In a word, yes – window film can be removed. Typically removal would consist of first peeling off the polyester layer - exposing the adhesive, wetting down the adhesive with soapy water then scraping off the softened glue. On most windows this is merely a time consuming process and if you only have one or two windows to do, you can complete the project yourself.
But, if you have a large project or are unaware if your windows are tempered, we don’t recommend that you attempt removal on your own. Not only is window film removal labor intensive and messy, but the normal method of razor blade removal might damage the glass if your windows are tempered.
What’s the problem? Well, for around the last 5 years quality control in some tempered glass manufacturing has taken a fall. We don’t know why the glass isn’t made as good as is used to be, but we can still explain what the problem is.
The process of manufacturing a piece of tempered glass is as follows:
- Glass is cut to size
- Edges are ground smooth
- Fabricating debris is washed away
- Glass is introduced to high heat followed by a blast of cool air.
It is step 3 - the washing away of the fabricating debris - that is the most important step when producing a piece of glass that can stand up to traditional cleaning and film removal techniques; and in recent years this step has not been given the attention it deserves.
The thing is, if there is any fabricating debris left on the glass before it is heated and cooled(tempered), that material will fuse to the surface of the glass. To the untrained eye, this debris cannot be seen and the glass will appear normal. This is the main reason so many pieces of sub-standard glass have made it into new construction - most people don’t know that there is anything wrong with the glass.
If it can’t be seen, what’s the problem? Well, a poorly cleaned tempered unit is a lot like a piece of fine-grit sandpaper. The paper backing being the glass, the sand being the fabricating debris, and the fusing of the debris to the glass being mimicked by the glue on the sandpaper.
Traditionally the window film is scraped off by razor blade, but if the glass is sub-standard this process will knock loose fabricating debris which will scratch the surface of the glass as it is dragged across the unit.
It is the ability to identify which units will require precautions and treat them accordingly that separates window film installers from experienced window film installers. Believe it or not, only a fraction of window film installation companies are even aware that there can be an issue with tempered glass film removal – so we still urge you to be careful when contracting a company to do the work for you!
If you know, or for that matter do not know if your glass is tempered, seek professional assistance before attempting to remove the film yourself.