Duct tape is absolutely wonderful . . . until you remove it and find a bunch of sticky residue left behind. Here's how to remove it quickly, easily and cheaply!

Removing Duct Tape Residue

Duct tape — or Gorilla Tape — is great for lots of things, but it’s not known for coming off cleanly, particularly if it’s been hot.

I used to use acetone, then I switched to Goo Gone. About five years ago, a contractor friend of ours said to use WD-40 — he swore it was better and much cheaper.

Since then, that’s what we’ve used. And he was right — it easily removes tape residue that took forever with Goo Gone.

Use a rag with a bit of texture to it — for example, terry cloth as opposed to an old t-shirt — and soak a small area of it with WD-40, then scrub at the residue. If there is a lot of tape gunk to get off and nothing nearby that the WD-40 would hurt if it ran or dripped, you can spray the residue and let it sit for just a minute before scrubbing.

Obviously, don’t do this on anything that the oil in WD-40 would harm! After removing the residue, I usually use a bit of soap and warm water to wash the area so it’s not slick from the WD-40. It’s really important to wash the WD-40 off if you’ve gotten it anywhere that people will walk as it is extremely slippery.

NOTE: Some people prefer to use Gaffer’s Tape to duct tape because it leaves far less residue. That’s true — it’s wonderful tape — but it’s also much more expensive than duct tape or even Gorilla Tape. We prefer to save it for times when we really need the “leave no residue” feature (see Gaffer’s Tape on Amazon if you’re not familiar with it — we weren’t until a reader recommended it).

Duct tape is absolutely wonderful . . . until you remove it and find sticky residue. Here's how to remove it quickly, easily and cheaply!

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  • Jim Shell
    Posted at 27 May 2015 Reply

    We use “De Solve It” for adhesive removal. It is an orange oil product that smells good. Orange solvent works well, too.

  • Bill S P Parker
    Posted at 27 May 2015 Reply

    We use trichloethylene or other chlorinated alkenes. It leaves no residue and avoids the explosion risk of using acetone or ethyl acetate (nail polish remover) both of which remove the plasticiser from gel coat and polyester resins. WD 40 (a composition of fish oils) works well, if more slowly but it does yellow white gel coat. Our web site advertises ‘Scavenger’ a cleaning agent designed for cleaning fouled rubber and plastic and comprising a mixture of fatty acid ethoxylates- completely benign to surfaces and strong enough to dissolve even raw, polyester resin….but chlorinated alkanes and alkenes are faster and equally, non-flammable.

    • Scott Schreiber
      Posted at 29 May 2015 Reply

      Just a note: WD40 contains NO fish oils. This is urban legend. So sorry to de-romanticize the allure….

    • Don Sanders
      Posted at 02 June 2015 Reply

      WD40 is simply kerosene in an aerosol form. Much cheaper to buy a bottle from the supermarket of kero and get all the other de-greasing benefits – remember WD40 is mainly used for cleaning car engines. And NEVER use WD40 to loosen up door locks – it is an oil and will attract dust like a magnet. Don

  • brad
    Posted at 28 May 2015 Reply

    We use a product from Real Goods – wife works there, so convenient – called Sticky Bye-Bye. Other than the silly name, pretty good stuff. Need to try it on that cooked gunk from the car sale sticky gunk on the car window…..

    THAT would be a test. In the past have used Goof-Off and had good luck. Prefer to NOT use petrochemicals if possible. They are all pretty much carcinogenic and/or endocrine (hormone hell) disruptors – and if you use petro (plastic) in a microwave you vastly increased the carcinogenic and hormonal damages. Plus killed over 70% of your nutrition. Kinda like buying a hundred dollars of food, and throwing $30 away.

  • Bill Wakefield
    Posted at 28 May 2015 Reply

    Hi Carolyn,

    Earlier this year I spotted a ‘low residue’ duct tape [3M Scotch Brand] in a local box store. We tried it and it is true; no goo upon removal [for up to 6 months according to manufacturer…] and it is really high quality, tenacious, waterproof tape. I’ve seen it on the shelves in dark grey and transparent ‘colors.’ It is the only duct tape on board now [aside from the wide Gorilla tape…]

    It sells for about the same as other premium duct tapes [~$11/large roll] and is about 1/3rd the price of the Gaffer’s tape…

    Here it is on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1JKyvUY

    RE: As you already know, WD40 it is primarily a solvent- not a lubricant. We remind ourselves to clean/degrease with WD40, then lube with an appropriate lubricant. And as you have likely already mentioned on your blog, it is also great for polishing stainless steel and is a safe starter fluid for diesel engines- among many other things.

  • Tammy Nielsen Joeright
    Posted at 28 May 2015 Reply

    Thanks. Great tip. Will be trying this.

  • Rebecca Tommaseo Ponzetta
    Posted at 29 May 2015 Reply

    Have a very environmentally friendly way….tea tree oil. The kind you can pick up in pharmacies, health stores. I use with cotton bud to apply to the tape stick area and then rub off with a rag.

