How To Get That #@%! City Sticker Off Your Windshield

10 Tips For Making Removing Last Year’s Sticker A Breeze

Every June, or early July, it’s the same thing.

You schlep outside onto the street or into the garage to place your spankin’ new Chicago city vehicle sticker onto your windshield but then…

Crap.

You realize you have to remove last year’s sticker first.

And you start swearing under your breath, because that damn sticker is a real bitch to scrape off!

You try peeling it off, picking at it with a fingernail, or battling with it using your trusty razor blade, hacking away as shards of sticker spray onto your dashboard and car floor.

Didn’t a lot of last year’s city stickers just spontaneously peel off some driver’s windshields? What the heck?

Removing your city sticker is always a pain in the butt.  And when you’re done, you need an couple of aspirin and a stiff drink.

Outside of replacing the whole darn windshield, there has to be an easier way.

Actually, there seems to be several easier ways.

The Parking Ticket Geek has been on a quest to round up all the very best tips and advice for getting that #@%! city sticker off your windshield. And here’s what we’ve found.

The first person we spoke to was Kristine Williams.  She’s the Media Spokesperson  for Chicago’s City Clerk Office. She knows a lot about city stickers as her office issues over 1.3 million of these stickers every darn year. In fact, for nearly eight weeks each year, from late May through late July, Williams has one single, solitary preoccupation–city stickers.

But Williams, gathered a handful of tips from staff and drivers who’ve come through the City Clerk’s offices.

Before getting into the full list of top tips, Williams’ first bit of general advice comes from a manager for the City Clerk’s licensing division. “Marion Alford-Linton, recommends people go slow and easy when removing their stickers,” says Williams. “She has found that it is less frustrating and comes off easier when going nice and slow.”

TIP #1 Windex

According to Williams, Windex is the main ingredient in the method City Clerk Susana Mendoza employs to get her city sticker off her windshield.

“Clerk Mendoza uses Windex brand window cleaner – no other brand will do! – and paper
towels to spray the city sticker first,” says Williams. “She then proceeds to use a methodical,
almost surgical-like precision, to remove her sticker. She pulls at the sticker a bit, sprays and then chips at it with a razor blade little by little. Pull, spray, chip over and over.”

Williams says that Clerk Mendoza takes great pride in removing the sticker intact without ripping it to shreds.

TIP #2 Scotch Tape

Cover the sticker with Scotch tape, so it extends a bit beyond the edges. Then, use a razor blade to cut around the sticker. It should peel off along with the tape.

I would guess 2″ clear packing tape may work as well, if not better.

TIP #3 Peanut butter

Peanut butter? No seriously, Skippy, Jif…peanut butter!

“One person told me she puts peanut butter on her sticker, lets it sit and then scrapes it off with a razor blade,” explained Williams. “Yes, we all thought she was crazy, but she swore it works better than just scraping.”

TIP #4 Run The Defrost

Supposedly, running your defrost on hot during a sunny and hot day will do the trick.

“Another person told me he turns on the car defrost to loosen the sticker up,” says Williams. “He said he lets the defrost run for about 5 – 10 minutes and it loosens the sticker right up.”

Similarly, other readers suggest plugging in a hair dryer and heating up the sticker until the adhesive warms and loosens up.

TIP #5 Dishwashing Liquid

Long time reader The Angry Chicagoan proposes an idea that requires some foresight. He recommends treating your new city sticker in such a way, that next year, it can be removed easily with no elbow grease at all.

“Put a drop of dish washing liquid on the sticker,” explains the Angry Chicagoan. “run it all over the sticker so there is a thin film. It will dry out when you stick it to the windshield and you can easily remove it. You can’t tell it’s not permanently attached.”

Hopefully, your city sticker doesn’t completely detach over the course of the year, especially with the cold winters we have in Chicago.

TIP #6 Sticker Shield

Another pro-active idea was suggested by a handful of readers who recommend investing about $5-$6 in Sticker Shield. It’s a transparent plastic sleeve that you slip your city sticker into, and affix directly onto the windshield. Allegedly it’s completely invisible if applied correctly.

The only problem is that it is technically illegal to use something like this. You can be ticketed ($120) because you are again, technically, not displaying your city sticker properly.

We have no idea how often drivers using or similar products, actually get caught and/or ticketed, but there have been readers who have been stung with a $120 ticket. Parking enforcement aides and City Clerk personnel strongly suggest against using this product because of the risk of ticket, but other readers say Sticker Shield works great. So, who knows?

You can find Sticker Shield at the checkout lanes of stores like Menard’s, Ace Hardware, True Value Hardware and some auto parts stores.

TIP #7 WD-40

Another reader, named Loni, sent us a suggestion she used, which she found online.

