How to Get Tape off of Plastic

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Scotch tape is one of the easiest to remove.
Scotch tape is one of the easiest to remove. (Image: a tape holder image by Rich Johnson from Fotolia.com)

Many plastic products have some type of tape or adhesive tag stuck to them before they even make it to the shelves. While this is no doubt handy for retailers, removing all that goo can be a chore, especially if the tape has remained on the plastic for a long period of time or been exposed to heat. Fortunately, there are a number of things which can help with the removal.

Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Cloth or sponge
  • Dish detergent
  • Hairspray
  • WD-40

Manual Removal

Lift the corners of the tape with your fingernail. Once you have a corner started, peel back as much of the tape as you can. It will most likely come off in shreds, leaving behind plenty of sticky residue.

Wash the surface with warm water. If the item can be immersed, soak it for a short time. Otherwise apply the water with a moist cloth or sponge. You will not want to use anything abrasive like a scrubbing pad, but a textured cloth, such as a woven dishrag, is helpful.

Rub the cloth back and forth and around in small circles. As the adhesive gums up in small balls, pick them off with your fingers. If some residue is still left, continue to the next section.

Cleaning Agents

Apply a spot of dish soap to the area. Dish detergents employ surfactants, enzymes and sometimes phosphates to help break the bond between an item and the contaminant clinging to it. Combined with gentle scrubbing, this is often enough to lift the adhesive although it may take several minutes.

Spritz the area with hairspray and resume rubbing with the moist cloth. The base ingredient in most hairsprays is SD (specially denatured) alcohol 40, which is chemically classified as a solvent. Other types of alcohol, such as rubbing alcohol, can also be used.

Spray with WD-40. Allow it to sit for a moment and then wipe with a dry cloth. The ingredients in WD-40 are kept secret by the manufacturer, but many people find it to be an effective, non-damaging cleaning agent. It will leave the plastic a little greasy, so you may want to clean up afterward with soapy water.

Tips & Warnings

  • Hairspray dries quickly, so do not allow it to sit too long before continuing with your cleaning.
  • Acetone-based nail polish remover is often effective for removing adhesives, but it is not suitable for use on plastics since acetone is a plastic solvent.
  • Ammonia-based products, such as Windex, are not recommended since ammonia can cause clouding in clear plastic.

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