How to Remove Sticker Residue From Metal

Sticker residue is often difficult to remove, especially if it’s on a metal object. Many stickers leave a residue that will attract dirt and tarnish the object’s look. While you could scrape the residue off, it may damage the metal surface. So, what’s the best way to remove sticker residue from metal?

You can remove sticker residue from metal with vegetable oil, mineral spirits, or lubricant. You can also use vinegar, baking powder, dish soap, and mayonnaise to equal effect. If the sticker residue doesn’t go off, you can remove it with heat.

This article will explore different ways to remove sticker residue from metal completely. I’ll also discuss how to avoid scratching the metal when doing so.

Metal with sticker residue.

1. Use Vegetable Oil to Remove Sticker Residue

Sticker residue is a type of glue and can easily be removed by most vegetable oils. You can use regular cooking oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, or even foods that contain vegetable oil, such as peanut butter. If you’ve already scraped off most of the sticker, you can use vegetable oils to remove the residue.

If you’re using canola or cooking oil, make sure you remove as much of the sticker as possible. Use your hands or a plastic item to remove the sticker but avoid using sharp objects like a knife or fork as they may scratch the metal. You can also apply water over the sticker to remove as much of it as possible before treating the residue with oil.

Once most of the sticker is removed, saturate the sticker with oil. Leave the oil on the sticker for an hour or two so the oil can seep into the residue. If you’re using peanut butter, be careful not to rub it too hard on the metal’s surface as it may cause scratches.

If the sticker is placed in a way that it can’t be soaked in oil, you can dip a cloth in oil and attach it to the sticker. Leave it for an hour to let the oil loosen the sticker residue.

When you’ve let the oil set for some time, use a cloth to wipe it clean. If the residue doesn’t come out with a dry cloth, wash the area with soapy water and wipe clean. This method works for most stickers and can remove sticker residue from all metals without damaging the metal or affecting its shine.

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2. Use Mineral Spirits

Mineral spirits are also a great solution for removing stubborn sticker residue that doesn’t wash off with water. Like vegetable oil, it breaks down the adhesive in sticker residue, making it easier to scrape off.

To remove sticker residue with mineral spirits, you can follow the same process as you would when using vegetable oils. Soak the sticker residue in mineral spirits for 1-2 hours to break down the adhesive. Once the adhesive is soft, you can remove it with a scraper or dry cloth.

While mineral spirits work on most stickers and glue, you may need to wash the surface with soapy water if the residue doesn’t wipe off easily. Avoid using a scraper if you’re removing the sticker from a car bumper or metal that you don’t want to scratch.

If you don’t have mineral spirits, you can use other solvents like baby oil or rubbing alcohol to remove the sticker residue. Just take care to clean the surface thoroughly after the sticker is removed.

3. Use Lubricants to Clean Sticker Residue

Water displacing lubricants such as WD-40 are also helpful in removing sticker residue from metal. They are unreactive, won’t damage the metal, and can remove the sticker residue much faster than oil and other solutions.

To remove sticker residue with WD-40, simply spray it on the residue after removing as much of the sticker as possible. You can also spray the WD-40 on a cloth and use it to wipe off the sticker residue.

While this solution works for most types of stickers, it may not always be effective. If you’re struggling to remove the adhesive with a lubricant, try heating the area before applying the lubricant for a faster effect.

4. Use Vinegar As an Adhesive Remover

When it comes to most household cleaning tasks, vinegar is the first choice for many people. While it’s not a strong acid, vinegar can dissolve sticker residue if used properly. You can also use vinegar to remove the whole sticker if it’s difficult to scratch off.

When using vinegar to remove sticker residue, try to remove most of the sticker by scraping it. Apply vinegar to the residue adhesive and use a dry cloth to wipe it off. The sticker residue should come off with the vinegar.

If you can’t remove the sticker, try soaking it in vinegar for an hour. The vinegar will dissolve the sticker’s adhesive, and you’ll be able to peel it off easily. If vinegar doesn’t remove all the adhesive from the metal, use it to remove most of the sticker residue, and then use vegetable oil or lubricants to remove what’s left.

However, avoid using vinegar on painted metal surfaces as it may damage the paint. You can use vinegar on most metal surfaces as long as they aren’t treated with chemicals that may be damaged by vinegar. So, while you can clean sticker residue off your metal pots with vinegar, avoid using it on cars or painted metal.

5. Use Baking Soda and Oil

Like vinegar, baking soda is the go-to solution to remove everything from stains to cleaning windows. Fortunately, you can also use it to remove sticker residue from metal with the help of some cooking oil. This can be used on bare or painted metal, and you won’t have to worry about tainting the metal’s surface.

To remove sticker residue using baking soda and oil, you’ll need 3 tablespoons of baking soda and two tablespoons of oil:

  1. Mix the oil and baking soda to form a paste.
  2. Try to get a slightly wet paste but make sure that it can hold on to the metal’s surface.
  3. Gently rub the paste on the sticker residue and avoid scratching the metal.
  4. Once the paste is set on the metal’s surface for an hour or two, you can wash the sticker residue off and wipe it clean with a dry cloth.

