How to Take Off Window Tint (& Why You Might Need To, According to the Law)

Tinting is a popular aftermarket addition for many consumers, whether for their commuter cars or off-road vehicles. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to apply the product, which leaves some drivers wanting to remove the stuff altogether. Whether you need to remedy a poor tinting job or the law requires higher visibility, here’s how to take off window tint, why you would want to, and the costs involved.

Why Remove Window Tint?

You might want to remove window tinting for a handful of reasons, mostly related to aesthetics. If the tint application didn’t go well, there might be bubbling or scratches on the surface. You may also notice fading, cracking, peeling, or other cosmetic annoyances.

But the primary reason people remove window tint is because of the law. Every state has laws regarding window tinting, including how much drivers can have on their windows. You may even find that your vehicle’s tinting can affect car insurance rates, so it’s essential to understand your state laws.

For example, California only permits window tinting on side windows to the rear of the driver. Rear windows can have tinting if the vehicle has outside mirrors which provide clear visibility (200 feet, in fact). The top of the windshield can also have tinting, but not the bottom or sides.

In New Mexico, vehicle window tinting must have a light transmission of more than 20 percent. New York requires a light transmission of more than 70 percent for the front windshield, side wings or side windows, and the rear window (except in specific conditions). Other states vary in their requirements, so be sure to research beforehand if you are applying tint to a new or used vehicle.

Adhering to the law is a crucial part of vehicle ownership, but it’s not the only consideration when contemplating window tinting. You might enhance or decrease your car value by applying (or removing) tinting. Depending on the make and model, you may find tinting can enhance the appeal to buyers—or not.

With some vehicles, like small trucks, visibility may be difficult enough to come by, so having window tinting can discourage potential buyers. You may also find as you compare cars that market values are better for vehicles with darker tinting (where permissible) since those cars tend to stay cooler inside when the sun is high.

How Much Does It Cost to Remove Window Tint?

Although you could hire someone to remove your window tint, it’s often simpler and more cost-effective to do it yourself. In general, you only need some simple household materials, a few hours, and quite a bit of patience.

Can You Remove Factory Tinting?

Unlike aftermarket (often vinyl) window tinting, actual factory tint is not removable. If your vehicle has darkened windows from the factory, the pigment inside the glass is giving the windows their UV protection and light blockage. There’s no way to remove this type of tinting unless you switch your window glass completely.

Many newer vehicles, especially SUVs and trucks, have factory tint to block some sunlight and protect the vehicles’ interiors. In general, factory glass tinting tends to cover the rear windows only, and in some cases a certain portion of the front windshield.

How to Remove Window Tint

Since putting it on is so intensive, it’s understandable that many people wonder how to remove window tint. And whether you’re doing it to compete with comparable used car values (or classic car values) or simply because the previous owner applied an illegal level of tinting, you want to do the job properly.

Here are five methods for how to take off window tint.

1. Hairdryer Method

If you have a power outlet handy, you can plug in a hairdryer and use it to loosen the vinyl from your tinted windows. Turn the heat up high and apply the warm air to a corner of the tint film (or a spot where it’s already beginning to peel).

Keep the hair dryer back a short distance from the vinyl (a few inches or so) to avoid melting the vinyl onto your dryer. Once the material gets hot, it should begin to peel up at the corner on its own. Pull gently, continuing to warm the sheet of tint to avoid breakage and achieve a clean peel.

2. Soak and Scrape

To use the soak and scrape method, apply a mixture of soap and water to lessen the effects of the tint adhesive. When the tint is thoroughly wet, use a razor blade or other sharp, flat object to begin removing a corner of the tint.

Carefully peel the tint up from the loosened corner, keeping the sheet of material intact. Apply more soap and water as necessary to keep the surface slippery and help remove the tint cleanly.

3. Soap and Newspaper Scrubbing

By applying soap and water to the windows and covering them with newspaper, you create a softening effect on the tint. You might need to wait some time for the soap and water to soak in and around the tint material.

Check on the newspaper to ensure it stays thoroughly wet—this is what holds the moisture in and encourages the tint to loosen its sticky grip. Again, use a razor blade to begin peeling back a corner of the surface. If the newspaper worked properly, it will adhere to the tint and begin pulling it up easily.

Use a razor blade or sharp knife to slice the newspaper and tint into long sheets, peeling carefully as you work.

4. Steaming

With a steamer, you can achieve similar effects as with a hairdryer when it comes to seamlessly removing window tint. Directing the fabric steamer at one corner of the window, move in closely and apply the hot steam to the surface.

As the edge peels up, begin working it away from the window glass, keeping the steamer pointed at the underside of the tint. Take care to avoid burns but keep the steamer as close to the window as possible for the best effects.

5. Sun and Ammonia

Using ammonia requires delicate handling and ventilation, but it can be a relatively low-energy mode of removing window tinting. Apply ammonia all over the tinted surface, then cover with a plastic garbage bag. Let the ammonia and bag sit on the window for an hour or more.

After the time is up, begin peeling the garbage bag away from the window. The tinting sheet should come off with it, but if it doesn’t, add more ammonia and let the mixture sit longer. Ammonia softens the adhesive, but it can also damage surfaces if you’re not careful.

Depending on which windows or surfaces have tinting, you may want to cover your car’s interior with a tarp or towel to prevent damage.

Cleaning after Window Tinting Removal

No method of window tinting removal is foolproof, so you may need to apply some elbow grease to get the job done. After using one of the above methods of tinting removal, use glass cleaner, soap and water, or a residue removal product to get the remaining bits of tinting off your windows.

For more challenging remnants of tint, use a razor blade or thin, sharp knife to scrape the residue off carefully. It’s especially crucial to work precisely if you plan to apply a new layer of window tinting to the surfaces afterward; you want a smooth surface to start working with for your new, clean, and legal tint job.