How To: Remove Sticky Residue From Surfaces (Big And Small)


Flower pots, books, mason jars, plastic containers, kid's toys, furniture pieces, antiqued tchotchkes - what do these items have in common? Not only that they can be the start to a great DIY project, but they are also almost always victim to sticky residue from old labels or poorly placed stickers. Before you take a butter knife or fingernail to these gunky spots with frustration, consider these simple, stuff-you-have-at-home solutions, starting with a classic: nail polish remover.  


If looking to remove sticky residue in a pinch from plastic, glass, or wood surfaces, nail polish remover is a super quick and easy solution. All you'll need is some non-acetone* nail polish remover and cotton balls (or paper towels - whatever you have on hand!).



Get some remover on your cotton ball or paper towel, then rub and blot at the sticky residue. The key is to really saturate the residue with polish remover so it can work its magic. Once it's well saturated, just rub the residue right off!


So, why do we recommend non-acetone remover vs. acetone remover? While nail polish remover with acetone works quicker, it can also be much harsher on surfaces. Non-acetone nail polish remover is just as effective at removing sticky residue, without the risk of damaging whatever surface is beneath.


If you don't have nail polish remover around the house, no sweat: here are a few other alternatives to try:


  • Oil (Canola or Olive work great!)
  • Vinegar
  • Peanut Butter


For these alternatives, apply them the same way you would the nail polish remover. Except the peanut butter - all you need to do for this is put peanut butter on the surface and let it sit on the residue for a bit. The residue will soften up, allowing you to get it and the peanut butter up with a paper towel!


If you're working with a larger item, like a glass bowl or wine bottle, with a nice big sticker stain and have some time on your hands, giving it a soak in hot water and soap is another great solution. Just let the item soak in the warm water and solution until the sticker residue softens. From there, peeling off the remaining residue is a breeze.


Nail polish remover works well on clothing that has sticky residue left behind as well. However, this method works best for clothing that's made from natural fibers, like linen, cotton, wool, and silk.


For clothing made of primarily synthetic materials - think nylon and polyester - this method isn't your best bet. Instead, try sticking the clothing in your freezer to harden the glue of the residue. After an hour, pick off what residue you can, then hand wash with warm water, a cloth, and some dish soap, then let it soak in warm water.