How to Remove Adhesive from Any Surface

Remove Adhesive from Any Surface

Tips to remove adhesive from any surface

Stickers and labels have many helpful uses, but often when it is time to remove them, they leave behind a sticky residue when removed. This happens most frequently with price tags or bar code labels. The residue left behind is difficult to remove by hand or wash away with pure soap and water, but the good news is there are products and DIY solutions that will help you get the job done without the hassle of removing stickers, labels, tape from various surfaces at work and in your home!

Prep Work — Manually Scratch Off as Much as Possible

The first step in removing a gooey sticker or label that’s leaving residue behind is to scratch off as much as you can by hand or with a putty knife. Don’t use anything sharp, though, as you don’t want to damage the surface you are trying to clean.

Remove Adhesive from Plastic Surfaces

Best Bet for removing sticky residue from plastic surfaces

Hair Dryer — If you’re trying to peel away a label from a plastic surface, use a hairdryer to apply heat. Use the hairdryer to apply heat to the sticker for about 30 seconds — this will melt the adhesive but not the plastic — and then try to scrape the adhesive off.

Other Suggestions for Removing Adhesive from Plastic:

  • Coconut oil
  • Warm water and dish soap
  • Vinegar

Remove Adhesive from Ceramic Surfaces

Best Bet for removing sticky residue from plastic surfaces

Isopropyl Alcohol for Ceramic Surfaces
Isopropyl alcohol, also known as rubbing alcohol, works great to dissolve adhesive from stickers, especially on ceramic and plastic surfaces. Just be careful not to rub too hard or use isopropyl alcohol on something very delicate because you might accidentally rub off some of the paint. Instead, soak a paper towel in isopropyl alcohol and wrap it around the surface you’re trying to remove the label from. Let it sit for about 30 minutes and then try to wipe the adhesive away.

Other Suggestions for Removing Adhesive from Plastic:

  • Paint thinner
  • Acetone nail polish remover
  • Goo Gone

Remove Adhesive from Metal Surfaces

Best Bet for removing sticky residue from metal surfaces

Goo Gone — Let’s say you’re trying to get an old bumper sticker off your car or peel the price tags off a lovely new set of wine glasses. Goo Gone is a great product to use for both of these purposes, and many others too. To take the guesswork out of adhesive removal, the company has an excellent “How To” section on its website with helpful videos that show you how much of the product to use and how to scrub the residue away. Meanwhile, other customers of ours have had good luck with using baby oil, mineral spirits, and WD-40 to remove sticker residue from metal pans, metal bins, and metal oil cans.

Other Suggestions for Removing Adhesive from Metal:

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Baby oil
  • A mixture of 1 tbsp. coconut oil and 1 tbsp. baking soda

Remove Adhesive from Glass Surfaces

Best Bet for removing sticky residue from Glass surfaces

WD-40 — The residue from most adhesives used on glass is oil-soluble. So it only makes sense a bit of greasy fluid will shorten their life spans. Though the product’s 1950s origins were in rust prevention, WD-40 is also great for its ability to cut through sticky residue on glass. Spray it on, let it sit and use a clean cloth to remove.

Other Suggestions for Removing Adhesive from Glass:

  • nail polish remover
  • lighter fluid
  • acetone

Last Word

You likely won’t know the chemical makeup of the label or adhesive you’re trying to remove, so if at first you don’t succeed, try a different method. Also, a standard disclaimer: if you are working with chemicals or other irritants, you should always wear gloves and eye protection.

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Greg Bussmann
About Greg Bussmann 318 Articles
Greg Bussmann is a Marketing Specialist at Office Essentials. He is a lifelong, proud St. Louisan, a technology enthusiast, and father to four teenage daughters. He spends his spare time providing rides, chaperoning dates and trying to keep track of his credit cards. He also enjoys watching the St. Louis Cardinals when it's his turn to use the remote. Email Greg anytime.