Stickers and labels are perfect for package identification, branding, organization, and decoration, but they often leave behind a sticky residue when removed. This is an issue that commonly comes up when you try to peel off a price tag, reuse an empty container, or redecorate a room. That gummy gunk can be tough to rub off by hand or wash away with pure soap and water, but fortunately, there are some amazing products and DIY solutions that will help you get the job done right.
NOTE: Since first publishing an article on this topic in 2013, we received LOTS of great suggestions from our customers about what works and what doesn't. So, we’re incorporating that feedback into this updated guide for removing adhesive residue. We hope it helps take the hassle out of removing stickers, labels, tape from various surfaces at work and in your home!
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. Don’t use a knife or razor blade to scratch off the residue because this will likely leave marks on the surface. Instead, roll the adhesive into balls with your fingers while applying constant pressure, or try scraping the surface with an old credit card. A pencil eraser can also help you manually scrub the adhesive off of a container because of its grippy, rubber material.
If you’re trying to peel away a label from a plastic storage bin or other plastic surface, try applying heat to it with a hair dryer. Hold the hair dryer close to the sticker for about 30 seconds and then try to remove. If the sticker is still leaving residue behind, move down this list to try one of these other suggestions next. This is an easy way to start an adhesive removal project without the risk of product damage.
Other Suggestions for Removing Adhesive from Plastic:
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 accidently 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 Ceramic:
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:
Other Suggestions for Removing Adhesive from Glass:
Solvents work differently on various materials, and some types of glue respond better to certain removal methods than others. Chances are that you won’t be 100 percent certain about the chemical composition of the glue or adhesive you’re trying to remove, so you may need to try a couple of these DIY solutions before finding one that works for your specific project. It’s also a smart idea to wear rubber gloves to protect your hands when using chemical solutions and make sure to open a window nearby for good ventilation.
Here are some products that we recommend having on-hand for the next time you need to remove an adhesive label or sticker. If you’ve tried any of these products, please leave a review on our site to help other shoppers pick the best adhesive remover for their needs!