Tips for Cleaning License Plates

This information was originally compiled by Chris Woodcock, ALPCA #7082.

All of this information comes from collectors such as yourself. If you have any tips on cleaning plates, please feel free to let us know!

After washing your plates

To protect the finish of plates, use a polish/wax designed for use on modern clearcoat paints. These waxes are non-abrasive, and really give plates a good protective finish.

Removing stickers

Use a chisel-pointed x-acto blade (carefully, so as not to damage the underlying plate). Moistening the sticker can help it come off cleaner, but can cause the sticker to split and crack.

Removing sticker adhesives

Goof-off, brake cleaner, Goo-Gone, Castrol Purple Power (this may also remove oxidized paint), and believe it or not, hair spray.

Why do some of my license plates smell so bad?

This is from sprayed varnish that was used on many 1970s and 1980s plates, mainly from the Midwest. It can be smelled even if they are in their original envelopes. It is a varnish protecting the surface of the first use of reflectorized plates. This varnish is not used anymore.

Fortunately, the varnish disappears in the sun. Plates were made to be mounted onto bumpers, and the varnish was expected to dissipate with use. So the only way to remove it is to leave these plates in bright sunlight for a couple of weeks - a yard, roof, or someplace in the open. They will also brighten up, because the yellowish varnish will turn a brighter white.

Member Tom Boyd (#3753) has written a book called "The Care and Feeding of Your License Plates" that covers many of these topics. You can contact him through the ALPCA Member Roster.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed tips!

Last updated: Tuesday, 01-Jun-2021 07:31:03 UTC