How to remove adhesive from plastic: 5 DIY methods

by Jeanne Turnock 12/25/2022

hand in pink rubber glove holding yellow spray bottle pointed right image text How to remove adhesive from plastic 5 DIY methods

Sticky labels are a fact of modern life, so it’s important to know how to remove adhesive from plastic. While label removal can be tricky on any material, plastic surfaces are often the most stubborn when it comes to the leftover adhesive residue.

Luckily, there are some DIY adhesive removers you might already have at home. Here are five ways to get rid of sticky glue residue:

Warm water & dish soap

The combination of warm water and dish soap works wonders for a wide variety of household messes, glue residue included. Fill a large bowl with warm or hot tap water and add liquid dishwashing soap. Submerging the object works best, but you can also apply the soapy solution with a sponge to break down the adhesive bonds.

Cooking oil

Cooking oil is another DIY adhesive remover you already have in your kitchen. Canola oil, olive oil, avocado oil or any other oil you cook with are gentle solutions for removing sticky residue. Simply apply a dab of oil to a paper towel or cotton ball and apply it to the affected area. In about ten minutes, you should be able to remove glue residue quickly and easily.


Vinegar is a superstar substance for home cleaning remedies, and it also works well to remove sticker residue. While vinegar will dissolve the sticky stuff, it’s harmless to most plastics. However, avoid using vinegar to remove adhesive from rubber surfaces, as the acidity can cause damage.

Nail polish remover

The active ingredient in nail polish remover is acetone, a powerful chemical that can break down even the toughest acrylic paints and lacquers. While nail polish remover can be too harsh for some plastics, tougher grades like polypropylene are strong enough to withstand the acetone. Check for a number 5 recycling symbol to make sure your plastic is acetone safe.

Rubbing alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is a standard disinfectant found in most household first aid kits. However, its cleaning properties also dissolve sticker residue within minutes. Soak a piece of paper towel or cotton ball in isopropyl alcohol and place it on the sticky patch. In about five minutes, you should be able to wipe away the remains of any glue residue.

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If none of these methods work on your sticky residue situation, you can always try a store bought adhesive removal solution. Check your local hardware or craft store to find the best option for your cleaning project.