One of the most annoying things about decals and stickers is dealing with the left-over sticker residue after they are removed. In some cases, you’ll get lucky and the sticker will peal off with little effort, but in most cases, with well made stickers, you’ll be left with ugly sticker “gunk” on whatever surface you placed the sticker.
Removing this sticker residue doesn’t have to be a hassle as long as you know the proper techniques and solutions for removal. It’s especially important to understand what solutions you can use on different surfaces. What you might use to remove a sticker from a window may not necessarily be the same thing you would want to use on your car’s bumper.
Different solutions can do damage to the wrong surfaces if you’re not careful. The last thing you want to do is have to have your car repainted because you used a solution or technique that destroyed the clear coat and the paint.
Let’s take a look at a few different ways to ensure that you can easily remove those old stickers without damaging the surfaces underneath.
Removing Stickers and Sticker Residue
1. Prep the Area
The first thing you want to do before attempting to remove the sticker itself, is to make sure that the sticker and the area around it are clean. Once it’s time to remove the sticker you may find yourself having to rub, scrape, or apply pressure to the area, and if there are any debris or dirt, they could cause scratches to the surface.
It’s always important to make sure that any debris that could possibly cause issues, are cleaned up and removed before you start working on the sticker removal.
2. Use Heat to Relax the Adhesive
Before you try to remove the sticker, we recommend using a hair dryer or a heat gun on the area to help loosen the sticker adhesive. By doing this before you start scraping at the sticker, you run a better chance of getting the sticker to peel off without leaving a lot of nasty residue, making your life a lot easier.
Be sure not to put the heat gun or hair dryer too close to the surface or leave it in one place for a long period of time, especially if it’s a painted surface, as you don’t want to ruin the paint.
3. Use a Plastic Card to Remove the Sticker
Once you’ve heated up the sticker to the point where you think the adhesive is loose enough, take a plastic card (like a credit card, or something similar) and gently begin to scrape at a corner of the sticker until you can start to peel it back.
Use the card and your fingers to slowly peel the sticker back until it is fully removed.
If it feels like it’s still really stuck in certain places, use the hair dryer or heat gun to apply more heat to the sticker until it feels like it’s peeling off easier.
In most cases, unfortunately, using these techniques isn’t going to completely remove all of the sticker residue from the surface, so you’ll have to put in a little more effort to ensure that things look just as they did before the sticker was placed.
4. Commercial Adhesive Removers
Once the sticker is removed to the best of your ability, it’s time to remove any leftover adhesive, or residue, that may remain on the surface.
To do this, there are many different solutions and techniques you can use, but the easiest is to go pickup a bottle of adhesive remover such as Goo Gone.
Goo Gone is safe to use on pretty much all surfaces and will not harm painted surfaces like your car. However, if you do use it on your car, you’ll want to make sure that you wash and wax the area where the sticker is, once you’re done removing it, to ensure that the solution doesn’t stay on the paint for a long period of time.
5. Alcohol and Other Homemade Adhesive Removers
While it’s easiest to just keep a bottle of commercial adhesive remover on hand, we understand that it might not always be an option. In that case there are a few ways you can remove leftover adhesive with things you may have around the house.
Alcohol based liquids can work wonders when trying to remove sticker residue. Rubbing alcohol, nail polish remover, and even clear drinking alcohol, can be used to help loosen stubborn residue.
Simply soak a paper towel or cotton ball in the alcohol solution and apply it to the residue. It’s best to let it sit for at least 20 minutes and then you can attempt to wipe it away or use a credit card to scrape it off.
This technique also works using white vinegar if you don’t have an alcohol product on hand.
WD-40 may not seem like it can be used for sticker residue removal, but the oil-based lubrication product works wonders when it comes to removing old stickers and residue. Simply spray some on to the residue you wish to remove, let it sit for 5 or so minutes and then the residue should rub off fairly easily.
This, along with adhesive removers, should be cleaned off after being used to ensure they don’t cause any further damage to the surface after setting for a prolonged period of time.
And lastly, believe it or not, food products like mayo and peanut butter are great for sticker residue removal.
The fat and oil found in these products can help breakdown the adhesive making it much easier to remove the residue. Simply smear the area in mayo or peanut butter and let it sit for a few minutes and then scrape or wipe the residue away.
Removing sticker residue after peeling away a sticker can be a cumbersome project and can lead to damage or fading when not done properly. Knowing how to remove stickers properly in the first place can help you avoid a lot of residue and make the whole process easier in the long run. But there are plenty of options available, both commercial and homemade, that can help break down the adhesive and make them easier to manage.