The Best Household Items For Cleaning Up Sticker Gunk

We've encountere a lot of different MacGyver solutions for sticker gunk over the years. We took five of the most common suggestions and tried them out: rubbing alcohol, WD-40, lighter fluid, cooking oil and Goo Gone to find out what worked best. Check out the video to see them all in action.

Photo by M-PeX .

Surprisingly, the rubbing alcohol was far and away the best of the options we tried. It gets rid of that gunk blazingly fast and dries up quickly, leaving your surface smooth and shiny. (Other types of alcohol, like vodka, should work pretty well too.)

The lighter fluid was the worst, although we expect it's because Ronsonol lighter fluid — the most commonly recommended — no longer contains naphtha, the solvent that made it so effective (Update: Ronsonol indeed no longer contains naphtha, but we also got the wrong kind of lighter fuel, which is the real source of the problem). Goo Gone worked well, but left behind some oily residue that made it not quite as nice as the rubbing alcohol.

All except the lighter fluid worked, so any of them should do the trick if you're caught in a bind. But we'd choose the alcohol every time if we had a choice.


    Fly Spray is by far the best household item I've found to remove sticker gunk. Its cheap, its just about always there, and just about always keeps plastic intact (doesn't melt it like some chemicals). It helps to remove the paper layer first - or some at least so the spray can soak in quicker. Just spray it on the sticker remains, wait 30 seconds - 2 minutes and then rub it off with a tissue. It may need a repeat spray if its really stubborn. A little spray directly on the tissue can also help.

    Last edited 11/09/13 4:25 pm

      lol er... That doesn't seem like a good plan.. You're essentially coating whatever you're cleaning with poisonous chemicals, for what is really probably just a side effect of the isobutane (or whichever) propellant it's using's solvent effect..

    Eucalyptus oil is the go-to green eco-friendly solution to removing gunk/sticker-goo/old labels from nearly anything. Leaves a nice healthy aroma behind as well.

      Just make sure the surface the sticker is on, is not damaged by the oil... Ive ruined a few plastic objects trying eucalyptus or tea tree oil. But it does work well

    On recommendation (and in desperation), I was shown the product called Solvit Citrus Cleaner, which is in a distinctive orange bottle and is amazing at removing gumtree sap from a car's duco when nothing else would even remotely touch it ... mind you, this can also remove some of the paintwork itself, so test (or dilute) this on an unimportant section etc.

    There's nothing more annoying than a sticky mess on a shiny new toy and some stickers are really hard to remove.

    What works for me is either Eucalyptus Oil or Ti-Tree oil which are fairly common here in Australia. I'm not sure if these are readily available in the rest of the world.

    Eucalyptus Oil and Ti-Tree work best when dabbed on the relevant area and left for 10 seconds. The sticky mess can then be removed with a tissue or similar. This even works if there is a layer of paper involved although you'll need to leave it to soak for a little longer.

    I was hesitant to start with in case the oil affected surfaces but have been using this solution for years and it always wipes clean with very little or no residue and no affect on the item.

      You mean Tea Tree Oil?

        Yes, it seems the names are used interchangeably:

        Last edited 12/09/13 9:14 am

    I just tried peanut butter on a label that just didn't want to come off. Alcohol got some of it, but the rest wouldn't budge. The peanut butter (just a small dab spread over the sticky part, and rubbed in) got all the rest of the sticky stuff off, and wiped up easily. And as an FYI, peanut butter will also easily get gum out of clothing and hair - just smoosh it through from the other side of the gummed up part (or all around it if there isn't another side) and leave it for a minute or two, and the oil will lift the gum right away, leaving you with a minor wash job. Added benefit - it doesn't smell as bad as some of those other things, and most kids will sit still for it, especially if you let them have a cracker with peanut butter on it while they wait.

    As with many people above; an oil will usually help with the paper and the gunk, but can require quite a bit of scrubbing in my experience, which can be difficult in some situations.

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