How to Get Sticky Residue - 6 Steps

Whether you’re battling a stubborn sales label or a misplaced kids’ sticker, find out how to remove sticky residue from any surface.

Updated 5 April 2023


AuthorBy Cleanipedia Team

Reading Time7 minutes

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Peeling a sticker from a wall

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Ah stickers. There’s no doubt they’re handy – whether they’re labeling your lentil jars, decorating your home, or just keeping the kids quiet for five minutes. So knowing how to remove sticky residue is a pretty essential life skill (particularly if you have toddlers who enjoy sticking unicorns or dinosaurs on anything that will stay still long enough).

Hot, soapy water can work miracles. Stubborn residue can often be shifted with nail varnish remover or surgical spirit. But these methods aren’t suitable for all materials. So read on to find out what cleaning hack is best to use for your particular situation.

The below tricks work for labels, stickers, sticky tape and other sticky situations.

How to remove sticky labels from plastic and metal

Removing stickers from plastic and metal can be tricky. Chemical removing agents can damage these materials, and anything abrasive can leave marks or dents.

You will need:

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  • Method

    1. 1

      Peel off the sticker

      Take as much of the sticker off as you can. To avoid scratching the surface, just use your fingernail or an old plastic credit card, rather than a knife.

      If at all possible, don’t let a sticky stain dry or go through the tumble dryer – once it has dried out, it’ll be much harder to remove
    2. 2

      Rub off the bits

      Use an eraser to rub the little sticky bits of label off the surface. If you’re lucky, your job is now done. If there’s still a sticky residue left on the surface, it’s time to reach for the vegetable oil.

      Always protect your hands and follow any instructions
    3. 3

      Dab on some vegetable oil

      Use the sponge to dab vegetable oil onto the sticky residue. You don’t need much – just enough to lightly coat the area that’s still sticky. If you don’t have vegetable oil to hand, olive oil should work just as well. (Only use oil on non-porous surfaces, as it could stain clothing, unvarnished wood and other porous materials.)

      Pouring vegetable oil on sticky residue on a wooden chopping board
    4. 4

      Leave the oil to work

      You’ll want to leave the oil to soak in for at least half an hour, ideally more like two hours.

    5. 5

      Warm the glue

      Use a hairdryer to warm the gluey residue. Choose a warm, not hot, setting, to avoid damaging the surface.

      Hairdryer being used to warm sticky residue on a chopping board
    6. 6

      Clean with hot water

      Fill a bowl or sink with hot water and add a dash of washing up liquid. Use the sponge to rub the sticky residue off. It should now come off easily. Don’t scrub with the abrasive side of the sponge, as you could accidentally scratch the surface you’re cleaning.

      Washing a wooden chopping board with hot soapy water in a sink
    7. 7

      Pat dry

      Dry the surface as much as you can using a clean tea towel or old, clean soft cloth. An old T-shirt is perfect for jobs like these.

  • 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. 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.

      Washing a label from a jar in hot soapy water
    2. 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.

      Person peeling a wet label off a jam jar
    3. 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. 4

      Get scrubbing

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

      Scrubbing sticker residue from a jar
  • How to remove sticker residue from windows

    New stickers tend to peel off windows fairly easily. But older ones can leave annoying residue behind, which makes admiring your roses (or spying on your neighbours) less of a pleasure. Luckily, it only takes a few minutes to shift it.

    1. 1

      Moisten the residue

      Run a cloth under warm water. Wring it out and press it against the sticky patch.

    2. 2

      Rub the residue off

      Dip the cloth in an acetone-based nail varnish remover. Use it to rub the sticky bits off the glass.

    3. 3

      Wash the windows

      Clean the windows using hot, soapy water or a specialist window cleaner.

      Washing a window with a sponge and soapy water
    4. 4

      Scrape any stubborn bits off

      The above steps should be enough to remove the sticker. If there’s any residue left, you may need to use a blunt knife to scrap the bits off, but do take care not to scratch the window (or yourself!).

  • 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. 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.

      Washing care label
    2. 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. 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. 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.

      Washing machine with open door
    5. 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...

  • How to remove sticker residue quickly

    Surgical spirit is fantastic at removing sticky residue from most hard surfaces, but we do recommend testing an area that’s not too noticeable first, just in case it takes off any of the colour.

    1. 1

      Wash with hot, soapy water

      Using a sponge and hot, soapy water, wash as much of the sticker residue off as you can.

    2. 2

      Apply surgical spirit

      Dab surgical spirit onto the residue using a clean cloth or old T-shirt. Don’t have any surgical spirit to hand? Try neat vodka.

    3. 3

      Rub the residue off

      Using the same cloth, rub the residue. It should now come off fairly easily.

    4. 4

      Wash the spirit off

      Wash the area with hot, soapy water and then pat dry. Surgical spirit is flammable so you don’t want to leave any on the surface. (And throw the cloth straight in the washing machine too!)

How to remove sticker residue from other surfaces

Stickers really do get everywhere! In many cases, soap and water will remove any residue, but read on for a few more tips...

How to get sticky labels off porcelain

Hot, soapy water is usually all you need to remove any stubborn sticky labels from mugs and other porcelain items. You can make your job easier by soaking crockery for half an hour before rubbing the label off.

If you can’t soak it, or it’s a stubborn sticker, try dabbing on a little bit of nail varnish remover.

How to remove stickers from walls

Many of us use large vinyl stickers to decorate our walls – but what if you want to take them off? Manufacturers often have their own recommended method for removing their stickers, but if the packet instructions have long since disappeared, or a normal sticker has mysteriously made its way onto your wall (thanks kids), don’t lose hope. Check out this guide to removing stickers from walls.

How to remove sticky residue from wood

Whether it’s your oak floor, a kitchen table or even your kid’s skateboard, wood needs a bit of extra TLC. You can find out everything you need to know about removing glue and general sticky patches from wood here.

How to remove sticker residue with essential oil

Lemon essential oil is acidic and can help to remove sticker residue from hard surfaces. Dab a few drops on the problem area and then get scrubbing.

This isn’t always quite as effective as the above methods, but it’s definitely worth a try (and it smells rather more pleasant than nail varnish remover!). Just make sure you test the oil on an inconspicuous area first.

How to remove glue

Now you know how to remove sticker residue, why not check out our guide to removing glue? (It always pays to be prepared, especially if you have a craft addict in the house...)

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