  • Frank Collins
    Posted at 29 May 2015 Reply

    Don’t use GooGone, especially on anything like plexiglass. It will melt some plastics. My friend just bought a brand new motorcycle and had a small decal on the windshield he couldn’t live with. A little GooGone now has him laying out several hundred dollars for the damage it did on the Plexiglass

  • c thompson
    Posted at 29 May 2015 Reply

    i love WD-40 but I always use protective glove and Walsh the surface with soap and water when I am done. The are many reports that show Wd-40 is toxic so the protective gear is cheap insurance.

  • Bruce (s/v Migration)
    Posted at 01 June 2015 Reply

    We use Citra Solv for cleaning up lots of messy stuff onboard. It is a natural product and works great. My wife recently decanted some into a small bottle to store under the galley sink as we were spending so much time retrieving it from the cleaning cupboard. It’s much better for the world than using another petrochemical-based product. http://www.citrasolv.com

  • Margaret McEwen
    Posted at 05 June 2015 Reply

    Coconut oil removed glue residue that Goo Gone couldn’t. I put some on the residue, let it soak in just a minute, then rubbed it off with a paper towel. You may have to repeat this a few times until it all comes off. I haven’t tried it on duct tape, but since it is non-toxic, it is sure worth a try.

  • Dave
    Posted at 03 December 2015 Reply

    Mostly don’t use chemicals at all.

    Get some new duct tape. Press the adhesive side onto the adhesive residue you’re trying to remove, then remove the duct tape rapidly. Repeat. Keep doing it until all the residue has been removed.

  • Kimberly Young Price
    Posted at 12 June 2016 Reply

    A magic eraser works well.

  • CherylAnn Falconer
    Posted at 13 June 2016 Reply

    Eucalyptus oil is fantastic, all natural ( I’m Australian so I grew up using this all the time) gets duct tape residue off in seconds & smells great to. Also good for anything that leaves sticky residue. Easy to buy at CVS. #sailingtheplanet

  • Diana K Weigel
    Posted at 13 June 2016 Reply

    Thanks for the tip. I have some stubborn glue residue to remove.

  • John Colley
    Posted at 13 June 2016 Reply

    Eucaplyptus oil also works very well

  • Cynthia Lyn-Gray Miller
    Posted at 13 June 2016 Reply

    Look up WD-40 and learn of the many uses … including arthritis! Seriously.

  • Jennifer Schaafsma
    Posted at 13 June 2016 Reply

    Orange oil too, if you prefer the smell,

  • Ron Dionne
    Posted at 14 June 2016 Reply

    Your concerned about tape residue? Look at the electrical connection !!! Some people shouldn’t be allowed to play with electricity.

  • BB
    Posted at 25 June 2016 Reply

    Bison hand cleaner scrub – took caked-on tape residue off a window in seconds!

  • Gary Alexander
    Posted at 26 June 2017 Reply

    This is a great tip and considering I’ve heard that WD-40 is fish oil, it’s quite appropriate also. I tried it and it worked exactly as described. Thanks for the tip!

  • C.m. Piazza
    Posted at 20 July 2017 Reply

    I’m hoping this will work getting foam mounting tape off. Last person who owned my boat mounted pictures on wood paneling with foam mounting tape.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 20 July 2017 Reply

      It should, but test if it stains the wood. If wood is painted or varnished, it should be okay. If “bare” or oiled, I’d be concerned.

  • Joe Maneri
    Posted at 20 July 2017 Reply

  • JoAnn Williams
    Posted at 20 July 2017 Reply

    Been using WD-40 for removing all kinds of adhesive residue for years

  • Ted Reshetiloff
    Posted at 20 July 2017 Reply

    3M makes a product known as general adhesive remover. It’s not expensive and works better than wd40. For thick adhesive it’s best to soak part of a rag in the adhesive remover then place or hold the rag on the adhesive for a while to soften it. You can also use a plastic putty knife or scraper to remove the softened glue. 3m adhesive remover will not damage paint or varnish and is good on everything from duct tape to 5200.

  • Katrina Schiro
    Posted at 20 July 2017 Reply

    I am fighting this very issue today! What timing 🙂 thanks for the useful tip!!

  • Thomas Jensen
    Posted at 21 July 2017 Reply

    A process that uses duct tape AND WD40! Makes me proud to be a Texan.

  • Dorothy McLeod
    Posted at 21 July 2017 Reply

    Does it work on glue on jars?

  • Paul Jos Kotłowski
    Posted at 21 July 2017 Reply

    Vegetable oil.

  • Hazel Peterson
    Posted at 23 July 2017 Reply

    Goo Gone works well.

  • Gil Gaus
    Posted at 01 December 2017 Reply

    This works great when other stuff like GooGone did not. Fantastic, thanks!

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