How to Remove Sticker Residue From Any Surface

by Alexa

By Alexa Erickson

Removing the sticky residue left behind after peeling off price tags, manufacturer's labels, and novelty stickers can seem like a major task to tackle. Sometimes, it seems easier to just leave behind the unsightly adhesive than it is to put in the elbow grease to scrape it away. The good news is, with a few tips and tricks, you can remove that bothersome sticky residue in no time.

This guide will walk you through how to remove sticker residue from just about every surface.

hand removing sticker from plate

Photo via Mom4Real

How to Avoid Sticker Residue

The best way to avoid sticker residue in the first place is to take special care when peeling off the sticker. If you remember to do it, try applying a hot compress to the sticker before peeling it off. Doing so will loosen up the adhesive, making it less likely that sticky leftovers will stay behind on the item. 

When peeling a sticker off your item, avoid going at it with a knife or other sharp-edged device, which can scratch the product you’re trying to remove the sticker from.

How to Remove Sticker Residue from Glass

Whether you tried to take a label off a wine bottle or remove a sticker from the bottom of your new glass bowl, you’ll likely be left with some unwanted sticker debris. Luckily, plain old water should work to remove the sticker residue from the glass. If water doesn’t work, however, we have a few other methods that will. Follow these methods in order to remove sticker residue from your glass goods.

Hot Compress

After removing a sticker, apply a hot compress to the residue. After about 20 seconds, take off the compress. The heat should have loosened up the sticker and/or residue, allowing the gunk to be detached trace-free.

Soap and Water

If a simple hot compress doesn’t quite do the trick, try a soapy soak. Just fill a sink (or a tub for larger items) with hot water and liquid dish soap and soak the glass for about an hour. Use the rough side of the sponge to scrub off any left-behind bits of residue.

Nail Polish Remover

Nail polish remover is another option. Acetone in many nail polish removers helps break down sticker residue like it takes off nail glue. Soak a clean rag in nail polish remover and leave pressed against the sticky area for 20 minutes (timing is truly dependent on how bad the residue is). Then, use the same rag to agitate and lift away any remaining gummy stuff.

Rubbing Alcohol

For more stubborn residue on glass, try rubbing alcohol. Soak a clean rag with rubbing alcohol, then lay it on the affected area for several minutes. The residue should soften, and at that point, you can easily rub off what’s left behind with the rag.

how to remove sticker residue from plastic

Photo via Lela Burris

How to Remove Sticker Residue from Plastic

Plastic can easily be scratched, so it’s important not to use sharp materials to remove sticker residue from plastic surfaces. Try soaking the plastic in hot, soapy water as described above. However, rather than using the rough side of the sponge to remove any left behind bits, use a rag to agitate and lift the remaining material. If any residue remains, repeat the process over again.

The nail polish remover method and rubbing alcohol method also work well for getting sticker residue off plastic.

How to Remove Residue from Wood

Wood is very porous, which causes sticker residue to settle in the grain, making it extra difficult to remove. If the wood is unfinished, you can use the nail polish remover method or the rubbing alcohol method to remove the residue.

For finished wood (or if you’re trying to be extra safe), use a hair dryer to remove sticker residue from wood, which will give off dry heat (as opposed to putting the wood in contact with hot water). Turn your hair dryer on the lowest setting to warm up the affected area, then try scraping the residue off either with your bare hands or with a plastic putty knife.

How to Remove Sticker Residue from Clothes

Have you ever accidentally washed clothes with a sticker stuck to them? Once it comes out of the dryer, you’re left with what seems like ruined clothing. Before you toss your new tee in the trash, try this hack for getting residue off clothes broken down by fabric type.

Natural Fibers

First, pick off as much of the sticker residue as possible using your fingers. Then, read the label to see what your item is made of. For clothing made of natural fibers, like cotton, linen, silk, or wool, soak a clean cloth in nail polish remover, then rub the spot. Wash and dry the item in a regular cycle.

Synthetic Fibers

For sticker residue on clothing made of synthetic fibers, like polyester, nylon, and spandex, the cleaning experts at Molly Maid suggest putting the article of clothing in the freezer for an hour to 90 minutes, then removing and immediately picking off as much of the hardened residue as possible. A drop of dish soap and water might help finish up the job. Launder as usual.

how to remove sticker residue from metal

Photo via Wren’s Little Nest

How to Remove Sticker Residue From Metal

“When removing stickers from metal you need to be careful,” explains the specialty glue experts at Loctite. “Chemical-removing agents can damage the surface and you cannot use anything abrasive since that would leave marks.”

Loctite recommends soaking a rag in vegetable oil and applying it to the sticky area on a metal piece for a few hours. After time’s up, wipe away the oil, then use a hair dryer on the lowest setting to further soften the glue. Wipe off the sticker residue, then clean the area using hot soapy water and a clean cloth. 

How to Remove Residue from a Laptop

If you’ve ever bought a new laptop, you might’ve dealt with the pain of removing the manufacturer’s sticker off the keyboard. Or, maybe you decided to decorate the front of your laptop with bumper stickers a few years ago, and now you’re trying to resell the laptop—which proves to be difficult when there’s a colorful collage of personal stickers on the cover.

To remove sticker residue off a laptop, solvents like rubbing alcohol and nail polish remover work well when damply applied to the area (obviously you can’t soak the laptop in hot water or solvents). You can also use oils like coconut oil or olive oil. Dab a clean, dry cloth in the alcohol or oil of choice, then wipe the sticky area in a circular motion, paying particular attention to the corners of the residue. You should feel the residue balling up and lifting. Use a dry, clean side of the cloth to wipe away any remaining residue.

Check Out This Helpful Chart

You're going to find a lot of advice out there for how to remove sticker residue. It can be overwhelming to see all the methods, and cleaning with the wrong materials can even ruin a product. The cleaning experts at Pro Housekeepers have a chart that shows what methods are safe to use on different surfaces.

Do you have any additional tips for removing sticker residue? Share them below!

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  • Dee Dee on Dec 16, 2021

    WD40 and Goo Gone also is a good solution to removing stickers.

  • Shellguy Shellguy on Jan 20, 2022

    I use a hair dryer on the low setting starting at one corner of the sticker and slowly peel it off. This almost always gets the glue also.