March 28, 2019

How to Take Ghost Letters and Decals Off Your Horse Trailer - The Easy Way

You may remember that my trailer began life as The Raffle Trailer:

I can't fault them for trying to get free advertising, but I would have taken those red letters off myself if the raffle winner hadn't done it before she even listed the trailer.

But when you remove vinyl decals like that, you're often left with "ghost letters":

If you google "How to remove ghost letters from trailer" you'll get a lot of responses, from using a heat gun (risky) to a razor blade (also risky) to Goo Gone (will take your paint off), to using a rubber wheel attachment on a drill (works but takes finesse).

When I stumbled upon Aero Cosmetics Wash Wax All, I noticed they had a product called "SafeSolv" which was listed as an "All Purpose Citrus Solvent.  Removes tar, oil, hydraulic fluid, adhesives and gum"

At $11.95, I figured it was worth a shot.  I threw one in my cart along with the recommended-but-not-necessary Aero Cosmetics bug scrubber, a paint-safe non-abrasive reusable scrubber designed to remove bug guts from the front end of an airplane.

I'm going to sound like a broken record here, but with almost no effort whatsoever, the SafeSolv just melted off the ghost letters:

I'M MELLLLTINGGG! - the ghost letters, probably

I sprayed it on and impatiently started scrubbing immediately, and the letters just melted off effortlessly.  If it felt like the scrubbing required elbow grease to remove the letters, I hadn't used enough SpraySolv.  Another spritz took them right off.  Like Wash Wax All, you then take a dry rag and wipe the surface down until it's dry to finish.

The ghost letters are gone!
It didn't say I had to do this, but I followed it up with Wash Wax All, just to get all the acidic citrus compounds off my paint.

The big gotcha with this stuff is that it WILL take your standard vinyl decals off too, because it's designed to dissolve adhesives on contact.  If you want to keep your vinyl decals, don't get SafeSolv on them.  I got a tiny bit on the tail end of the wispy decals in the photo above and it immediately started peeling back.  Good to know for when these poorly applied decals eventually fail and I have to remove them all (thanks, Shadow)

I'm keeping it in the house because it's also supposed to remove: "Chewing Gum, Grease, Stickers, Labels, Tape Residue, Oil, Blood, Lipstick, Mascara, Shoe polish, Crayon" so yeah, I think I'll put the rest of the bottle to good use!

Bottom line: I don't think there's an easier or safer way to remove vinyl decals, ghost letters, or tar from your trailer surface.  This stuff is a winner!

What: Aero Cosmetics SafeSolv and Scrubber Pad
Quantity/Price: Various quantities available for both.  I paid $11.95 for 8oz of SafeSolv and $9.95 for one Scrubber and handle
Where to buy: Amazon or the Aero Cosmetics website


  1. Damn! Definitely buying some of this, the previous owners of our trailer had their farm name on the nose and I took the vinyl off years ago but the ghost letters have survived, even through being acid washed.

    1. Ugh that drives me nuts. That adhesive is so hard to get off. I hope it works for you like it worked for me!

  2. You have found all of the most magical windex items. I bet this would also work on the stupid price tags marshalls puts on the glass of picture frames...

    1. Yes it definitely will, which is why I am keeping my bottle in the house now that I've taken the ghost letters off! I had that same thought, haha.