How to Dissolve Sticker Residue

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Stickers can be handy to use as price tags, labels, decorations and many other things. However, stickers are not much fun to remove, especially if part of the label and sticker glue residue are left behind. There are many household products that can be helpful in removing sticker residue; many of them are common household liquids. Be mindful that any chemicals or liquids applied atop old stickers may stain or mar fabric or paper items, so use caution if your stickered items are made from such materials.

Things You'll Need

  • Razor blade or putty knife
  • Cotton balls or cotton swabs
  • Essential oil
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Penetrating spray lubricant
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Dish cloth or paper towel
  • Soap
  • Water

Scrape away as much of the leftover sticker as possible using a razor blade, putty knife or your fingernail. Be careful if you're using a razor blade so you don't cut yourself. Don't slice, scratch or cut the item that bears the sticker. Continue scraping until no more paper or glue residue comes off.

Select one of these liquids: an essential oil (tea tree or eucalyptus), penetrating lubricant spray, or rubbing alcohol. Keep in mind that the oils may stain, so consider what the item bearing the sticker is made of. Dab one of the oils or alcohol onto a cotton ball or cotton swab, and rub the cotton over the sticker residue. If you're using a lubricating spray or petroleum jelly, apply it directly onto the sticker residue, and allow the liquid to penetrate the residue for a minute or two, then rub it with a cotton swab or cotton ball. Continue rubbing until no more residue is lifting from the stickered item. Add more oil, alcohol, or spray directly to the gummy mess if necessary, and allow it to sit for another minute or two. Rub it with cotton again. Scrape with your fingernail to remove more of the residue.

Choose another liquid from the list if some of the residue remains. Follow the process outlined in Step 2.

Rinse off the last bits of sticker residue with a little soap and water on a dishcloth or paper towel. Finish cleaning with a fresh, damp towel or paper towel.

Tips & Warnings

  • If the stickered item is submersible, such as a glass jar, soak it in warm, soapy water for a while, then rub off the residue with your hand or a dish cloth.
  • Sometimes sticker residue is extremely difficult to remove, especially if the sticker or tape has been in place for years. If none of the above items works to remove sticker residue, try nail polish remover (acetone) or turpentine. Bear in mind that these are strong, harsh chemicals, so do not apply them to delicate surfaces, and do not breathe their fumes. Wear rubber gloves if you're working with acetone or turpentine.
  • A hair dryer can also help loosen the goo; simply set it to hot and blow hot air on the residue for a few seconds, then clean the item with soapy water.
  • Some oil-based products can stain fabric and paper, so use extreme care if you're using an oil to remove stickers from clothing, cardboard or paper.

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