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Film Removal Reminders

Consider a graphic film’s efficiency beyond just installation

Heating the graphic with a heat source – such as a weed burner, torch, heat gun or steamer – will aid in easier film removal photo
Heating the graphic with a heat source – such as a weed burner, torch, heat gun or steamer – will aid in easier film removal.

When you’re estimating how much time you’ll spend on a graphic film project, you likely think about the installation characteristics of the film and the size of the area to be covered. But many times, your job doesn’t end there. What happens at the end of the film’s life, when your customer is ready to change it? Consider these tips to make the graphic removal process smoother and more efficient:

Before Installation

  • Your choice of film will have the biggest impact on the ease of removal after use. Films are available with changeable, removable or permanent adhesives to fit the needs of your project. Work closely with your customer to identify their needs and which film will best meet them. See Article #2 in this edition (“The Right Material Choice Can Make Removal 3.5 Times Faster”) for more details on the importance of material choice.
  • The condition of the substrate also plays a big role in the removal process. When applying graphic film over a painted surface, remember that the more oxidized the paint is, the more film will adhere to it. Sometimes, old paint can make removal more difficult than usual.
  • The thickness of your graphic has an important effect on removal as well. For greater ease in removal, opt for thicker materials like overlaminate films instead of clear coats. With thicker construction, films don't tear as easily upon removal.

During Removal

  • The age of the graphic at removal can make a difference in how easily it peels away. As materials age, they break down and become more difficult to remove. Keep in touch with customers to help them remember when the graphic’s recommended lifespan is up.
  • Heat is your friend in the removal of many films. If you’re removing film from a vehicle, take the work outside and let the sun be your assistant. For indoor installations, heating the graphic with a heat source – such as a weed burner, torch, heat gun or steamer – will aid in easier film removal. Remember that films can become brittle in cold weather, so try to avoid removal when temperatures are below 40° F. (Note that 3M™ Envision™ Print Wrap Film 480Cv3 and 3M™ Envision™ Gloss Wrap Overlaminate 8548G install in extreme temperatures. They won’t become brittle and tear in cooler weather, and won’t get too soft or stretch too easily in warmer weather.)
  • Follow the manufacturer’s recommended angle of removal. Some films require a high pull-off angle, meaning you pull the film back onto itself for removal. For other films a low angle works better. Using the correct pull-off angle can reduce the amount of adhesive residue left behind, saving you valuable time.
Some films require a high pull-off angle, meaning you pull the film back onto itself for removal. For other films, a low angle works better photo
Some films require a high pull-off angle, meaning you pull the film back onto itself for removal. For other films, a low angle works better.

For more in-depth information from 3M about efficient removal of graphic films, check out Instruction Bulletin 6.5: Storage, Handling, Maintenance and Removal of Films and Sheetings.