time and effort. Here are some points to remember to avoid making mistakes:

  •  Don’t use a heat press. Using a heat press may not give you the results that you are expecting. Instead, use a simple household flat iron.
  • Avoid shirt shrinkage. When throwing the shirt in the dryer, make sure to check the temperature setting that is suitable for the fabric. You have to pay attention to this detail to avoid shrinking your shirt. You may end up unable to use it.


What Are the Popular Heat Transfer Vinyl Removers?


The two popular heat transfer vinyl removers are AlbaChem’s Vinyl Letter Remover (VLR) and Goo Gone adhesive remover. AlbaChem’s VLR is effective for several types of fabric like cotton, linen, and polyester. Not only does it remove a large portion of the design but it also can effectively remove the residue.

The Goo Gone remover is a classic product that works well for several kinds of adhesives. The Goo Gone goes through the adhesive to allow the vinyl to peel off easily.


Is Removing Iron-on Transfers Possible?

Generally, iron-on transfers are permanent. However, removing it is possible. In removing iron-on transfer, you will need heat and an adhesive remover. To aid in loosening up the transfers, you can use a Vinyl Letter Remover (VLR).

How Can Acetone Remove HTV?

Using an iron to remove the vinyl is safer for your fabric and easier to do. Though, you also have an option to use acetone. In removing HTV with acetone, you need to pour a good amount of acetone onto the design, stretch it and rub forcefully. However, this method may take longer and could discolor your fabric.

Can You Remove Heat Transfer From Shirt?

Yes, you can remove heat transfer from a shirt using eight different methods. You can try removing heat transfer vinyl with the available materials at home like your drawer or acetone.

What Is the Easiest Way to Remove Vinyl From a Shirt?

The easiest and most effective way of removing vinyl from a shirt is by using commercial vinyl remover. The strong solvent dissolves the adhesive, allowing the decal to peel off easily.

how to remove vinyl from a shirt

Image from Flickr by tenz1225


In Summary

Removing HTV can be done through heat-based methods or by using a heat transfer vinyl remover. If you use chemical solvents, make sure to work in a well-ventilated space to release harmful fumes.

Using any heat-based method may be frightening. You may break a few sweats doing it but if you follow the steps above you will eventually get the hang of it.

It is time to pull out your old clothes and start working. Revamping your closet is a great idea, and it will certainly be fun. Last advise, use TeckWrap heat transfer vinyl on the next print for your shirt to have an awesome outcome. Make sure to check out TeckWrap’s HTV vinyl available in glitter vinyl, color changing, rainbow stripes and many more.

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