An Ar Gas Cluster Ion Beam (GCIB) has been shown to remove previous Ar+ ion beam-induced surface damage to a bulk polyimide (PI) film. After removal of the damaged layer with a GCIB sputter source, XPS measurements show minor changes to the carbon, nitrogen and oxygen atomic concentrations relative to the original elemental bulk concentrations. The GCIB sputter depth profiles showed that there is a linear relationship between the Ar+ ion beam voltage within the range from 0.5 to 4.0 keV and the dose of argon cluster ions required to remove the damaged layer. The rate of recovery of the original PI atomic composition as a function of GCIB sputtering is similar for carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, indicating that there was no preferential sputtering for these elements. The XPS chemical state analysis of the N 1s spectra after GCIB sputtering revealed a 17% damage ratio of altered nitrogen chemical state species. Further optimization of the GCIB sputtering conditions should lead to lower nitrogen damage ratios with the elemental concentrations closer to those of bulk PI. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.