How to Remove Pressure-Sensitive Stripes From A Boat

As boats get older, the decals and striping tape start to peel and crack. Over the years I've seen boat owners attempt to remove damaged stripes with razor blades. This is the wrong way. Razor blades, no matter how careful you are, will dig into the gel coat, leaving gouge marks. These marks will be visible through newly applied striping tape, making the job look terrible. Because of this problem the boat owner gets so disgusted that he gives up on the job only after gouging out the hull with the razor blade. With my step-by-step guide, this problem is now solved, And you can remove striping tape just like the professionals without incurring the professional cost.

In this section I will show you how to remove striping tape in two ways. The first is by using a heat gun (if the stripe is still in fairly good condition); and the second (for those stripes that are cracked, old, and peeling) is by a tool that fits on a electric hand drill which takes them off with friction, leaving no damage to the gel coat.

Both are great ways of removing stripes, saving you money and many hours of labor.

A Few Tips:

numberRemoving stripes that are in fairly good condition, meaning without cracks, can be taken off with a heat gun faster then by using the removal tool.

numberStripes that are old, cracked, and peeling need to be taken off with the removal disc tool.

numberWhen using the removal disc tool, wear a face shield and long-sleeved shirt. The rubber particles from the tool and striping tape are hot and can burn you.

numberOnly use a razor to lift the edge of a stripe, removing the rest by hand.

numberAlways hold the razor at a 5-degree slant to the hull. If you hold it over a 10-degree slant, the edge will gouge out the gel coat when you push on the razor.

numberUse a heat gun to soften the stripe prior to removal.

numberDo not pull the stripe immediately after applying heat. Always have the heat gun 6 to 12 inches forward of the area that you are removing. If you heat the area and pull right away, the stripe will be so soft, it will stretch and break, and you will have to start all over again.

numberCompound the surrounding area after the old stripe is removed and before new striping tape is applied. You do not want to compound the area after applying new tape for fear the buffing machine will rip it off.

numberI've seen spray-on decal/tape removers on the market. 3M makes a few. I don't recommend using these if the gel coat is old or faded. The spray material gets into the pores of the gel coat and can cause staining—if not right away, then later on as the boat ages.

Problems With Boat Stripes

Here are a few examples of boat stripes that have failed:

stripes stripes stripes
These stripes have dried out and cracked.

Never put new stripes over old stripes. This will cause peeling later on.

Clear plastic coating on stripes was not removed after stripes were applied.
stripes stripes stripes
Waterline stripes wore away from the boat fenders. Waterline stripe, clear plastic coating not removed. Waterline stripe gouges.


Tools & Supply Links

Note: As of writing this, the following links work. If clicking on them gets you nowhere, type the tool part numbers directly into Google.

tools tools


Heat Gun
Click Here
Removal Disc
Click Here
Holder Tool
Click Here
tools tools tools
Razor Blades
Click Here
Click Here
Lacquer Thinner
Click Here


Warning: If you don't have the right tools, or the ability, then do not attempt this procedure.

Do It Yourself Step-by-step Photo Guide: Removing Pressure-Sensitive Boat Stripes


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