Unilever logo
Cleanipedia ZA logo

How to remove glue

Getting rid of glue spills doesn’t have to be hard work – find out how to remove glue from plastic, wood, and glass here!


Reading Time: 5 minutes

Hand washing procedure for good hand hygiene

Glue, whether it be in a tube, stick, or on adhesive tape and labels, is an extremely useful – and sometimes essential – household product, especially for DIY and crafts. But glue can leave a sticky residue when it’s time to peel off that tape, and appears unsightly when it dries in unwanted places. But removing glue doesn’t have to be tough! From taking off jar labels to shifting stubborn hardened glue splatters, this detailed guide to removing glue from plastic, glass, and wood will equip you with everything you need to know about how to remove glue from your everyday household surfaces.

Using oil or moisturiser to remove tricky glue stains is very quick and easy, but remember to always clean up any residue with a commercial cleaning product appropriate for your surface – remaining grease and oil can easily spot clothing or (if applied to the floor) cause accidents.

How to remove glue from plastic

Removing glue from plastic is a case of finding a product with the power to break down the glue’s bond, while also being mild enough to ensure that the colour of the plastic isn’t bleached out or the surface damaged.

Before you start, test any product you plan to use on an inconspicuous spot – it’s worth checking that both the glue and the surface you’re cleaning will respond well to your treatment.

  • How to remove glue from plastic gently: To start with, try using something mild, like a moisturiser or vegetable oil. Soak a cloth and dab it generously on the glue patch, allowing the moisturiser or oil to soak in, and then wipe the surface firmly with a clean paper towel or cloth.

  • How to remove glue from plastic if you need a quick fix: Make-up wipes may be sufficient to break down weaker solvents and remove glue residue at the same time. Just swab the glue mark gently in a circular motion.

  • Removing stubborn glue from plastics: Soak the glue with vinegar and rinse clean, or if the glue is hard rather than tacky, use a thin scraper – such as a blunt knife, spatula, or old debit card – to lift the glue from beneath without scratching the surface.

How to remove glue from glass

Knowing how to remove adhesive from glass effectively becomes handy when you want to reuse jars, or if you’re cleaning glue spillages on your mirrors, windows, and glassware.

  • To remove sticky labels from glass jars and wine bottles, soak them in warm soapy water overnight. Then scrub them with a scouring pad or scrape them with an old card, taking care not to scratch the surface. If you find your jars have particularly stubborn sticky spots, wipe the tacky areas generously with oil or petroleum jelly. If the label just won’t seem to budge, you can try wiping it with acetone or alcohol-based nail varnish remover – but remember to follow the safety instructions and use them in a well-ventilated area. Test any of these cleaning solutions on a discreet spot first if you’re worried about damaging or discolouring the surface.

  • To remove hardened glue from glass surfaces, whether it’s superglue dripped on the mirror, or a messy splash of industrial glue around the seal of the windows, a scraper is the weapon of choice. Again, oil, petroleum jelly, nail varnish remover, or vinegar could be used to soften the glue’s bond, and even greasy products like mayonnaise and margarine have been known to ease glue from glass with the help of a scraper. However, if you have a really tough patch of glue on glass, often the most simple and effective way to remove it is to soak the area with the hottest temperature of water possible, and then (whilst being careful of your own safety and wearing rubber gloves) scrape the glue away from the glass surface.

remove glue

How to remove glue from wood

If you need to know how to remove glue from wood, it’s likely that you’ve got a glue patch on your varnished wooden furniture or flooring. Luckily, you can remove glue from almost any surface without damaging the finish. Just use the correct techniques and take care in testing on a discreet area first.

When you need to remove glue from untreated wood, you can simply sand it away carefully, but sanding isn’t an option for many wooden surfaces in the household. For most treated wood, it should be safe to leave petroleum jelly to soak into the glue patch overnight to loosen the bond, before cleaning it off and polishing or oiling the wood as normal. In really stubborn cases, a mild dishwashing detergent and warm water mix can prove very effective in removing glue from wood, although this isn’t suitable for all finishes.

Use heat to remove glue without chemicals

If you’re too worried about damaging a surface to use any products at all, heat may be the key to removing glue. Depending on the heat resistance of the surface, you can either heat the glue directly with a hair dryer whilst working away the glue patch with a scraper, use boiling water, or leave the glue-stained surface out in the hot sun, before scraping the sticky patch away while it’s hot and pliable.

Originally published