“Hack away at the of the city sticker with a razor blade until most of it is removed,” explains Loni. “Squirt WD-40 on the whatever pieces remaining, let it soak for a few moments. Then wipe with a damp cloth. That should take care of the rest.”

TIP #8 Goo Gone

Like lacquer thinner, in general, it seems by using some sort of liquid or chemical adhesive remover like Goo Gone (which several readers have suggested), and a razor blade, you should have that old sticker off and the new city sticker on in a jiffy.

Tip #9 Ice Pack

Here’s a relatively  new tip. A reader suggests making an ice pack or using one of those plastic ice packs and placing it against the city sticker. After a few minutes, whip out your trusty razor blade and go to town. The sticker allegedly comes right off.

Tip #10 Lacquer Thinner

We thought it might be a good idea to try a local hardware store to see what they suggest. Perhaps there was a power tool for the job.

We stumbled into Kabbe’s True Value Hardware, at 2550 W. Diversey in the Avondale neighborhood and spoke to the friendly staff there.

“Lacquer thinner,” said one of the clerks. “Soak it in a little lacquer thinner, and take a razor blade to it and it will come right off. Rubbing alcohol works too, but lacquer thinner is stronger and faster.”

Unfortunately, the hardware store had no power tools for the job. I was shocked that even in the 21st Century, the classic razor blade is still the weapon of choice in removing decals from windshields.

So grab your razor blade, get to work and please feel free to add your suggestions for removing city stickers to the comments below.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece is one of several columns we publish annually to help drivers who may not have seen this advice previously.

14 Responses to How To Get That #@%! City Sticker Off Your Windshield

  1. Jon says:

    Last year’s sticker will be a breeze to take off…it keeps falling off on its own anyway!

  2. Greg Sarchet says:

    I vote for #8…Goo Gone, also handy for graffiti removal off of vinyl and metal surfaces.

  3. doug says:

    I’ve used sticker shield for many years and have never gotten a ticket, it’s worth the risk.

  4. DoR Employee says:

    These come off so much easier than the pre-2009 ones.

    Get an Edge up, and it all peels off.

  5. DoR Employee says:

    And Sticker Shield or any other aftermarket type of material is not allowed per the Municipal Code. You can be cited for “Improper Display” if you use anything other than the adhesive on the City Sticker.

  6. Bodus says:

    Is it wrong just to add it to the one from last year, and the year before, and the year before. That’s what I do. I have four right now. Never had a problem with that.

  7. jb says:

    And how exactly do you know if someone is using a Sticker Shield. If you’re halfway careful, they’re (to my eye) impossible to see.

    (I understand if you don’t trim the shield that it’s obvious.)

  8. Pete says:

    Why can’t this stupid state do away with these dumb stickers just like every other state?

    Its very easy: just collect the local road tax (which is basically what a city sticker is) at the time the vehicle plates are renewed. The state would pass the local portion on to the local government. That is what every other state in the nation does.

    As an added bonus, everyone is in 100% compliance with local road taxes unless they are dumb enough to drive around with an expired tag (and therefore easy to catch).

    I’m sure the reason this is done the Chicago Way is so that a bunch of connected government payrollers can have bullshit jobs administering the sticker program and patrolling for cars that don’t have stickers.

  9. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    Pete!

    You may be on to something here. There may be a problem with having one govt. entity collecting revenue for another govt. entity. I know sales taxes are split up between different govt. bodies (state, county, city), so obviously there’s precedence. Certainly something that deserves some serious thought. Great commentary Pete.

  10. David says:

    Pete hit the nail on the head. Nothing at all would prevent the legislature in Springfield from passing a law doing this. The only downside is that all of those folk who “register” their car at their relatives houses downstate to get better insurance rates would also benefit from avoiding the Chicago city sticker cost. But that can be worked around as well. As it is, people do avoid the sticker. My upstairs neighbors have an SUV and half the garage. The Car lives in the Garage and hasn’t had a sticker on it for years. I use the garage for my bicycle and the like and park on the street. I buy one each year. I would love to see a fairer application

  11. [...] Mendoza had previously extolled her sticker removing talents, so we thought we’d see if she would be kind enough to share her skills on [...]

  12. Chicago Blows says:

    I’ve used te sticker shield for the last 6 years I’ve lived in this crooked city. Never been ticketed once. I can’t wait to get out of this crooked city and out of crook county.

  13. Theresa Thomas says:

    An article that reflects my frustration on removing stickers… fantastic!

  14. Kristen C says:

    We have a similar sticker removal problem in Boston but they allow you to park in your residential area and don’t cost a penny. But they’re still a pain in the “you know what” to remove every 2 years. I don’t know if this is the same as the sticker shield, but we improvised with a smartphone (2-sided) clear protector. (I used the old Avon “Skin So Soft” to help remove the previous sticker)

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