How You Can Easily Remove Sticker Residue From Tough Surfaces

Joseph Truini, Kevin Dupzyk
·3-min read
Photo credit: Adrienne Bresnahan - Getty Images
Photo credit: Adrienne Bresnahan - Getty Images

From Popular Mechanics

I’m not sure when it happened or who’s to blame, but at some point in time, stickers started appearing everywhere. And now, every single item purchased—tools, books, wine bottles, furniture, frying pans, appliances, clothing, you name it—has some sort of decal, label, logo or UPC tag stuck to it. As easy as it may seem, sometimes it’s really difficult to remove stickers and residue from a surface.

Luckily there are a few DIY tips and tricks for removing sticky sticker residue without causing any damage. Now, not all of these techniques will work on every item or surface, but we’re sure the following list will offer at least one effective solution to your sticky situation.

Mechanical

The mechanical sticker-removal method is the most straightforward approach: use a scraper to simply scrape off the sticker. Obviously this isn’t a great option if the sticker is on a soft or easily scratched object, like a book cover or wooden picture frame. But on harder surfaces, such as glass or metal, scraping is very effective. Here are three scrapers to try:

Plastic Pan Scraper: On the upside, a pan scraper is very affordable and it won’t scratch or damage the surface you’re scraping. On the downside, it might not be sharp or rigid enough to remove some stickers. But even if it fails on adhesive-backed stickers, it’s useful in the kitchen for scraping pans and plates clean.

Paint Scraper: Step up from plastic to a metal paint scraper. The stiff blade and handle make it effective at removing stickers and sticky residue over large areas.

Razor Scraper: Razor scrapers have super-sharp, ultra-thin blades that can easily cut through or under the most stubborn stickers. Plus, the replaceable blades are flexible, making them good at removing residue or labels from contoured surfaces, like jars and bottles.

Chemical

Photo credit: Bettmann - Getty Images
Photo credit: Bettmann - Getty Images

Many stickers and adhesives can be dissolved with an oily substance, such as vegetable oil, peanut butter, or even mayonnaise. Simply slather the sticker with oil and then soak a rag in oil. Lay the oily rag over the sticker, wait an hour or so, then gently wipe or scrape off the sticker and residue.

You can also soften sticky messes with WD-40, rubbing alcohol or, in a pinch, vodka. Use the same oil-soak procedure as described above, but only wait 10 minutes or so before trying to remove the sticker.

Thermal

Labels stuck to glass containers, like plates, cups, and wine bottles, often have a surprisingly strong adhesive that’s difficult to scrape off, but you can weaken its grip by applying a little heat. For example, if you’re trying to remove and save a wine label, place the empty bottle in the oven at low heat for about 30 minutes. Then simply peel off the label. Caution: Hot glass is more prone to shattering, so handle it with care. You can also try pouring boiling water into the empty bottle and wait for it to soften the label’s adhesive.

And to get stickers, especially large stickers, off metal surfaces, use an electric heat gun. Select the “low” setting and slowly wave the nozzle of the heat gun back and forth over the sticker. Within a few seconds, the heat will soften the adhesive and you’ll be able to peel off the sticker. (If you don’t own a heat gun, try using a blow dryer.)

For stickers larger than, say a legal-size envelope, it’s best to direct the heat at one corner of the sticker, and then peel it away just a bit, being careful not to tear the sticker. Then, aim the heat gun behind the peeled-up corner, wait a few seconds, then gently tug on the sticker using pliers, if necessary, to protect your hands from the hot air.

Continue to simultaneously apply heat and pull on the sticker until it peels off in one piece. If there’s any sticky residue left behind, remove it with a white cloth dampened with mineral spirits or acetone.

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