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 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 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.
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, 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!