How to remove adhesive from metal, plastic, glass, and clothes.

UPDATE 6/22/2018: Since first publishing this article in 2013, we have received LOTS of great suggestions from our customers about what works and what doesn’t. Thank you! So, we have incorporated your feedback into a new and improved guide about removing adhesive residue.

Click here to read our updated article on this topic and take the hassle out of removing stickers, labels, tape from various surfaces at work and in your home!


Removing the sticky, adhesive residue left by stickers and tape can be a pain. Sometimes, scraping the adhesive off with your finger nail just doesn’t do the trick. Office Ink shows you how to remove adhesive residue from metal, plastic, vinyl and clothes.

How to remove adhesive from metal

To remove adhesive from metal, try using rubbing alcohol. Really, we should just go ahead and declare good old isopropyl the hardest working man in your medicine cabinet.  In addition to removing removing adhesive from metal, alcohol removes cleans hands, removes dry erase marker stains and even revives dried out pens. To remove adhesive from metal, just rub the stain with a cotton ball soaked in alcohol.

Bonus tip: You can also use baby oil or rubbing alcohol to remove adhesive from metal.

How to remove adhesive from plastic and vinyl.

So the object in warm, soapy dishwater, then wipe the adhesive stain away with a soft cloth and vinegar.

How to remove adhesive from glass

To remove adhesive from glass, you need to break out the big guns. Try acetone nail polish remover first. FYI:  glass is one of the few office & household surfaces acetone won’t damage. So don’t try it on anything else.

Rubbing acetone on the stain will probably do the trick. But if doesn’t try WD-40 next. Lubricant will break down the adhesive and is easy to wash off glass.

How to remove adhesive from clothes

There are a few methods you can try to remove adhesive from clothes. First, pre-soak your garment in hot water with a stain remover, then launder as usual. If your stain remains try spot cleaning with:

  • One tablespoon of  laundry detergent mixed with two cups of warm water water.
  • One tablespoon of ammonia mixed with two cups hot water.

If neither solution removes your adhesive stain, fold your garment in half so the stain faces inward, with a wet paper towel between the two layers. Let that sit for an hour, then spot clean the adhesive stain with a soft cloth and an alcohol based hand sanitizer like Purell.

Got a can’t-miss stain removing tip? We’d love to hear it! Post your suggestions in the comments.

Sources: TLC How Stuff Works, Good Housekeeping, Discovery How Stuff Works

36 comments on “How to remove adhesive from metal, plastic, glass, and clothes.

    • John Eight Thirty-Two says:

      Different solvents work on different substrates. You must have one that isn't soluble in baby oil. And you must find that frustrating and upsetting.

      • Mineral spirits works better than anything else I've tried. Neither alcohol nor Greased Lightening would take it off but it came right off easily with the mineral spirits.

  • Marion Drake says:

    I tried WD40 then nail varnish remover, but the best thing I found was to simply scrub it with CIF cream. It came off so much easier.

  • My boss did 3 store front Windows that had adhesive on it from a plastic coating that was on it my boss use WD-40 and hills are big Windows it made a mess a terrible mess and was all over the sidewalks I told him he should have used alcohol, alcohol is actually the best do you think he should use that WD-40 to get that adhesive off ? I personally think it took three times Mount of time to do the job then what it would if I would have did it without alcohol what do you think?

    • Jim Willis says:

      I think I don't understand what you said. After trying to decipher it, now I need some alcohol. Thanks for trying, though.

  • Jonathan Baylis says:

    Alcohol did not work on the label glue on my painted metal oil can. It stayed as sticky as ever. I tried WD40 and it cleaned it up nicely!

  • Bought a Copper Chef pan from Walmart. Sticker was on bottom of heat element. Neither baby oil or rubbing alcohol worked. Only thing that did – Mineral Spirits. Thank goodness my husband had some!

  • Jeetendra Jagwani says:

    I use the following logic when dealing with hard to remove adhesive. First start with least reactive product on the base surface. Like maybe baby oil, coconut oil, toothpaste, vinegar, vodka etc on plastic, fiber , even metal which is to be used for foods, kids etc. If it doesnt work then I shift to wd 40, turpentine (mineral spirits) rubbing alcohol, acetone (very reactive and destructive, most likely to spoil base surface), hair dryer, direct heat etc. All this process has to be graded strictly as per surface substance.

  • I have a display metal background stand I borrowed. We put a two sided taped background on the poles for a show. Now the tape residue will not come off, what to do!! I have tried, alcohol, polish remover, WD 40, baby oil, lighter fluid, etc. What to do?????

  • Pls how do I get sticky para rubber material mixed with PVA of ma cloths? Embarking on a research and hoping to get a good remedy for this

  • I used acetone to remove some sticker residue from one my book covers but after doing so it made the surface where I applied it shiny, does anyone know how to get rid of the acetone stain?

  • Heat gun on low will permit you to remove most of plastic sticker. Be gentle with gun while tugging steady on the sticker corner. Heat while peeling. Finish remaining glue off with paint thinner or spirits.

  • Someone has put some sort of glue or adhesive on my car headlight glass. So hard to remove. Acetone has moved some of it after 3 hours of rubbing on. Is there something better l could do to remote this glue/adhesive from my headlight?

  • Louie Heaton says:

    I had a sticker on my MacPro and all I did was I got a cotton pad and soaked it in some old aftershave I had lying around for about 2 mins. And then it came right off!

  • I’ve tried nearly all the above solutions in my 60 years, but my go-to solution is Goo Gone Pro Power. NOT regular Goo Gone (too weak) and DEFINITELY NOT Goof Off (way too strong – it will melt plastic). Goo Gone Pro Power is pretty amazing stuff… I have yet to damage a surface with it, including plastics and wood. They make a gel form now that seems fine and stays put a bit better.

    My technique is to spray some on and let it sit for 5 minutes or so. Then use a sharp plastic edge for gently scraping the glue remains… the edge of a credit card often works, but is soft and will wear quickly. My absolute favorite scraper for this type of work is a piece of Formica (you know, the countertop stuff). It’s a perfect hardness that won’t damage surfaces when used with care. You can find small samples at hardware stores that are the perfect size (to be ethical, I’d offer to pay for the sample). Grab or buy a few, because once you find out how perfect they are you will use them again and again (example: they’re great for scraping frying pans and better than the nylon scrapers you can buy). Don’t use anything abrasive on the residue, like steel wool or Scotch Brite pads… scrape the residue into a pile instead.

    Pick up the residue with a paper towel and then put a bit more Goo Gone down to clean any remains. Wipe it up thoroughly and then use your favorite cleanser to pick up the Goo Gone… I usually use Windex or Dawn dish soap. Trust me – nobody will ever know there was tape residue when you are done. It’s simply amazing.


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