How to Remove Adhesive from Plastic

You always fix accidentally broken items with a sidekick adhesive as a DIYer. However, sometimes the glue may spill onto unintended plastic surfaces or objects, leaving you wondering how to remove adhesive from plastic, especially if the adhesive has set.

If you have been in such situations, this is the right guide. There are various methods you can employ to remove the adhesive. So don’t toss the glue-stained plastics in the dustbin.

Most of the methods will require household items making the task easier. However, I recommend you lift off the adhesive with your fingers as much as possible before employing any softening agent.

Rub a pencil eraser over the adhesive if your fingers aren’t producing the results. With a few rubs, the friction will lift off the glue. Then, you can use the methods suggested below to remove adhesive residue from your plastic item or surface.

How to Remove Adhesive from Plastic

  1. Dampen a rag in warm soapy water, white vinegar, or nail polish remover.
  2. Soak the adhesive by placing the rag over the glue. Allow the solvent to soften the adhesive.
  3. Wipe away the adhesive with a rag. The adhesive will lift off along with the solvent used.
  4. Scrape off the remaining adhesive residue with a plastic scraper.
  5. Give it another go if all the adhesive stain doesn’t lift off on the first attempt.
  6. Wash the surface clean with soapy water. Wipe dry with a clean towel.

Types of Adhesives

It is essential to know the type of adhesive you are dealing with when removing adhesives from plastic surfaces. The most common adhesives are hot glue, craft glue, super glue, and wood glue.

Super glue remains the toughest to remove from surfaces, including plastic, because it adheres sturdily.

Craft glue helps glue lightweight DIY materials such as cardboard, cloth, and paper. It is a water-based adhesive making it easy to remove from surfaces.

Hot glue is famous for fabric and crafting bonding. It is a whitish spaghetti-like stick that is heated and applied with a heating gun. Unfortunately, it’s always a pain to lift off surfaces because it’s strong.

Wood glue works best on wood because it’s tackier than other adhesives. If you spill it on an unintended surface, let’s say plastic, remove it quickly because it dries faster, generally under one hour. If you delay, removing it turns to a day’s project.

So, as you continue with the adhesive removal, know that you are probably dealing with one of the adhesives above.

Now we can go through the various methods.

How to Remove Adhesive from Plastic with Warm Soapy Water

Warm soapy water softens most adhesives, making them easy to blot up. Just put in some effort and patience, and the adhesive will be gone.

The Supplies You Will Need
  • Dish soap
  • Water
  • Soft cloths
  • Container
The Steps

Step 1: Add a few drops of dish soap to a container of warm water. Mix the two until they are thoroughly combined. Then moisten a soft cloth.

Step 2: Place the wet cloth over the adhesive and let the solution soak and soften the adhesive for 2-3 hours. You may wrap the damp cloth with plastic wrap to prevent it from drying up.

Step 3: Wipe off the softened glue with a clean cloth. Avoid rubbing as you will spread the glue further.

Step 4: Once clean, rinse the surface and allow it dry.

How to Remove Adhesive from Plastic with Acetone

Acetone is an excellent option if you have unsightly adhesive stains on your plastics. However, acetone is a heavy-duty solution, so test in an inconspicuous area of the plastic to prevent any potential damage.

You can use pure acetone or nail polish remover since it contains some acetone.

The Supplies You Will Need
  • Acetone/Nail polish remover
  • Water
  • Rags
  • Soft cloth
  • Cotton ball
  • Gloves
The Steps

Step 1: Moisten a clean rag with hot/warm water

Step 2: Place it over the adhesive and let the adhesive soak for 30 minutes. Then remove the cloth.

Step 3: Dampen a clean cloth rag or cotton ball with acetone and rub it over the adhesive until the adhesive lifts off into the rag or cotton ball.

Step 4: Wipe off with a soft cloth to remove acetone and adhesive residue. Rinse with clean water and dry with a towel.

Step 5: Repeat the process if necessary.

How to Remove Adhesive from Plastic with Rubbing Alcohol    

Apart from regular household cleaning, rubbing alcohol has properties that help lift off adhesives from plastic surfaces.

With a scraper and some patience, you will have the adhesives gone. If you don’t have rubbing alcohol, use hand sanitizer.

Rubbing alcohol works best on sticky adhesive that remains after lifting off the stickers.

The Supplies You Will Need
  • Rubbing alcohol/hand sanitizer
  • Water
  • Clean rag
  • Cotton ball
  • Soft cloth
  • Plastic scraper/credit card
The Steps

Step 1: Dampen a rag with hot or warm water and place it over the adhesive.

