How to Remove a Sticker From 5 Different Surfaces

Not a label in sight.
Not a label in sight. / YinYang/iStock via Getty Images

Maybe you’re planning to reuse an empty pasta sauce jar for a pickling project, or maybe your toddler plastered Frozen characters all over their dresser. Whatever the case, you might find yourself needing to know how to de-sticker a surface without too much hassle. Adhesive removers like Goo Gone can work wonders, but they’re not safe for all materials (and you might not have one on hand, anyway).

As HowStuffWorks explains, you basically need to break the molecular bonds that cause an adhesive to stick to something. Since not all adhesives are built the same—and not all surfaces are, either—there’s no single secret to removing a sticker from any given material. But there are plenty of methods that work well. Heat can help do the trick, as can a variety of household liquids, like dish soap, cooking oil, alcohol, and vinegar. Below are ways to remove a sticker from five different surfaces—and because none of them use harsh chemicals, feel free to improvise a little (e.g. if you’d like to try vinegar on glass or cooking oil and baking soda on plastic, go for it).

1. How to Remove a Sticker From Glass.

If it’s a glass container small enough to fit in your sink, you can soak it in hot, soapy water before scraping the sticker off with the rough side of a sponge. For windows or other non-portable glass items, heat the sticker with a hair dryer before applying cooking oil, white vinegar, rubbing alcohol, or even bug spray—it should then come off pretty easily with a cloth or sponge. You can also apply a mixture of cooking oil and baking soda, let it sit for about 10 minutes, and then scrub it off with a wet sponge.

2. How to Remove a Sticker From Plastic.

Since many plastics aren’t as sturdy (or as able to withstand heat) as glass, you might want to forgo the hair dryer. Instead, you can soak a paper towel in a solution of warm water, dish soap, and vinegar and rest it on the sticker for at least five minutes before wiping it off.

3. How to Remove a Sticker From Wood.

To avoid damaging the paint, finish, or wood itself, you should steer clear of any harsh chemical substances—a hair dryer is your best bet. Aim it toward the sticker for about 30 seconds and then try to peel up a corner. If you can’t get much more than a corner without feeling resistance, give it another 30 seconds of dryer action and then try again. Repeat as necessary until the adhesive finally gives up.

4. How to Remove a Sticker From a Car Bumper.

A bumper sticker should also loosen up if you aim a hair dryer at it for about 30 seconds (or a heat gun, if you have one). As explained in the video above, keep the dryer a few inches away and don’t leave it in one spot for too long. Then, take a plastic card (hotel key card, old credit card, etc.) and use it to pry up the corner of the sticker. If it’s still tough to pull off, repeat the step with the hair dryer as needed. These steps can also help you remove any residue once you’ve taken the sticker off, but paint-safe bug-and-tar spray can help, too.

5. How to Remove a Sticker From Metal.

Get the sticker nice and moist using a cloth soaked in warm water, and then try to scrub or scrape away as much of the sticker as you can. To remove whatever’s left, create a paste using baking soda and coconut oil (at room temperature, so it’s soft but solid) and apply it to the area. Let it sit for several minutes before rubbing it off with a cloth, and the sticker residue should come with it.