How to Clean Sticky Rubber

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Introduction: How to Clean Sticky Rubber

About: I've always liked pulling things apart - it's the putting back together again that I have some issues with!

On many products such as electronics, rubber is added to help with grip. Sometimes, due to environmental conditions like temperature and UV exposure, the rubber can break down and become sticky. You’ve probably come across this yourself as it’s pretty common for rubber to act like this.

This Instructable will go through a couple of methods on how to remove this sticky mess from your products.

So why does rubber do this? Natural or synthetic rubber starts out as a very sticky substance. That’s because the molecules in the raw state are long chains of very weak links to each other. To turn that raw material into the rubber we all know and love, you have to put it through a process called vulcanisation. This involves heating the rubber with some other chemicals, which molecularly transforms the rubber from sticky to stretchy.

The vulcanised rubber though can revert back to it’s original state under certain conditions. It happens when the stronger polymer crosslinks get snipped and the molecules revert back into their original small chains. Once that happens you’re stuck with rubber that has become sticky and tacky.

In the following Instructable I’ll go through a couple of methods to remove this mess and hopefully give you a few pointers on how to do it yourself.

Step 1: Tools & Preparation

Tools

1. 90% isopropyl solution. You can get this from the chemist or hardware store.

2. I have also used Methylated sprits which can be purchased from a hardware store or even your local supermarket. It seems that methylated spirits is called by a few different names. In the US there's something similar called denatured alcohol (be careful of denatured alcohol though as it has Methanol in it which can be very dangerous). I've also heard that this can be damaging to plastic so be wary using it to remove rubber and do a test first. There is also methyl hydrate, or fondue fuel available in the US as well. Again I would do a test first to see how well these work before using it. In Europe, it may be called spirits. check out this link to find out more

Preparation

1. Make sure that the area that you are working in is clean

2. Place a cloth on the workspace where you will be working.

3. Have some spare cloths handy to remove any excess chemicals

4. It’s good practice to also wear rubber gloves and some safety glasses as well. The isopropyl can be absorbed into the skin, which can cause poisoning in large amounts. Small amounts though isn’t considered dangerous

Step 2: Method 1 - Using Isopropyl

The first method I'm going to show is using Isopropyl. Isopropyl is what is known as a synthetic alcohol and can be found in things like shaving creme, antiseptic and industrial applications.

Although it's flammable, Isopropyl is pretty benign. However, you should try and wear gloves when using it can readily absorbed into the skin if used in large amounts.

I decided to use the Isopropyl on a Hi 8 camera that I recently purchased. Some rubber on the top section was very very sticky and gummy which I guess was the reason why it was selling for $5!

Steps:

1. Place the camera on a clean surface

2. Next, apply some Isopropyl to the affected area, adding enough to cover the rubber.

3. Be careful to not get too much of the isopropyl into any electronics areas such as switches or small openings. If you do however, don't stress too much, the Isopropyl evaporates quickly and shouldn't effect the electronics (fingers crossed!)

4. Start to wipe the rubber with a clean cloth. How hard you need to wipe will depend on how stubborn the rubber is. On this camera, the rubber came away quite easily.

Step 3: Method 1 - Re-applying

As the Isopropyl evaporates quickly, you’ll probably need to re-apply a few times

Steps:

1. Once the Isopropyl starts to dry and you find that the cloth is sticking to the rubber, it’s time to add another layer of Isopropyl.

2. Keep re-applying on the rubber and rubbing with a cloth. Use a clean section of the cloth each time.

3. Once all the rubber has been removed, you should end up with just the bare plastic that the rubber was adhered to.

4. Give it a final wipe with a clean cloth and you’re done! You should then power-up the part and ensure it still works ok.

Step 4: Method 2 - Using Methylated Spirits

My usual go to when removing rubber is Methylated Sprits or if you are in the US, Denatured Alcohol. I find that it works very well with rubber that isn’t so far degraded. This camera that I used it on was sticky but not as degraded as the hi-8 video camera

Steps:

1. Add some Methylated Sprits onto a clean cloth

2. Start to wipe away the rubber. If you find that the rubber isn’t coming off (like I did with this camera) you will need to apply several times

3. Keep rubbing at the plastic and eventually the rubber will start to be removed.

4. Keep applying and rubbing until all of the rubber surface is gone.

5. Give the part a final wipe over and test to make sure it still works

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96 Comments

1
OrangeReaper
OrangeReaper

1 year ago

Bicarbonate of Soda works well too!

