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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120 Comments

0
lektron
lektron

3 months ago

I know this is an older post, but I didn't see anyone mentioning brake fluid. It will remove paint without hurting plastic. I have a bottle from the $1(.25) store of DOT 3. I then clean that off with a little IPA.

0
dbdoeschem
dbdoeschem

Tip 3 months ago

Apply the 90% isopropyl alcohol to a microfiber cleaning cloth corner and you have more control where it goes and it still works.

0
SuzyQ6500
SuzyQ6500

Question 11 months ago

Will this work for bluetooth earbuds that have a sticky rubber tip that's not replaceable?

0
dbdoeschem
dbdoeschem

Answer 3 months ago

Absolutely. Use a cotton swab to do the cleaning.

0
lonesoulsurfer
lonesoulsurfer

Answer 10 months ago

I'd just give it a go and see what happens!

0
socaltoolguy
socaltoolguy

Question 1 year 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
turtlewax
turtlewax

Answer 5 months ago

Get a sony Hi-8/Digital-8 then use the Firewire (1394a) pass-thru to send video to the computer. Use MP4 or better unless you want to run out of hard drive space. Mini USB was too slow on these handyCams and would drop frames. Never had that problem with firewire and firewire is common on Apple computers too.

0
socaltoolguy
socaltoolguy

Reply 1 year 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 1 year 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 1 year ago

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

0
sawdustagain
sawdustagain

6 months ago

Brilliant. I had the "sticky" problem on a pair of binoculars, called the company and was told to buy a new pair of binoculars. I should have called you instead! I did solve the problem, but not as elegantly as you did. I painted the sticky plastic with some similarly colored paint.

0
turtlewax
turtlewax

Reply 5 months ago

I wonder if plasti-dip would work?

0
DanL151
DanL151

Tip 6 months ago

A bit off topic, but it is useful to have a wide variety of solvents for various uses. My wife bought some new plates from IKEA. They had a label on the back which was the annoying 'won't peel off, just shred' kind. I had a bottle of a product called Goo Gone, let it soak a while and it only dissolved the ink. Rinsed them off then applied a soaking of Windex, used a plastic razor blade (useful to have) and off they came. I was ready to go as far as toluene, but was glad a regular household product worked.

0
turtlewax
turtlewax

Reply 5 months ago

olive oil works too! Or if it is something you can soak, just leave it in a bucket of water overnight and paper labels fall off then use olive oil or goo gone to remove any residue.

0
jeenhiemstra
jeenhiemstra

Reply 6 months ago

next time try a drop of diesel fuel.
It removes stickers of all kinds and is friendly for the suface.

0
kc7raf
kc7raf

5 months ago

Regarding the sticky labels - I have found that WD40 works as well or better than GooGone

0
Senutyenool
Senutyenool

6 months ago

Another product that works well is good ol' WD40.

I have 'revamped' numerous rubberised equipment and have even used it in leather (which is prevalent to mildew here in the tropics) and have had excellent results with no adverse effects.

Just spray a small amount onto a cloth and wipe clean, depending on how 'bad' the damage is it may require a repeat.

0
jayb1
jayb1

6 months ago on Step 2

I use Cornflour. It works well. No rubbing but a bit messy. Just blow the excess off.

0
PhilTilson
PhilTilson

Tip 6 months ago

These methods actually remove the rubber. If you want to keep the rubber, but don't like the stickiness, just apply a dusting of talcum powder. Takes away all the stickiness and smells nice, too!