Keep Containers Placard Free

When it comes to hazardous materials (HAZMAT) and ISO shipping (freight) containers, shortcuts always cause trouble. And that’s the case with ISO container placards.

Some Soldiers paint over the placards before their units reship empty ISO containers. Slapping paint over container placards slated for shipment is prohibited by the transportation regulations.

Why is this quick fix a problem? Covering up placards with paint can lead to risky confusion over container contents. Eventually, marred placards must be completely removed by someone down the line. Passing the buck is not only inconsiderate, but may be costly to the unit or installation that shipped or returned the container. It’s also illegal! There are hefty fines for noncompliance.

Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, Chap 1, Section 172.502, Subpart F, Placarding, prohibits any markings on containers that might be confused with placards required for HAZMAT. Any sign, advertisement or slogan (such as “Drive Safely”) that may cause confusion over container contents is also prohibited.

To comply with Title 49, all placards and placard decals must be completely removed from empty and nonhazardous ISO shipping containers prior to reshipment.

Removing Placard Decals

Materials needed:

  • WD-40®
  • Dry, clean cloth
  • Dish soap
  • Mineral oil
  • Hair dryer
  • Goo Gone®

Remember to don personal protective equipment and follow any prescribed material safety data sheets (MSDS), if needed.

Try any or all of the following five suggestions for removing stubborn placard decals:

  • Peel away as much of the placard decal as possible with your fingernail. Apply dish soap to the placard decal with a clean cloth and allow it to sit for at least 5 minutes before scrubbing away the residue with a clean cloth.
  • Lift a corner of the placard decal and use a hair dryer to heat it underneath to soften the adhesive. Keep peeling the placard decal back while holding the heat on the area until the placard decal is removed.
  • Spray the placard decal with WD-40® and let it soak for 5 to 10 minutes before removing the decal.
  • Apply mineral oil to the placard decal and allow it to soak for several minutes. Once the placard decal is soft, it should scrub away easily.
  • Peel away as much of the placard decal as possible and spray what remains with a product such as Goo Gone®. Allow the placard decal to soak for 2 to 3 minutes, then scrub the area with a dry, clean cloth.

For more information, contact the Logistics Support Activity’s Packaging, Storage and Containerization Center at DSN 795-7257, (570) 615-7257, or email:


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