How to remove adhesives: The best ways to get rid of residue

Super glue makes both small fixes and detailed repairs easy, and removing adhesives can be just as simple. Even when you exercise great care, glues can leave behind unsightly stains on your clothes, tools, work areas, and other surfaces. Knowing how to clean up adhesive residue yourself and what methods to use for different materials is essential to keeping things clean. 

How to remove adhesive residue: What you need to know


Working with adhesives like Loctite’s line of powerful, multipurpose super glues makes any project easy. Removing unwanted residue on big jobs may require the use of solvents or other special techniques. Taking the correct steps ensures your project is done right – the first time. Read on for tips on the best ways to remove adhesive residue from most common materials.

How to remove adhesive residue: Methods and materials

There are as many techniques for removing residue as there are types of glue and adhesive. Typically, methods fall under a few general approaches: mechanical, chemical, or thermal.

Removing adhesive: Mechanical approach

Many adhesive spills can be cleaned up using old-fashioned tools: a scraping device and your hands. Tools like plastic pan scrapers, paint scrapers, or even razor blades can work well because they use defined edges to trim away remnants. Use them gently to avoid scratching or damaging softer surfaces.

Removing adhesive: Chemical approach

Another approach is to apply a solvent that can break down adhesive properties, allowing you to wipe the residue off. When deciding on the best solvent to remove adhesive, you need to consider the surface material and the level of penetration required.

One easy method is to use standard cooking oil or oil-based materials. Vegetable or canola oil can work wonders, as can peanut butter or mayonnaise. Spread it on, let it soak into the residue for about an hour, then wipe it away.

For a tougher clean, try rubbing alcohol or vodka. Let it fully permeate the unwanted residue, then rub away completely with a cloth.

There are also many commercial products formulated to remove adhesive residue. But not every product is designed for all materials, so be sure to read manufacturer instructions and test products on an insignificant spot before applying them.

Removing adhesive: Thermal approach

Another approach is to use the power of heat to weaken adhesives. For example, labels on wine bottles can often be removed if heated. Try using a hair dryer or baking bottles or other glass objects in the oven at a moderate temperature. But exercise caution, as glass can shatter at high temperatures.

Check out this quick video for easy tips on how to remove adhesive glue from household surfaces.

How to remove adhesive from metal

To remove adhesive residue from metal, you should try using rubbing alcohol, or isopropyl, first. Apply with a cotton ball and let it soak in. Most adhesives will break down on contact, and rubbing alcohol won’t damage metal surfaces. If that doesn’t work, baby oil is another useful alternative.

When cleaning steel, wood, or other materials, always try to wipe with the “grain” of the substance to prevent damage.

How to remove adhesive from plastic

Many solvents and harsh chemicals can damage plastics. To clear away residue safely, first use warm, soapy water and rub the residue firmly. If this was not successful, try vinegar, which offers a powerful clean without any detrimental effects on plastic.

How to remove adhesive from wood

Sticker, label, and super glue residue can really stick to wood. Even if you use a top-quality super glue formulated for use with wood, like Loctite Super Glue Ultra Gel Control, unwanted overflow or excess can remain behind. To remove residue from wood without damaging the surface, either finished or unfinished, try these methods.

1. A simple damp cloth can often do the trick. You may want to add a small amount of detergent to the water for a deeper clean. However, some paper-based stickers may become more firmly attached when wet, so be careful. To prevent the wood from swelling or warping, avoid over-soaking it.

2. Heat the area using a blow dryer or a heat gun on low. As the heat weakens the bond, use a card, scraper, putty knife, or other edge to peel off the residue. You can also use tweezers to lift edges away from the wood; keep the heat directed at the residue until everything is removed.

3. Try applying household products such as white vinegar or vegetable oil (eucalyptus oil or lemon oil can work particularly well on wood). Soak a paper towel and press it on the area, letting it sit for five minutes. Gently peel loosened residue away. Take care applying oil to unfinished wood to avoid darkening and unsightly changes. Other options are petroleum jelly or vaporizing rubs. Apply and let sit for a few hours before peeling.

4. Commercial glue removers can remove adhesive from wood, particularly ones containing citrus oil. Always be sure to follow directions when using any of these powerful adhesive removers.

5. If gentler methods don’t work, try more powerful chemical solvents, such as lighter fluid, paint thinner, acetone, or rubbing alcohol. Some of these solvents can affect wood finishes and paint, so test first and apply with caution. Rub the solvent in gently for a few minutes, then wash thoroughly with a damp cloth. 

Always work in a well-ventilated area with protective gloves and/or eyewear.

6. As a last resort, you may have to sand down the wood area. Use 80-grit sandpaper to clear residue, then smooth with 120-grit and 220-grit sandpaper. You may need to refinish or repaint the wood, so only try this method when all else fails.

How to remove adhesive from glass

Most adhesive residue can be removed from glass using acetone, found in most nail polish removers. Apply it to the area with a bit of friction, and the residue should rub away easily.

If acetone doesn’t work, apply a small amount of spray lubricant, which can break down the adhesive’s hold on the glass surface. Be sure to thoroughly rinse away all of the lubricant after use.

How to remove adhesive from fabric

Removing adhesive residue from fabric and clothes requires a gentle touch to avoid damage. Many commercial stain removers can work wonders, so try soaking the area thoroughly, letting it sit, and then laundering on a gentle cycle.

If the residue remains, try spot cleaning with detergent applied directly to the residue. For even deeper cleaning, try ammonia diluted in hot water, or even an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. But always be sure to test first on inconspicuous areas to avoid harming your fabrics.