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How to get sticky residue off plastic

Your Options

  • Scraping
  • Warm water
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Lubricant like WD-40
  • Hair dryer

Read on for full details on removing duct tape residue swiftly, so you can start from a squeaky-clean square one.

OPTION 1: Scrape off the adhesive

In cases where duct tape residue is minimal and not too stubborn, a simple scraping session with a putty knife (or a butter knife, in a pinch) can banish the gunk. Start from one end of the affected area, moving slowly to the other with small, repetitive scrapes, holding the blade nearly parallel to the surface so as not to gouge. Be especially patient and careful when working with wood and vinyl, which are easily damaged.

OPTION 2: Dampen the surface with warm water

Warm water can often effectively remove duct tape residue from glass, vinyl, linoleum, and other surfaces that have a high-gloss finish. The heat softens the structure of the glue, while the viscosity helps push it away. Apply plain water with a sponge or microfiber cloth, scrubbing with small, back-and-forth strokes.

If that fails, add a drop or two of hand soap or dishwashing liquid to further break down the bond. For particularly stubborn goo—and only on water-resistant surfaces—soak the item in warm soapy water, or cover it with a warm, wet, soapy sponge or rag, for 10 to 20 minutes. Then wipe dry, banishing the gunk as you go.


Photo: istockphoto.com

Photo: istockphoto.com

OPTION 3: Dissolve whatever residue is leftover. 

If hoping to dissolve the duct tape adhesive altogether from a nonporous surface, try rubbing alcohol. This solvent is unsuitable for most painted materials, and should always be patch tested first, even on metal and glass. Firmly dab a rag soaked in isopropyl alcohol (the kind you probably have in your medicine cabinet) over a small area to ensure it won’t cause unsightly results. If the test patch proves successful, proceed by covering the gunk with alcohol, working in small sections, and letting the liquid evaporate to the point where you can easily wipe away whatever matter is left behind.

OPTION 4: Lubricate the lingering residue

Oil and other water-displacing lubricants can help win the war against goo. If working with glass, linoleum, vinyl, or finished wood, reach for WD-40. (If you haven’t got a can handy, substitute room-temperature vegetable oil straight from your kitchen cabinet.) Wear gloves to protect your skin and spray the surface entirely, then wait a few seconds before using your gloved finger to smooth away duct tape residue. Then wash away the remaining oil with soap and water. Never use oil or other lubricants on unfinished wood; it will sink into the pores for good—and that’s bad!

OPTION 5: Bring the heat, literally

Hot air can weaken the adhesion of duct tape residue, making it easier to remove from such surfaces as unfinished and flat-painted wood, on which you wouldn’t use oil or water. This method may require some extra effort, but it’s probably your safest bet, as it doesn’t involve any liquids that could penetrate porous surfaces and cause discoloration or damage. Crank a hair dryer on its highest setting several inches from the offending material for a minute at a time between each attempt to scrape it off. Work in small sections, administering as many hot air blasts as necessary to remove everything.



How to get sticky residue off glass

If you’ve been reading our guide to upcycling jam jars, you’re probably eager to put your creativity into action. But what to do about a stubborn label?

  1. Soak the glass

    Whether it’s a glass jar or your beloved gin goblet, you’ll want to soak it in hot soapy water for at least half an hour.

  2. Peel off the label

    Most of the label should now slide off as the glue will have mainly dissolved. Use a sponge or washing up brush to remove the rest. If the label is still resisting, try dipping the sponge in nail varnish remover.

  3. Tackle tricky residue

    If any stickiness remains, soak the glass in diluted vinegar overnight. One part vinegar to three parts water should work. (If the glass is looking cloudy, use equal parts white vinegar and water to get it sparkling again.) Alternatively, dab vegetable oil onto the residue and leave it to soak.

  4. Get scrubbing

    Use neat vinegar and a microfibre cloth – or a small nail brush – to scrub the glass clean.

How to get sticky labels off clothes

Most stick-on clothing labels should peel off without too much trouble. But, if you accidentally wash a garment that has a sticker on and then leave it to dry (or worse, put it in the tumble drier) it’ll be much harder to deal with. So act quickly…

  1. Check the care label

    If you do need to deal with sticky residue, check the care label first. If the garment is dry clean only, don’t attempt the below. If it’s silk or wool, you might want to invest in a specialist detergent.

