How to remove adhesive residue from plastic

Updated April 17, 2017

Removing adhesive residue from plastic can be a sticky problem. Although the sticker or label might come off a plastic container by simply soaking it in water, a thin layer of clear adhesive will almost always remain. Washing with soap and water usually is not enough to be an effective adhesive remover; however, some chemicals that are strong enough to break down the adhesive glue so it can be removed will actually remove the finish from plastic, ruining the piece and creating a bigger problem than what you started with. You should never attempt to scrub or scratch the adhesive residue off, as this, too, can damage the finish.

Dab some of the product known as Goo Gone onto the clear adhesive residue (see Resources). If the residue is thin, it will wipe off almost immediately using a soft cloth. If it is heavy, allow the Goo Gone to sit for about 5 minutes and wipe again. This is a very effective product that removes nearly any type of adhesive residue.

Spray a bit of WD-40 household lubricant onto the residue. Allow the WD-40 to sit on the adhesive for about 10 minutes, then rub it with a soft cloth. Repeat as needed.

Try rubbing nearly any type of household oil onto the area of concern will work an adhesive remover. This could be baby oil, cooking oil or vegetable oil spray. Even peanut butter, because it contains oil, will take off some adhesives.

Use lighter fluid, rubbing alcohol and nail polish remover to take off many adhesives, but you should test a small area of the plastic first to ensure that these stronger products will not take off the plastic's finish. Dip a Q-tip into the chemical and rub onto a small glued area. If it does not dull the finish of the plastic, rub the rest of the area with a cotton ball soaked in the chemical until the adhesive comes off.


After the clear adhesive residue is removed, wash the plastic container with dish soap and rinse with warm water to remove traces of the product used.

Things You'll Need

  • Goo Gone
  • Soft cloth
  • WD-40
  • Lighter fluid
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Q-tip
  • Cotton balls
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About the Author

Deborah H. Schreiben is a freelance writer and an editor with more than 15 years experience in the field of journalism. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications from Almeda University. Her writing has appeared on various online sites and in Midwest newspapers.