Looking to remove iron-on vinyl from a shirt? Or perhaps the vinyl is peeling off your favorite bag and you can’t bear to get rid of it yet?
Or, let’s be honest here, you messed up your craft project and need a quick fix – it happens.
With our step by step guide on how to remove heat transfer vinyl (HTV), it’s going to be okay. I promise.
Adding heat transfer vinyl to a shirt can be easy, yet removing it is a bit trickier. But don’t panic. By the end of this tutorial, you’ll know exactly what steps to take when removing heat transfer vinyl.
(I’ll also let you know what to avoid so that you don’t ruin your project.)
Why remove heat transfer vinyl?
The most common reason crafters want to remove heat transfer vinyl is because they’ve either made a mistake when applying it or they have an older project where the vinyl is starting to peel.
Here are a few more reasons:
- You’ve made mistakes and don’t want to scrap the project. Trust me, removing the vinyl is a lot easier than starting your project from the scratch.
- You can revamp old clothing. Got an old shirt that you’ve held on to since the 9th grade? What was that old saying? Waste not, want not! Rather than throwing old clothes away, why not give them a refresh? You could end up with a whole new wardrobe without having to break the bank.
- Recycle old materials. If you’re as passionate as us about being a responsible crafter, learning how to remove heat transfer vinyl can save a lot of waste. I’ve had friends who just threw shirts and bags away because of a bad HTV application: I’m here to save those shirts!
- It’s a really simple method. Did I mention how easy it is? Really, you don’t need to be a design expert to know how to remove heat transfer vinyl. I’ll walk you through it.
Okay, let’s try out a sample tutorial to get started with how to remove vinyl from a shirt.
Removing Heat Transfer Vinyl From a Shirt
Materials to get started:
- An iron
- Tweezers (I recommend using needle nose ones as these are most effective for the job)
- Scissors or an x-acto knife if you have one
Step 1 – Set the temperature
The first thing to do is to set the iron to the hottest temperature you can. Make sure to check what heat the material you’re using can handle – unless you plan on checking out ‘how to remove burnt material from an iron’ tutorials!
As a general guide, the following temperatures can be used for these types of materials:
- Cotton: 302 degrees F or setting 5
- Linen: 302 degrees F or setting 5
- Nylon: The lowest setting (Note that this material is really easy to burn so take extra care if you’re using Nylon)
- Polyester: 275 degrees F or setting 3 (If you’re using polyester, check out these tips for working with it.)
Step 2 – Place the shirt over the iron
This step seems scary but it’s ok! Make sure you pull the shirt tight too. At this point, it’s really important not to make the mistake of having the temperature set too hot as not only could it damage your material but will cause the HTV to come off in little bits rather than one smooth piece.
It takes a bit of patience waiting for the adhesive to start to melt so that it can be picked off, but it’s not worth cutting corners by turning the temperature up to be quicker. Take your time.
Step 3 – Pick away at the HTV
Now you’re probably wondering how you’ll know when the HTV is hot enough to start picking off. The HTV is ready when it begins to peel away from the material and wrinkle. At this point, start by slowly working it off from the edges and if the temperature is right, it should peel off pretty easily.
Step 4 – Remove any leftover HTV adhesive
While this method is highly effective, if your material is quite dark then it could still leave a mark after you’ve removed the HTV. This isn’t such a problem if you have a lighter material. This is because HTV binds to the material using an adhesive, so while you can remove this, sometimes the adhesive is left behind still.
One way to combat this is by throwing your shirt in the washing machine. Once washed, put it on a hot setting (be sure not to shrink your shirt though!) in the dryer to get rid of any remaining adhesive. This should work but if all else fails, try a steamer.
Something else to try is an adhesive remover like Goo Gone. Make sure the material has cooled first. It’s also best to do this in a well-ventilated area.
Things to avoid
Make sure you pay attention to these points as it could save you from making a mistake that could ruin your fabric.
- Be careful when using Goo Gone – Make sure your material has fully cooled before spraying Goo Gone on it. Also, don’t use Goo Gone on on leather or silk as it will damage the fabric.
- Don’t use a heat press – It just won’t work as well.
- Be sure to wash the garment before trying this process – it will loosen the HTV and make it easier to remove.
- Be careful with the dryer – Check what temperature you should use for your material as otherwise, you might end up with a miniature version of your shirt!
I get that putting your favorite shirt over the iron can be a little daunting if it’s your first time, but just follow the tips above and I’m sure you’ll be successful.
Be sure to leave us some feedback in the comments! I’d love to hear how your experience went and if you have any tips to add.
Is it possible to remove Iron-On Transfers?
While most iron-on transfers are permanent, there may be some hope. You’ll want to use an adhesive remover and a bit of heat. If you can find it, Vinyl Letter Remover (VLR) is great at loosening up transfers.
How do you remove HTV with acetone?
Although the method above is much safer in terms of preserving your fabric, you can use acetone by pouring it onto a cloth, stretch out the material and rub vigorously. This method takes longer and could remove the color from your fabric so be extra careful and try a patch test first.