How to Remove Numbers From a Boat

by Will Charpentier

If you buy a used boat, odds are the previous owner will not have removed his registration numbers from the bow. This means that you'll have to, and replace them with your own registration numbers and your yearly registration sticker. Fortunately, these numbers, whether they're vinyl stick-on numbers or have been painted onto the boat, are easy to remove with things you're likely to find around the house.

Vinyl Numbers

  1. Work a single edge razor blade beneath a corner of the vinyl number and carefully scrape the vinyl number from the gel coat.

  2. Spray oven cleaner on the gel coat to remove any remaining vinyl adhesive from the gel coat after removing the vinyl lettering. Allow the oven cleaner to stand for not more than 3 minutes to prevent damage to the gel coat finish.

  3. Remove the oven cleaner with mild soap, a clean sponge and water.

Painted Numbers

  1. Remove one number at a time by spraying oven cleaner on the first painted number. Allow the oven cleaner to stand for not more than 3 minutes to prevent damage to the gel coat finish. As the oven cleaner begins to work, the paint in the number--which is painted on top of the gel coat on a fiberglass boats--will begin to melt and bubble up.

  2. Use a single edge razor blade to scrape the loose paint from the gel coat finish. Work quickly to avoid damage to the gel coat.

  3. Use the garden hose to spray the oven cleaner off of the boat between numbers, and wipe any remaining paint off with a sponge. Use a dry rag to dry the surface before applying oven cleaner to the next number.

Items you will need

  • Oven cleaner
  • Single edge razor blades
  • Garden hose
  • Sponge
  • Rags


  • These same techniques can be used to remove vinyl letter, like names on the stern of your boat. Remember, though, that one of the superstitions of sailors is that it's bad luck to change the name of a boat for the first time. Toilet bowl cleaners can be used to remove stains from gel coat, should any stains remain after the paint or vinyl numbering is removed.


  • This project involves working with harsh chemicals and cutting implements. Appropriate precautions are advised.


  • Boat Maintenance: The Essential Guide to Cleaning, Painting and Cosmetics; W. Burr; McGraw Hill, 2000

About the Author

Will Charpentier is a writer who specializes in boating and maritime subjects. A retired ship captain, Charpentier holds a doctorate in applied ocean science and engineering. He is also a certified marine technician and the author of a popular text on writing local history.