How to Remove Heat Transfer Vinyl

You’ve purchased heat transfer vinyl, you’ve followed a step-by-step guide in cutting and ironing your design onto a shirt, you carefully peel off the carrier sheet and suddenly, a moment of panic…your design is backward! Or crooked!

Is your shirt ruined? Not necessarily!

You can remove heat transfer vinyl following just a few steps.  Heat transfer vinyl is meant to be permanent and meant to withstand heat, water, and normal wear; however, if you make a mistake and need to re-do it, follow these steps to remove your design.


STEP ONE: Heat your iron to medium heat.

This removal process can be done with a heat press as well, but it is easier with a home iron. Here you can see this onesie design is on backward! HTV removal to the rescue!

how to remove heat transfer vinyl cover image



STEP TWO: Wrap Shirt Over Iron

After your iron is heated up to medium heat, place the shirt directly over the iron, so the backside of the HTV is directly touching the iron. You want the iron inside the shirt as shown.

remove heat transfer vinyl wrap iron



STEP THREE: Pull The Shirt Tight

Because plastic shrinks when heated, and HTV is thin plastic, stretching your design over direct heat will allow the vinyl to start shrinking and melting. Be VERY careful not to burn your hands or fingers during the process.

Remove HTV pull shirt tight

STEP FOUR: Use Tweezers To Pull Off Design

Once the HTV has been exposed to excess heat, you’ll notice it starts to shrink and get wrinkly. That’s precisely what we want. Use a pair of tweezers and gently peel off the HTV. If your iron is too hot, the HTV will melt too quickly and come off in tiny pieces. If the iron isn’t hot enough, the HTV will not pull up at all. So find a good medium heat where the vinyl will be melted enough to loosen the adhesive.

Remove HTV tweezer off design

remove heat transfer vinyl partially removed design


When you have the right heat, large pieces of vinyl will come up, as opposed to tiny pieces when the iron is too hot.


Continue with the process for the entire design.


There is one downside to removing Heat Transfer Vinyl. Because this vinyl adheres to the fabric by heating the adhesive side, your material will maintain some of that adhesive. On lighter fabrics, it won’t show as much, but darker fabrics will be more noticeable. Look closely, and you can see some of the adhesive still on the fabric.


This process works if you are planning on re-doing the design and placing it directly over the area where you removed the incorrect design. But if you want to keep the shirt blank after HTV removal, you will still see remaining adhesive.


Now go ahead and follow the step-by-step guide in cutting and adhering the correct design onto your shirt!


Commonly Asked Questions:


Q: Do I have to remove the entire design or can I remove just part of it?

A: It is possible to remove a select part of the HTV design. However, because the direct heat will cause the vinyl to melt and shrink, keep the good part of the design as far from the heat as possible. One option is to use an extra layer of cloth behind the good part of the design so that the heat won’t get to the good part as fast. If you do get the good part of the design too close to the heat, it will shrink the vinyl and won’t look as good.


Q: Do I follow the same steps for a heat press?

A: Yes. However, it is a bit tricky because you can’t fit small shirts over your heat press like you can a home iron. With a heat press, you won’t be able to salvage parts of your design since the heat will be on the entire design.


Q: Will my new design adhere well after removing a previous design?

A: The short answer is yes. The long answer is it depends on if you do the same design over the previous one. If you have exposed adhesive after removing a design, and you try to put a new design over that area, but some of the old adhesive is exposed, it will get sticky again once it is heated and be more visible. Heat transfer vinyl always looks the best with one initial application.


In short, this technique is an excellent option if you made a small mistake and you want to try to salvage the garment. In a perfect world, you wouldn’t need to worry about mistakes—but let’s face it, none of us are perfect. So having a little trick up your sleeve in case you ever need it,  isn’t a bad idea.

Happy Crafting!

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2 thoughts on “How to Remove Heat Transfer Vinyl

  1. Anissa says:

    This was EXTREMELY HELPFUL!!! You saved one of my family’s Christmas presents! ❤️❤️ Thank you a ton for sharing!

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