Introduction: Remove Sticker Goo With Confidence

Picture of Remove Sticker Goo With Confidence

Has this ever happened to you?

You score the item of your dreams from a thrift store or garage sale, only to have your ecstasy diminished by a stubborn sticky price tag or label.
You peel the sticker only to discover a sticky residue is left behind that quickly spoils your user experience.
If you're like me (and you probably aren't, since I like to wear a cardboad box with googly eyes on my head) you want a quick and easy solution, especially one that won't ruin the surface of your recent purchase.
Though some ideas have already been loaded as delect'ibles, here I've done a bit of research and put together a collection of the best ideas I've seen.
Call it an homage.
I hope this helps to get you out of your sticky wicket (oh yeah I did!) :)

Step 1: Arm Yourself

Picture of Arm Yourself

There's nothing particularly tricky here.
Many common household items can come in handy without causing an explosion or mortal injury.
Do be smart about this, won't you?
Ex. Don't use the hair dryer technique while taking a bath.  Acetone's not for drinking.  Razor blades are sharp. Et cetra.

Here I've used:
-a hair dryer
-a razor blade
-vegetable oil
-nail polish remover (acetone)
-rubbing alcohol

Step 2: Shave It.

Picture of Shave It.

Get out a razor blade and instantly you'll find a great improvement over a good old fingernail picking.
Pull slowly and get the blade right under there.

PROS: removes lots of the sticker paper and lots of the sticky adhesive residue, leaving minimal mess (if it doesn't do the job entirely)

CONS: can only be used safely on surfaces harder than steel (glass, ceramics, etc. - no wood or plastic); gets your razor blade a bit sticky

Note: Be sure to use a high quality razor blade, but I doubt you'll get the best quality, since I already have that one.

Step 3: Melt It.

Picture of Melt It.

Heat the offending sticker with a hair dryer for 30-60 seconds (yep, I know that's a minute ;)
Then peel the sticker off - the heat helps release the adhesive.

I had great results with this technique on one item, not so great on the other.
One was a smooth glass surface, and the label came off nearrly 100% clean.
The other was a rough steel surface and the sticker still left a big mess.

PROS: clean, easy, and a helpful first step

CONS: heat may ruin some surfaces, especially wimpy plastics; not so great on rougher surfaces

Step 4: Sticker It.

Picture of Sticker It.

That's right, use the sticker against itself.
If you can get the sticker off largely intact, a great technique is to blot the remaining goo with the sticker itself.
Start with a single corner of the sticker and apply it to the residue, then pull off, repeatedly and in rapid succession.
You'll find that the part of the sticker you're using stops working well after a few blots, so simply move to a different portion of the sticker.

PROS: works well on most surfaces; removes residue without damaging surfaces (except possibly paint); requires no clean-up

CONS: time-consuming; requires an intact sticker

Step 5: Rub It.

Picture of Rub It.

Some people out there prefer alcohol, and some acetone.
I happen to have rubbing alcohol and nail polish remover around, as well as some cotton pads (read: stolen from my girlfriend).

After heating or shaving off most of the sticker, blot some of either liquid on a cotton ball or pad and rub off the sticky residue.
I found both solvents work equally well - 100% on smooth surfaces, but only 50% on rougher surfaces.

PROS: easy and available liquids that evaporate and leave no mess

CONS: may also dissolve some surfaces, such as plastics and paints; may bother people with sensitivities

Step 6: Oil It.

Picture of Oil It.

Oil is messier than alcohol but it sure does the job.
After heating up the sticker on the slightly used saw I bought, I tried blotting with the sticker and cleaning it with alcohol, then acetone just for kicks.
No dice - time for the big guns.

Cooking oil on a cotton pad and some hard scouring did the trick on this rough steel surface.
Loks like oil dissolves the adhesive better than any solvent.
Once finished, the oil can be cleaned up using soapy water (or just rubbed off with paper if you want to keep your saw oiled).
I wouldn't use this technique unless the surface can take some scrubbing and washing, but it sure works, boy howdy!

PROS: works great on really sticky messes and rough surfaces

CONS: messy and requires clean up; may damage some surfaces (wood, paint)

Step 7: Afterword

Picture of Afterword

What's better than removing sticker residue from all your newly appropriated items of desire?
Never having stickers put on the in the first place!

Instead of sticking on labels, here are some alternatives:

*attach labels / price tags to items using string
*label shelves where objects are located, rather than the objects themselves
*be mysterious and use no labels at all!

If you have to stick on stickers, try to stick them to the parts of different items that are smooth and resistant to cleaning (especially glass and glazed cermaic surfaces) so they are easily removed.

If we work together, we can make sticker residue a thing of the past, a distant memory.

Comments

rblee (author)2013-07-07

Thanks - I thought it was only me that was obsessive about removing labels.

You've made me feel a whole lot better about myself :)

eyewalk (author)rblee2013-07-07

we all have and need our quirks ;)

pabsty (author)2013-07-07

I hate to be a buzzkill but that seems a bit much. A trick I learned from my days working at a used book store that I still use is this: take lighter fluid and soak the label, let it sit for a couple minutes. Start peeling the label slowly and squirt a small amount under the label while peeling. Wipe off with a slightly dampened microfiber clothe. Works 9 out of 10 times without harming the surface.

eyewalk (author)pabsty2013-07-07

Hey Pabsty - you may be right, this could be a touch obsessive. I like your technique as well, which sounds like it would work on most surfaces. I'd be a bit wary of using it on certain plastics that may dissolve, just like alcohol and acetone solvents. Thanks for the input XD

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