Peeling off price tags, manufacturer's labels, and children's stickers can leave gummy leftovers on surfaces. Here's how to remove sticker residue from glass, plastic, clothing, and more.

By Coryanne Ettiene and Jan Soults Walker
Updated August 03, 2020
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Once you peel off an adhesive-back sticker or label from a surface, you might wonder how to get rid of the sticker residue. You know—the gluey, gummy gunk left behind. And sometimes, it can be downright stubborn to remove. If you're tempted to scrape the spot with a putty knife or metal blade, don't. These cleaning tools might scratch the surface below the gunk. Instead, follow these tips to learn how to get sticker residue off glass, plastic, wood, and even clothing using products you have around the house to safely soften and remove the stuff.

Credit: Jason Donnelly

First, however, try to get as much of the sticker residue off with your fingers as possible. Simply roll the sticky adhesive into balls with your fingertips and pluck them off. If you're removing tape residue from clothing, do not wash or dry the garment before the stickiness is gone. The stain will be tougher to remove if it has been through a drying cycle.

How to Remove Sticker Residue

Once you've removed as much as you can by hand, use one of the following methods to remove any sticker residue that remains. One word of caution: With all of these methods, test the surface in an inconspicuous area to make sure it won't stain or cause other damage.

Credit: Jason Donnelly

Plastic scrapers: While metal blades might scratch the surface you're trying to save, a plastic scraper (even the edge of an old gift card) or the blade of a plastic knife can be safely used to scrape the adhesive from many surfaces without scratching. Other options include wiping the spot with the scratchy side of a sponge or rubbing the debris away with a rubber eraser. This works well to get sticker residue off plastic, but if you're not careful, it may scratch a glass surface.

Hot water: Put a few drops of dish detergent into a sink full of hot water and immerse the item (if practical) into the water to soak until the residue softens. Scrape away the gunk with a plastic scraper or your fingers. Cold water will not remove sticker residue as effectively as hot water.

Hair dryer: One of the best tools to remove sticker residue is in your bathroom. Aim a hair dryer at the sticker residue, turn it on, and allow the hot air to loosen the adhesive. Scrape to remove.

Credit: Jason Donnelly

Rubbing alcohol (or vodka): If you want to know how to get sticker residue off plastic, wood, or glass, one of the most effective solvents that's safe for most surfaces is rubbing alcohol. Vodka is a good substitute. Wet a paper towel or clean rag with rubbing alcohol, and rub the residue to lift it off. For stubborn stickers, lay an alcohol-soaked rag on the area, and let it sit for several minutes to soften the residue. Use the rag to rub off what's left behind.

Peanut butter: If you want to get sticker residue off wood, glass, or plastic, dab peanut butter on the spot and let it sit until the sticker residue softens. Use a clean rag to lift off the peanut butter as well as the residue.

WD-40: WD-40 ($6, The Home Depot) has a lot of uses, and removing sticker residue is one of them. Spritz the solution onto the sticker spot and let it sit for several minutes. Then use a rag to wipe away the residue.

Credit: Jason Donnelly

Canola or olive oil: Apply cooking oil to the sticker residue to soften. Scrape away the remainder with your fingers, a plastic scraper, or a plastic knife. You can also try rubbing with a clean rag. The only thing left to do is wipe away the excess oil.

Vinegar: Learning how to remove sticker residue with household items can save you money. Soak a rag or paper towel in vinegar and lay across the sticky area. Let it soak for a few minutes to soften the residue, then wipe or scrape to remove. Plus, you can use vinegar to clean all around the house.

Rubber eraser: Erasers don't only work for errant pencil marks. Use a rubber eraser to remove sticker residue from most surfaces. The rubber surface will roll the residue away.

Cleaners: A few commercial products, such as Goo Gone ($4, Walmart), are formulated to remove sticker residue. Follow the manufacturer's directions, but in most cases, you apply the product to the residue, let it sit, then scrape or wipe with a rag to remove.

Credit: Jason Donnelly

How to Get Sticker Residue Off Clothing

To remove sticker residue from clothing, try to remove the sticker as soon as possible, and don't run it through your dryer. But accidents happen, so if you're dealing with dried-on sticker residue on clothing, try these methods. Remember to experiment on an inconspicuous spot first.

After you've picked off as much sticker residue as possible with your fingers, your next strategy depends on whether the clothing item is made of natural fibers or synthetics.

You can get rid of sticker residue on clothing made of natural fibers by rubbing the spot with acetone (nail polish remover) applied to a clean cloth. Wash and dry the item as you would normally.

To get rid of sticker residue on clothing made of synthetics, place the item in the freezer for 45 to 90 minutes. Pull the clothing out, and immediately pluck off as many of the hardened bits as possible. Then moisten the spot with water, add a drop or two of mild dish soap, and rub the remainder of the sticker residue off using a microfiber cloth. Wash and dry the clothing item as you would normally.

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