While the baking soda and oil solution will remove most types of sticker residue, you may have to apply it two or three times for stubborn stickers.

6. Use Mayonnaise As an Adhesive Remover

Like peanut butter, mayonnaise will also work wonders when you’re trying to remove sticker residue from a metal surface. It’s rich in vegetable oils and is slightly acidic, which helps dissolve most adhesives. If you’re dealing with a stubborn sticker that won’t come off with vegetable oil, try mayonnaise instead.

Like peanut butter and other solutions, you’ll have to soak the sticker in mayonnaise for an hour or two for the adhesive to break down. Once the sticker residue is soft, you can peel it off or remove it with a plastic scraper.

If you’re dealing with stubborn sticker residue that doesn’t come off easily, you can leave the mayonnaise for longer until the adhesive breaks down. If mayonnaise doesn’t work, you can try tomato sauce, which contains both vinegar and vegetable oils. You’ll be surprised at how easily tomato ketchup can remove sticker adhesive!

7. Use Dish Soap

If you’re trying to remove sticker residue from a can, pot, or other household objects, you can use dish soap to do so. Dish soap will eventually break down the strongest adhesives. While it doesn’t always work, you can rely on it most of the time before experimenting with other solutions.

The key to removing sticker residue with dish soap is to submerge the sticker in the soap solution for as long as possible. Try to soak the sticker in dish soap if possible. Otherwise, dip a sponge or cloth in the soapy water and leave it on the sticker residue for an hour or so.

How much soap you use and the type of dish soap will affect how long it takes to remove the sticker residue. Use strong grease-removing dish soap and soak the sticker area thoroughly to remove it easily.

Once the sticker residue is removed, wash the metal with plain water and wipe it with a dry cloth.

8. Apply Heat to Remove Sticker Residue

While most of the abovementioned solutions work, some stickers are so stubborn that submerging them for hours in solvents and vegetable oils won’t work. In such cases, you can apply heat to the metal to remove the remaining adhesive.

Avoid using a match or lighter to heat the sticker residue, as burning glue can release toxic fumes. Rather, heat the residue with a hairdryer until the adhesive is soft enough to scrape off. Place the hairdryer over the sticker residue on full heat for about 10-15 minutes. Try peeling the sticker off, or use a plastic scraper to remove the glue gently.

If this doesn’t work, try applying heat for longer to soften the adhesive. Experts recommend using heat and vegetable oil for a faster effect. First, submerge the sticker in vegetable oil and let it set for an hour. Then, apply heat to the oil with the hairdryer until the adhesive is soft and you can easily scrape it off.

You can also heat the oil before applying it, although this option isn’t recommended for painted metal as it may remove the paint as well.

While it may be tiresome to heat sticker residue with a hairdryer for 15-20 minutes, it’s one of the best methods and will work on the toughest sticker adhesives.

9. Use an Adhesive Remover

If the sticker adhesive doesn’t come off with household items, you can try using an adhesive remover instead. Some of these will only work on certain surfaces, so make sure you get one that works on metals.

Most adhesive removers are essentially solvents and will dissolve the adhesive so you can easily wipe it off. While you can use other solvents like WD-40 or mineral spirits, adhesive removers are more concentrated and will remove the glue much faster.

Here are some of the best adhesive and good removal solutions on Amazon:

  • Goo Gone Goo & Adhesive Remover: When it comes to removing sticker residue and goo, Goo Gone is one of the best brands. This solution is ideal for removing stickers on all surfaces and can also be used on cars. You can also use it to remove sticky gum and other adhesives that can’t come off with regular solvents or household solutions.
  • Un Du Adhesive Remover: This acid-free sticker removal solution is perfect for removing stubborn sticker residue from painted and plain metal surfaces. It removes stickers, tapes, labels, and other adhesive items and is safe to be used on all types of surfaces. It also comes in a 4-ounce bottle with an attached scraper for removing the dissolved sticker residue.
  • Smith & Nephew UNI-SOLVE Adhesive Remover: If you’re removing sticker residue from everyday products or kitchenware, this medical-grade adhesive remover is ideal. It’s safer than other adhesive remover solvents and won’t cause skin irritation. It’s ideal for removing sticker residue from home care appliances and won’t damage painted metal surfaces either.
  • Perco Glue Off Adhesive Glue Remover & Scraper: If you’re looking for an effective adhesive removal kit that can remove stubborn sticker residue from most surfaces, this is it. The Perco Glue Off adhesive removal kit comes with a plastic scraper that can remove stubborn sticker adhesive once it dissolves in the solvent. It’s easy to use and can remove the most stubborn sticker residue in 5-10 minutes.

Final Thoughts

Stubborn sticker residue can attract dirt and tarnish metal surfaces. Instead of using a razor blade or scraper, which may damage the metal, use vegetable oil, solvents, or other household items to dissolve the sticker adhesive. 

You can also apply heat or use an adhesive remover for more stubborn stickers. However, avoid using metal scrapers, especially on painted metal, as you may remove some of the pain with the sticker.

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