How to Get Sticky Residue Off Plastic

By: Contributors  | 
A young girl working on a tree art project
Playing with stickers? Great! Dealing with the remaining residue after peeling those stickers off surfaces that are supposed to stay clean? Not so great. But some household items can help you remove even the most stubborn residue. Photography by Rayleigh / Getty Images

Glue and other adhesives cause substances to stick together by forming strong molecular bonds, so in order to separate items, you need to break the adhesive bonds that hold them together. Here's how to get sticky residue off plastic using common household items.



You can remove most adhesive residue, such as price stickers or labels on new items, by peeling or scraping the sticker with your fingernail, a plastic scraper or a dull knife (a plastic knife works great).

A rubber eraser, like a pencil eraser, can also remove stubborn stickers.


Scraping with a single-edge razor blade can also be an effective way to remove sticky residue, but be extra careful. The sharp blade can easily scratch plastic surfaces or cut your skin. Wearing latex gloves while using razor blades can provide an extra layer of protection.

Changing the Temperature

Another method you can try to break the molecular bonds that hold objects together without damaging the material is to freeze the material.

This can be done either by placing the object with the adhesive in the freezer or by rubbing an ice cube encased in a plastic bag over the adhesive. This causes the adhesive to become stiff and crumble, allowing it to be scraped off easily.


Similarly, steam is effective at releasing adhesive bonds without damaging the material, especially paper, fabric and wallpaper. If you don't have a steamer, try heating sticky labels with a hair dryer.

Note that hot water, while great at removing sticker residue from most surfaces, can cause plastic to melt, which will leave you with a bigger mess than where you started.


Household Items That Can Remove Sticker Residue

If the remaining residue is still sticky, try using some of these common household items to remove the stubborn residue.

Take note: You need to make sure the liquids used for adhesive removal will not cause damage to the material’s surface; it’s best to test the liquid mixture by applying it to an inconspicuous area first.


Baking Soda

Make a baking soda paste by combining baking soda with warm water in a small container, then gently scrub the paste onto the plastic surface using a microfiber cloth or old toothbrush. The baking soda acts as a mild abrasive to remove sticky tape residue.

Cooking Oil

Oils, such as coconut oil, olive oil, vegetable oil or cooking oil spray, are great at removing sticky residue. Gently rub the sticky surface with oil using a cloth or an old toothbrush. The glue residue will start to slide off the plastic surface.

Vinegar and Warm, Soapy Water

Apply a nontoxic solution of warm water, white vinegar and mild dish soap. Soak a clean cloth or paper towel in the warm vinegar solution and rub it over the adhesive. Let it sit for five minutes. Then remove the towel and scrape away the residue.

Nail Polish Remover

Isopropyl acetone, commonly found in nail polish remover, isn't just for nails; it can remove stubborn sticker residue from virtually any surface. Apply isopropyl acetone to the sticky area with a cloth, gently scrub and then scrape off the residue.


Remove Adhesive FAQs

What removes sticky residue?
Rubbing alcohol or white vinegar. Dab a paper towel with either ingredient, then spread the towel over the affected area for 5 minutes. Doing so should soften the sticky residue and you should be able to scrape it off easily.
How do you remove adhesive naturally?
Wet a rag or paper towel with a small amount of rubbing alcohol and dab over the affected area. If the sticky residue doesn't seem to budge, add some more rubbing alcohol into the rag and let it sit over the affected area for a few minutes.
How do I remove adhesive from painted walls?
Add a few drops of dishwashing liquid to some warm water. Then use a sponge or spray bottle to apply the solution on the contaminated section of the wall. The sticky residue will begin to loses its strength in no time.