Updated: 25th June 2023
If stickers and labels are applied to a surface and left for a while, you might be left with annoying gluey gunk from the adhesive back when the time comes around to peel them off. Before you start scraping at a surface with a sharp object, put the knife or blade down – you could potentially scratch the material underneath the sticky residue! Instead, try these tried and tested methods to remove adhesive without any lasting damage.
What removes sticker residue?
If you’ve removed as much of the residue as you can by hand, it’s time to crack out the household supplies. It is important to note that you should test a small inconspicuous area of the surface before going all out with any of these methods to ensure it won’t damage or stain the material.
Plastic pan scrapers or even the side of an old plastic credit card offer a little more protection than metal ones (and they’re more affordable!), making them a great option for removing sticker residue from sturdy surfaces such as plastic. As they aren’t quite as sharp as their metal counterparts, this option might not be as effective on particularly stubborn sticker glue. Try not to push down too hard with the scraper – especially on glass surfaces that are prone to scratching.
Hot soapy water
Add a few squirts of washing up liquid to a bowl with hot water and leave the item with the sticky residue on to soak for an hour. The hot water will soften the sticker glue and make it easier to wipe the residue remains off with a dishcloth or peel away with your fingernails.
Hairdryers as a removal method work in a similar way; by applying heat to a surface, the sticker residue softens and can be more easily removed by hand. The benefit of using a hairdryer over hot water is that it works on larger items that might not fit in your sink, like a mirror or piece of furniture like a wooden dresser. Make sure to use a warm setting, but not the hottest temperature as that may damage the surface.
Rubbing alcohol and vodka are popular methods for removing sticker residue because they’re safe to use on a variety of surfaces such as wood, plastic and glass. To remove sticker residue with rubbing alcohol, apply it to a cloth until wet and rub the residue away. If the sticky stuff is proving particularly stubborn, soak the cloth and leave it on the area for several minutes to let it soften, then try rubbing it away again.
Although it might seem like an unusual choice for removing sticker glue, peanut butter is a great hack for this because of how oily it is – plus, it’s something a lot of people have hanging around in a cupboard. Spread the peanut butter onto the sticky surface and leave it for 15 minutes before wiping away – the sticker residue should come away with the peanut butter.
WD-40 is a multi-use lubricant spray that can also be used for sticker residue removal. To apply, simply spray it over the affected area and leave for several minutes. The glue should then just wipe away!
Like peanut butter, cooking oil can also work as a gentle way to remove stains from non-porous surfaces like glass and plastic. Apply oil to the sticky area and let it soften the residue. Then you should be able to scrape it away with your fingers, a small plastic knife or scraper, or wipe it away with a cloth.
The acidic nature of distilled white vinegar is so powerful it can dissolve sticker residue – as well as kill bacteria, making it an excellent cleaning product to have around. There are a couple of different ways you can use it to get rid of the sticky stuff:
1. Apply it to the sticky area, leave it for several minutes, then wipe it away
2. Add it to hot soapy water and soak the item for an hour, then peel away with a cloth or your fingers
As mayonnaise contains both the acidity of the vinegar and the greasiness of oil, this creates a double-whammy effect which results in a potent residue remover. Like peanut butter, spread the mayo onto the sticky surface and leave it for 15 minutes before wiping away – the sticker residue should come away with the mayonnaise.
For mild cases of sticker residue, you might find that you’re able to remove it with an eraser. When you rub the sticky surface with an eraser, it will roll up the dried glue, making it easier to get rid of.
You’ll be able to find a few different cleaning solutions sold for the exact purpose of removing sticker residue. You should always follow the manufacturer’s directions, but they’ll usually work by applying the product to the affected area, letting it sit for a certain period of time, then scrubbing it away with a cloth.
Another method to remove sticker residue using household items is to roll masking tape around your index and middle finger with the sticky side facing outward. Then, press your taped fingers onto the surface and pull away – the dried glue will stick to the tape and come away. Repeat this process until all the residue has gone.
If none of the methods above have worked, steel wool is an incredibly effective tool for removing dried sticker glue. Soak the steel wool in soapy water, then gently rub the glue to remove it. It’s important to apply some pressure, but take care not to scratch the surface underneath the sticker residue.
How to Remove Sticker Residue from Different Surfaces
How to get sticker residue off glass
If you’re looking for the best way to remove stickers from glass, it will be essential that you don’t scratch or damage the surface. The best method of removing sticker glue from glass is by applying rubbing alcohol or white vinegar, then polishing it away with a cloth.
How to remove sticker residue from plastic
There are lots of ways to get stickers and their residue off of plastic, but you want to avoid scraping this material as much as possible so that it doesn’t dent or scratch. The first thing to try is soaking the plastic item in hot, soapy water. If the sticker residue still won’t budge, vinegar or cooking oil are great options to try next.
How to remove sticker residue from metal
Metal can hold its own in the heat, meaning applying heat with a hairdryer should be your first port of call when it comes to removing sticker glue from a metal surface. If the warm air doesn’t loosen up the sticker residue enough, apply some cooking oil to the area, leave it for an hour, then clean it using hot soapy water.
How to get stickers off wood
Wood is a very natural material that’s porous in nature, meaning some solutions aren’t suitable for removing sticker residue. While we recommend avoiding food products like peanut butter or mayonnaise, white vinegar and commercial cleaning solutions that kill bacteria are the best options for these products. Leave the solution to soak for several minutes before peeling away with a plastic scraper. Wipe the surface down with wood polish to finish.
How to remove vinyl wall and window stickers
Vinyl wall and window stickers should come away easily, but the longer the sticker has been left for, the harder it might be to remove. Heat the corner of the vinyl sticker up with a hairdryer on the warm setting to loosen it from the wall or window. This will make it easier to peel away.
How to get stickers off a car
If you’re planning on removing a bumper sticker from your car or van without damaging the paint, do the following:
1. Clean the decal with soapy water – the dirt and debris can scratch the paint when you start trying to remove the sticker
2. Heat it up – loosen the adhesive by heating it up with a hairdryer
3. Peel it off – as soon as the sticker is heated up, start peeling it from one corner
4. Remove any residue with distilled vinegar or a glue removal product
5. Wash and dry the area
For a mess-free car sticker alternative, why not try magnetic signs? Just as reliable as an adhesive sticker, but easy to remove and reusable!
How to get a sticker off a mirror
Much like with sticker removal from glass, protecting the mirror from scratches is of paramount importance. Applying rubbing alcohol to the surface and polishing away with a cloth will be the best course of action, but if you’re dealing with a particularly stubborn patch, you can also heat the residue up with a hairdryer before attempting to clean it off.
How to remove stickers from laptop
If you’ve plastered your laptop in promotional stickers and looking to make room for more, the easiest way to remove them is to apply some cooking oil like olive oil to the sticker you want to remove. Then start peeling the corner of the sticker to remove.
Stickers can be removed from any kind of surface – what’s key to successful removal without damaging your personal items is choosing the right method for the material you’re working with.
Getting you started
Now that you're aware of how easy it is to remove sticker residue, why not begin creating your own? Take a look at our wide selection of stickers. If you've not created a design yet, no need to worry. Our Design Tool provides a large collection of easy to use, professional templates.