  2. Remove the sticker

    Gently peel off as much of the sticker as you can. Use your fingernail for this, rather than anything sharp that could tear the fabric.

  3. Rub in detergent

    Wearing rubber gloves, rub a good quality laundry detergent directly into the problem area. Alternatively, you could use a specialist adhesive stain remover, but do check the bottle to make sure that it’s suitable for the fabric.

  4. Wash the garment

    Wash the garment in a machine or by hand. Use the 40 degrees setting, as anything hotter could actually make the problem worse.

  5. Repeat if necessary

    If any sticky residue remains when the garment comes out of the wash, repeat steps four and five before letting the garment dry. If all else fails, you could try rubbing surgical spirit into the problem area, before washing it as normal. If you go down this route, do test it on an inconspicuous area first however, just in case…


Can acetone remove sticker residue?

Yes. Acetone can be safely used to remove sticker residue from glass, but shouldn’t be used in every circumstance. Acetone is extremely harsh and can damage surfaces. 

How do you remove sticky residue from a laptop?

To remove sticky residue from your laptop, spray WD-40 onto the area, leave for 10 minutes, then rub clean with a microfibre cloth. This should only be used on flat, external areas of your laptop where you can be sure it won’t leak inside.

What household products remove sticker residue?

Household products such as acetone nail polish remover, washing up liquid, WD-40 and distilled white vinegar can all be used to remove sticker residue. They should not, however, be used interchangeably as every material must be treated differently.

Start Simply

The chore of cleaning up tape residue is greatly lessened when removing the tape—or adhesive label—correctly in the first place. Much like removing a band-aid painlessly, you want to gently lift the edge of the tape, and then quickly pull the entire thing off the surface it is covering. Ripping off the tape in one fast motion makes for a much cleaner removal.

For the adhesive that is left behind, starting simply is the best way to dive into cleaning it up. Wet a sponge or cleaning rag with hot water and put a few drops of liquid dish soap on it. Scrub the area with tape residue. If it appears to be removing the sticky substance, wet the sponge or cloth again and continue the process until it is all gone.

This method works on glass, wood, acrylic, plaster, asphalt, marble, linoleum, enamel, pewter, plexiglass, and porcelain. Any surface that doesn’t appear porous is a candidate for cleaning this way.

In conclusion

Removing sticker residue from all kinds of surfaces isn’t difficult. Just follow our Pros’ guide to the right kinds of cleaning solutions to remove adhesive from any material. Get your glass, plastic, metal, wood, and fabric shining like new — without any annoying residue left behind! 

Removing Small Residue

If there are still small traces of residue left, then on a pan, heat 3 tablespoons of cooking oil. Remove it from heat and coat the traces with the oil. Be careful on handling hot oil. Always consider keeping some distance between you and the oil’s container.

Let the trace sit for another 15 minutes. Then rub the surface with a towel or a brush.

Use a Hair Dryer’s Air Exhaust

However, if the damage has been done, then the first step would be to use a hair dryer. Most adhesive raw materials may it be silicone, foam, rubber or synthetic adhesive solidify at cold temperatures. At their reinforced states, it is nearly impossible to cleanly removing them without damaging the surface. However, they all start to melt at around 50 Degrees Celcius- a temperature which a hair dryer’s exhaust can reach easily.

Soften the adhesive by directing the hot air exhaust to the surface. When it has thoroughly softened, you can wipe off large chunks of adhesive from it. If you don’t have a hair dryer, then steam from a pot of boiling water will also do the trick.

What’s Next?

If the aforementioned methods of cleaning tape residue from your surfaces fail, take heed. There is one more method you can try.

Moisten a portion of a cleaning rag with rubbing alcohol and rub it onto the tape residue. Wipe the area with a clean, dry cloth or paper towel in between treatments. Repeat the process until most of the adhesive is gone.

If stubborn adhesive remains, cut a piece of tape that is slightly larger than the area in question. Place it over the existing tape residue, and then pull it off quickly. This, combined with the rubbing alcohol should do the trick.

Tape residue won’t irritate you any more, now that you’ve aware of how to remove it, and which methods to employ on various surfaces. The next time this adhesive mess is soiling one or more items in your home, you’ll be ready to roll—and armed with safe cleaners to do a thorough and chemical-free cleaning job.

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