How to Remove Sticker and Adhesive Residue

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The bad news? Stickers leave behind residue. The good news? Follow these expert tips and you'll have your item looking like new again.

It happens to the best of us. You peel back a sticker or sticky label, in hopes of a clean removal, but alas—that dreaded, impossible to remove sticker residue is left behind. “From clothing and coffee cups to walls and windows, stickers are all over our world—and so is their residue,” Guy Peters, owner and founder, MOP STARS. That’s why every single one of us needs to become well versed in how to remove sticker residue. Anyone who crafts a lot will also want to know how to remove super glue.

While there are several different substances you can apply to remove sticky adhesive residue, one of the first things you can do is simply trying to scrape it off. “This works best on a smooth material like glass,” Peters explains. A great tool for doing this is already in your wallet: a library card or grocery store membership card. “I wouldn’t recommend using a credit card, on the off chance that something goes wrong and it breaks, he says. Alternatively, you can also use your fingers to roll the adhesive into small balls that can be then removed. But, as most of us already know, the manual methods don’t always work and you might need to add something else. “One of the best options is heat,” he says. “You can run some hot water over the adhesive to loosen up the stickiness and then use the roll or scrape method from there.”

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how to remove sticker residueAlaina DiGiacomo/rd.com

How to remove adhesive

There are a lot of other methods, many of which include household appliances and solvents you probably already have.

Toothpaste

Toothpaste is an unlikely solution to get rid of sticky residue, but it works. “Avoid gels and preferably use one with baking soda,” he notes. “You shouldn’t need to let it sit— just apply and wipe away.” Bonus: It’s very safe for most materials and can be used to help remove stains around your home.

Peanut butter

Peanut butter is another unlikely choice for removing sticker residue, but believe it or not, it’s pretty darn effective. Just apply it and leave it on the area for a few minutes to loosen the adhesive. “When you wipe it away, the stuck-on adhesive should go with it,” he maintains.

Acetone (nail polish remover)

“Acetone is a powerful solvent that will quickly remove just about any sticky adhesive residue,” Peters explains. Simply apply a few drops to a cotton ball and rub off the sticker.

Alcohol (rubbing alcohol, vodka, some hairsprays)

Yep, you can use vodka (or rubbing alcohol) to remove the sticker from your wine. “Just apply a little bit and let the alcohol dissolve the adhesive,” Peters suggests.

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Hairdryer

As Peters previously mentioned, heat is a great resource when it comes to removing sticky residue. For a quick and convenient heat source, use a hairdryer to warm up the area, then try scraping the residue off. It’s also a proven way to remove stickers from appliances.

Mineral oil

Baby oil or mineral oil makes a great option for loosening up adhesive residue. “Just be careful as this stuff can get everywhere really quickly and leave an oily residue,” Peters points out.

Vinegar

Vinegar can be a great natural way to remove adhesive residue, as the acid will help loosen up the adhesive, Peters explains.

WD-40

WD-40 has an almost endless number of uses—including removing sticky adhesives. While it works, because of its strong smell, it’s not my go-to choice for smaller jobs, admits Peters.

Paint thinner

A bit of heavy-duty, paint thinner will dissolve the adhesive material when nothing else can. This should be a last-choice option as it can also corrode the material underneath, Peters says, reminding that you don’t want to use paint thinner on painted walls. If you spill paint in the living room, don’t worry—here’s how to get paint out of carpet.

Tape

Use an adhesive to remove one. “Use it the sticky side to pull off the sticky adhesive,” Peters explains. “Wrap the tape around one finger (masking or duct tape works best) and use the stick side to pick up the adhesive.”

Tea Tree Oil

This great smelling oil will loosen up the adhesive. “I personally love this smell so this is a go-to for me,” he says.

Goo Gone

Goo Gone is another store-bought solution that can get the job done. However, while it works, it’s strong and can emit harmful fumes, according to Peters. “Make sure to use it in an area with ventilation,” he advises.

How to remove sticker residue off glass

Glass is one of the easiest materials when it comes to removing sticker residue. “If you want to skip using any kind of extra substance, start with the hairdryer or hot water method,” Peters suggests. Otherwise, his go-to is peanut butter since it has a less offensive smell than some of the other solutions. “You can also use any of the stronger substances on our list (such as acetone, rubbing alcohol, paint thinner, etc.) since glass isn’t going to dissolve or corrode as a result of these solvents,” he points out.

How to Remove Sticker and Adhesive ResidueAlaina DiGiacomo/rd.comHow to remove sticker residue off plastic

You’ll need to be a little more careful with getting sticker residue off plastic since stronger options, including acetone or rubbing alcohol, can damage it. Even too much heat from a hairdryer could damage weaker plastics. Instead, opt for toothpaste, peanut butter, and mineral oil and put in some elbow grease until the sticker residue is completely off.

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How to get stickers off wood

How to get stickers off wood depends on the type of wood in question. If the wood is unfinished, you can go straight for the big guns and use some acetone or rubbing alcohol. However, if it’s finished wood you’ll need to be a little more careful since those same solvents can actually remove the finish. “My favorite option for wood is toothpaste since it does a great job but won’t change the look of the wood,” Peters says. “Many oils can be quickly absorbed and mineral oil is actually used as a sort of finish so it doesn’t make a great choice for single spot treatment.” You can also use the hairdryer method since it doesn’t require any compound and the wood won’t have any problems handling the heat.

How to get stickers off clothing

For getting sticker residue off clothing, heat in the form of hair dryers or hot water are the best option. “You don’t want to rub peanut butter into your clothing and many oils can stain clothing so for fabrics stick with heat to play it safe,” he explains.

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Leah Groth
Leah is a Philadelphia-based writer, editor, mother and product junkie. Her obsessions include old houses, home design, fashion, beauty, books and anything that makes her life — which includes working full-time and taking care of two "spirited" children and a Vizsla puppy — a little bit easier. Her work has appeared on a variety of publications and websites, including Glamour, Prevention, Business Insider, Livestrong, Mindbodygreen, Fatherly, Scary Mommy, Wonderwall and Cosmopolitan.