The Ultimate Guide On How To Remove Sticker Residue

by Kara Richards on December 30, 2018

Knowing how to remove sticker residue on an item can save you time and lots of frustration. Our list of useful household products includes things that you already have that can easily be used to remove residue without needing any special tools.

How to Remove Sticker Residue

Remove Sticker Residue

New and second-hand products frequently come with labels that can be difficult to remove and often leave behind pesky adhesive. This adhesive can often be sticky and annoying and make the product less eye pleasing.

There are several ways to remove sticker residue, and many of the methods use products that you likely already have in your home. Take a look at our list of suggestions and find the one that best fits your needs.

Removing Sticker Residue from Hard Surfaces

Removing stickers from hard surfaces is a standard issue that can arise whenever you buy something new, or get something second hand. Label adhesive can deteriorate over time, and that can mean residue gets left behind when labels are removed no matter how delicately you try to detach them. Knowing how to remove sticker residue can save you time and frustration after your next purchase, and can help improve the look of your items. Here are our recommended methods for removing sticker residue using commonly found objects.

1. Use Your Hands

There are times when the item in question can be rubbed vigorously, or scraped with a fingernail to remove sticker residue. Although how to remove sticker residue using this method may be the most obvious, it can also be very effective.

Removing Sticker Residue from Hard Surfaces

Certain kinds of sticker residue will come off more easily than others, and frequently the combination of rubbing, scraping, and body heat is more than sufficient even if it takes a bit of time to remove the residue entirely.

2. Scrapers

Plastic scrapers are the most common, but there are also metal, wood, and bamboo scrapers that can work just as well. Carefully scraping the residue off of items that have previously had stickers on them can be an easy and more efficient way to remove the residue than just a fingernail.

Scrapers can also allow you to scrape and lift up more difficult or thicker residue on a variety of surfaces that you may not be able to get with a fingernail. Some residues will be much more resistant to removal, and using a nail could mean risking injury, or damaging the item.

Scrapers

It’s a good idea to avoid using scrapers on more porous surfaces as this can cause the residue to fill in the tiny gaps and make it harder to remove all of it. If the residue is unable to be removed from these small crevices, the object may remain sticky until you use another method of removal.

3. Oily Substances

Oily substances are reasonably effective if you are worried about how to remove sticker residue that is particularly bad or unusual. Provided the item the residue is adhered to isn’t going to be damaged by the oils, there are several substances you probably have in your home that will work.

Some good examples of things to try are:

  • Peanut Butter
  • Coconut Oil
  • WD-40
  • Mayonnaise

This method is typically not an excellent choice for fabrics or other surfaces that would absorb the oil. Hard and less porous surfaces such as plastic, bamboo, wood, and certain kinds of vinyl or synthetic materials can be cleaned with an oil containing product, but it’s a good idea to spot test it first. To effectively remove the residue from a hard object with one of the above substances you’ll first want to remove any of the label’s top layer that you can. Some paper labels will allow the oil to penetrate, but a tag with a top plastic layer will prevent the oil from reaching the adhesive underneath.

Oily Substances

Once the residue and adhesive are exposed, you can apply a small amount of one of the substances above and give it 30 minutes or so to soak in. Then using your fingernail or a scraper you can begin to chip away at the adhesive carefully. If the adhesive doesn’t budge, you can try adding more product, giving it a bit more time to absorb, or trying another scraping tool. If after a few attempts there isn’t a change, then this method likely won’t work.

When using WD-40 be sure to have enough ventilation in your area and wear the proper safety equipment. Avoid inhaling any of the product or getting it in your eyes. WD-40 has been a long time solution for removing adhesive, but some of it can end up in the air when you are working with it. After removing the residue entirely with one of these oily substances, you’ll need to then clean the surface with a cleaner that can remove the oil. Degreasers are an option, but regular soap and water can work too depending on the item.

4. White Vinegar

White vinegar is a favorite cleaning product these days, but it can also remove sticker adhesive after a short soak. Use a washcloth or paper towel and moisten it with some vinegar before laying it over the area where the sticker residue is.

Allow this to sit for up to an hour, and then use a fingernail or scraper to start working the adhesive residue off of the surface. If the adhesive doesn’t budge at all, then you’ll likely need to try another method.

White Vinegar

Once the adhesive is removed, you can just rinse away the rest of the vinegar that remains with water. If the smell is still present, then soap and water should take care of the issue or using a mild cleanser can help as well.

5. Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol can be an easy way to remove sticker adhesive from everyday objects, and most people already have some on hand. If you don’t have rubbing alcohol, any kind of high alcohol content liquid such as vodka or nail polish remover will also work.

If you use nail polish remover, keep in mind that this substance can cause damage to finished surfaces such as wood, and you’ll want to spot test it to make sure it doesn’t damage the item itself. Some surfaces will have a transparent coating on them that the nail polish remover will damage and that can cause them to turn cloudy or dull.

Rubbing Alcohol

Vodka is generally a safe bet along with other clear forms of alcohol that you can find. You may need to let the product sit on the residue for up to an hour before using your fingernail or a scraper to remove it the rest of the way.  When you’re done, you shouldn’t have to do much cleanup to remove the alcohol. Some water should be sufficient to rinse it away, but if you’re worried you can use soap or the appropriate cleaner for the surface.

6. Eraser

A pencil eraser or any size can be a great way to remove sticker residue left over without a lot of fuss. The grippy nature of the eraser locks on to the residue and works by dragging the adhesive away and clumping it up into manageable pieces you can remove.

Unlike some of the liquid removers on this list, an eraser doesn’t require any soaking time and can be great for removing residue from hard surfaces such as plastic, ceramic, glass, and other synthetic materials.

Eraser

Once you’ve clumped up the adhesive on the surface, you can remove it the rest of the way by using your fingers, or a scraper. Repeat rubbing the surface with the eraser if there is any more adhesive left behind. This method may not be ideal for larger surface areas, but if it works well, then feel free to use it until you’re ready to attempt another method. If you plan to use this method on glass, you may want to spot check it to make sure it’s not going to leave behind any residue that will also be challenging to remove.

7. Hair Dryer

Using a hair dryer can warm the adhesive residue and allow it to be easier to scrape up with a fingernail or scraper. You can also try heating the adhesive and then using an eraser to try and get the residue off of the surface.

When using a hair dryer be careful not to overheat the adhesive or the object that has the residue on it. Heating up the object can not only damage it but can cause the glue to be harder to remove.

Hair Dryer

Wood and bamboo objects may not be ideal for this process as heat can make them expand and contract which can cause damage. Some plastics can also melt under lower temperatures, so it’s a good idea to take it easy with the heat to start.

8. Commercial Cleaners

Commercial cleaners can be an excellent way to get off stubborn adhesive residue but may require you to clean up after you use them. Examples of these kinds of cleaners include Goo Gone or Goof Off.

Commercial Cleaners

Each of these products contains a type of oily substance to remove the adhesive, and it’s important to remember that these shouldn’t be used without spot testing on the product first. For porous surfaces such as wood and bamboo, these cleaners are also not an ideal choice as they’ll be readily absorbed into the surface and can be difficult to remove.

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