0
jlms
jlms

Reply 15 days ago

I was going to recommend this.
Bicarbonate of soda diluted in a bit of water and then rubbed directly with one's fingers, it works very well and it is something most people will have at home and is not toxic.
I would try this first before trying most of the other methods, one may be suprised.
What is lef is the hard plastic underneath, which I actually prefer to the rubbery stuff.

0
stephen.goff01
stephen.goff01

6 weeks ago on Step 4

Pure Acetone, used in very small quantities worked extemely well. A few passes with a tissue that was dampened removed the top layer. I now have a shiney smoth surface on my Bluetooth speaker. Problem solved.

3
YuggY
YuggY

7 weeks ago

I may be old... but about 40 years ago an instructable like this would go like:
___
Removing sticky rubber coatings from electronics:
Rub it with Isopropyl Alcohol or Methylated Sprits.

...I miss those days...

0
Art_Lieberman
Art_Lieberman

7 weeks ago on Step 4

THANK YOU for this. I used isopropyl alcohol and scraped off the top sticky layers of rubber. What remains is non-sticky rubber.

0
throbscottle
throbscottle

8 weeks ago

I like the rubbery coating, and was hoping for instructions to revive it to a non-sticky state, or just clean the stickyness off the surface! I'd assumed it was substances from my hands that make it go that way. Oh well...
Maybe I'll try talcum powder as someone suggested.

0
socaltoolguy
socaltoolguy

Question 8 weeks ago on Step 4

You mentioned using the camcorder to transfer the Hi8 to digital. Would you explain how to go about that? I have some old tapes that I'd love to move over to my computer. Thanks for the tip on the rubber improvement. I've had that problem too.

0
socaltoolguy
socaltoolguy

Reply 8 weeks ago

Thanks for your reply but neither of those links works. Can you check and make sure they are still valid on your end? Thanks again.

0
lonesoulsurfer
lonesoulsurfer

Reply 8 weeks ago

Here's some images for you so you can look them up yourself. Just type video converter into Amazon and you'll find them

51UsKhUiKiL._AC_SL1001_.jpg61K-MY8vaDL._AC_SL1500_.jpg
0
socaltoolguy
socaltoolguy

Reply 8 weeks ago

Thanks for your help. I'll do that. Thanks again.

0
mooremob
mooremob

8 weeks ago

I used baby powder on sticky “rubber” that seems to work and a paper towel, IPA is a good solvent will try it.
Another good solvent for getting sticky residue from labels is Eucalyptus Oil.

0
ThummarwitshW
ThummarwitshW

8 weeks ago

WOW! This is what I looking for. More than 10 years I found many for my stuff sticky like this. I will go clean it all. Thank you very much for sharing.

0
tcs79
tcs79

8 weeks ago

I use WD40 one time, and work fine. The piece became a little oilled afterwards, but with a paper towel I remove the residual oil and was ready to go. Thanks for this other options.

4
LaserJoe
LaserJoe

Question 1 year ago

Just wondering what you or anyone has done to replace the grippy layer that was removed?

0
BrisbaneBrewster
BrisbaneBrewster

Answer 8 weeks ago

If it's a round handle, you can use heat shrink tubing. I have also used that on small wheels, trimming the edges. If really lazy (too much to do, too little time), I may heat shrink over it, assuming it's flat.

1
neviln
neviln

Answer 5 months ago

I used hockey grip tape on my pliers and it seemed to work pretty well

2
Ron Jeremy
Ron Jeremy

Answer 11 months ago

Personally for most of the items that had this surface (and I cleaned it off them) I am perfectly OK just with the underlying plastic, which is easy to clean, and it doesn't decompose as easily as that nasty rubber surface. So I am using them just as they are - now including mouses/mice (?), 3D mouse, keyboard, card reader, radio boom-box...
If you really really need to treat surface with something rubbery, you may try to search for "Plastidip", although I would do that only for things that really really require firm, non-slippery grip. It's used to cover car rims like a paint, and one day when you will feel unhappy with it, it might be peeled off.

5
emardee
emardee

Answer 1 year ago

There are products that replicate the grippy rubber layer. You can get it at your local hardware store. Comes in two forms:
1) A liquid you dip the part into - useful for screwdriver handles etc.
2) A spray you put on like paint - useful for applying to surface of delicate things like camcorder, or where you have masked an area for application to a smaller patch.

Note I've never used either of these products, but I've seen videos on internet of people spraying their whole car with this stuff! My guess would be successful results with this product for any project would depend upon good adhesion, which would be dependant upon good surface prep.
Anyone tried these products? Any good?