How To Get Stickers Off Things

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2011 • all rights reserved

It’s not often that you buy something with a price or information sticker on it in the US any more.  And if you do, the stickers will usually peel off easily and completely.

As we cruised in Mexico and Central America, we periodically had to replace some of our galley gear.  And we discovered that almost everything there has a sticker (or two or three) — the kind that refuses to come off.  New glasses, plates, serving bowls and storage bins all had them that just didn’t want to budge.

Over the years, I’ve tried a number of different products based on friends’ recommendations.  Since almost every material and sticker is different, I’ll give you all the things I’ve tried and my experience with it.

IMPORTANT:  You have to use your own judgment and test any of these (even the ones I say are generally “safe”)  first on a hidden spot — some can remove colors or melt plastic.  I discovered that it’s very hard to tell ahead of time what will or won’t be hurt by a particular product.  There are no guarantees!

With any of these, be sure to wash the item with warm soapy water afterwards if it’s going to come in contact with food.

Goo Gone

Goo Gone works well on most surfaces and with most types of stickers.   As stated on the bottle:  “Removes gum, grease, tar, stickers, labels, tape residue, oil, tape residue, bumper stickers, scuff marks. Works on carpets, cement, clothing, tools, grills & hoods, RVs, autos, boats, glass, machinery, appliances.”  It’s citrus based and non-toxic.

The down side is that Goo Gone can be hard to find once out of the US, although it’s getting easier.  I definitely recommend it as it’s non-toxic and safe on almost any surface.  However, if you can’t find it — or it’s just not working well (see story below) — try WD-40.

WD-40

WD-40 is much easier to find and is definitely cheaper than Goo Gone once you’re out of the US — and my experience is that it works at least as well on most things, sometimes even better.

One summer we had duct tape that had baked in the sun onto an aluminum mast.  Dave first tried acetone on it, which did little.  Then he tried the tiny bit of Goo Gone we had left in a bottle, and it worked better — but it was going to take far more than what we had.  Then we remembered that a contractor friend had once told us that WD-40 worked well to remove adhesive.  It took that duct tape off almost instantly and is now what we use first on metal and glass.

WD-40 says that it’s safe on metal, glass and plastic and I’ve never had a problem on any of those.  Friends have reported that it did not cause any problems on melamine plates or Lexan “glassware” or hatches, but I have not tried it myself.

Diesel

I’ll begin with a warning that some people are very sensitive to diesel and will get a rash from contact with it.  If you’re one of them, be sure to wear rubber gloves around diesel.

Diesel works well on glass and metal to remove stickers; I’ve also heard that it works well on painted surfaces but haven’t ever known of anyone who tried it.  Diesel is incompatible with some plastics and can remove color in some, so I wouldn’t use it on any sort of plastic or Lexan just to be on the safe side.

Acetone

Acetone, which is the primary component of most nail polish removers, can work well on metal and glass, although as noted above, I’ve had better results with WD-40.  Don’t use acetone on plastics as it will melt most types!  If you’re thinking of using acetone, be doubly sure to test it first on an inconspicuous spot.

Have you had good results with one of these or something else?  Leave a note in the comments!

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Comments

  1. Dawn Rodney says:

    You can also use a biodegradable option called CitraSolv. It uses citrus oils as a solvent. We used it to remove glue from our hull so I am sure it can remove stickers.

  2. Lou Illiano says:

    Rubbing alachol will take care of many of not most adhesives!

  3. Another “green” product is SoySolve…and it removes permanent marker even from plastics. Speaking of permanent marker…the Mr. Clean Magic Erasers also remove permanent marker from many surfaces (but the “store brand” Magic Erasers do not work as well).

    • Carolyn Shearlock says:

      I’d never heard of SoySolv, but a number of places talk about how great it is. It’s listed as a non-hazardous industrial strength cleaner, used a lot in the printing industry.

      The only place online I could find that carried it in small containers (quart spray bottle versus lots of places that sold it in 55-gallon drums) is DanielSmith.com.

  4. Did you know mayonnaise or peanut butter work well to remove many adhesives?

  5. Come to new England…you will find stickers on EVERYTHING…it is one of the most annoying and unnecessary inventions ever…second only to packaging that can’t be opened without a tool that risks damaging the contents the packaging is supposed to “protect” … I swear every blessed vegetable and fruit has a sticker on it that you can’t peel without peeling part of the fruit…and I have some nice acrylic boat glasses that still have tenacious and gummy stickers after 2 years of use and washing. I know the chemical companies must be working on hybrid vegetables that will grow with bar codes already in place but until that day…how do you get the sticker off a tomato without peeling some skin??

  6. Really great stuff!

  7. Typical Americans…lol have you tried Eucalyptus iol? thats what we use in Australia.Or Lavender Essential oil.Both a lot safer than petrochemicals.

  8. NO insult intended.It’s more,Aussie humour.ie “it can only happen in America”.

  9. Yep, this stuff works for bumper stickers too.

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