Step 2: Let the rag sit on the adhesive for 30 minutes to soften the adhesive. Next, remove the rag.

Step 3: Apply rubbing alcohol to a cotton ball and scrub the adhesive in circular motions. The adhesive should lift off into the cotton ball.

Step 4: Scrape the surface with a plastic scraper or credit card to remove stubborn adhesive residue.

Step 5: Wipe the surface clean with a soft, damp cloth. You can repeat the process to achieve the desired results.

How to Remove Adhesive from Plastic with Oil

Canola, vegetable, olive, or baby oil will save you some bucks if you want to remove adhesive from plastic because they are regular household items. These oils possess cleaning properties that loosen the adhesive grip on plastic surfaces for faster removal.

Do not combine all the oils, only one at a go. For better results, combine your oil choice with baking soda.

The Supplies You Will Need
  • Oil (Vegetable, canola, olive, or baby oil)
  • Baking soda
  • Dish
  • Gloves
  • Rags
  • Soft cloth
  • Dish soap
  • Water
  • Plastic scraper/butter knife
The Steps

Step 1: Mix equal parts of oil and baking soda in a dish. You can use either vegetable, olive, canola, or baby oil.

Step 2: Stir the solution until it completely combines, then spread the solution over the adhesive-stained surface. Ensure the adhesive is wholly covered.

Step 3: Let the solution work on the adhesive for 15 minutes before scrubbing the surface with a clean damp rag. The adhesive will lift off into the rag as you rub.

Step 4: Grab a plastic scraper or butter knife and scrape off the stubborn residue.

Step 5: Once clean, moisten a soft cloth with warm soapy water and wipe clean the plastic surface.

You may need to repeat the process a few times to achieve the desired results.

How to Remove Adhesive from Plastic with Baking Soda-Vinegar Paste

Some adhesives are hard to lift off plastic surfaces, so you need a strong solvent to soften and weaken them.

A mixture of baking soda and white vinegar forms a pasty consistency that has always worked on my shower doors. So I tried it on my glue-stained plastic, and it worked.

The Supplies You Need
  • Baking soda
  • Dish soap
  • Gloves
  • Hairdryer
  • Paper towels
  • Scouring pad/old toothbrush
  • Small bowl or dish
  • Water
  • White vinegar
The Steps

Step 1: Combine equal parts of baking soda and white vinegar in a small bowl or dish.

Step 2: Stir thoroughly until the solution forms a thick paste, maybe to the consistency of toothpaste.

Step 3: Plug your hairdryer into a power source and set it on high heat. Next, run it over the plastic surface to warm up the adhesive.

Step 4: Spread the baking soda-vinegar paste over the adhesive and let it sit for one hour.

Step 5: Scrub the surface with a scouring pad or an old toothbrush.

Step 6: Wipe the surface with a damp paper towel to remove baking soda-vinegar paste and adhesive residue.

Step 7: Wash with warm soapy water to remove the strong smell of vinegar and dry with a paper towel.

Repeat the process if necessary.

How to Remove Adhesive from Plastic with Goo Gone

Besides the household items, commercial adhesive removers may give you the desired outcome.

Goo Gone works best on the sticky residues after removing stickers off plastic surfaces as well as other common adhesives. However, it is advisable to read the product’s label for further instructions.

Goo Gone may react with some plastics, so test in an unnoticeable area of the plastic to avoid potential damage.

The Supplies You Will Need
  • Goo Gone
  • Liquid soap
  • Microfiber towels
  • Plastic scraper/putty knife
The Steps

Step 1: Spray Goo Gone over the adhesive

Step 2: Allow it to break down the adhesive bonds for 1-3 minutes before wiping off with a microfiber towel.

Step 3: Peel the stubborn adhesive with a plastic scraper or a putty knife. You may spray more Goo Gone to soften the adhesives further.

Step 4: After removing the adhesive, wash the surface with hot soapy water, then dry with a microfiber towel.

How to Remove Adhesives from Plastic with Paint Thinner

In your DIY projects, you may encounter strong adhesives that don’t lift off even after numerous tries to soften them. Their grip on plastic surfaces remains strong that it drives you to give up. Do not give up; use paint thinner instead.

Paint thinner contains ingredients that break down the most rigid adhesives from plastic surfaces.

As an alternative, use lighter fluid 

The Supplies You Will Need
  • Paint thinner/lighter fluid
  • Water
  • Cotton swab
  • Plastic scraper/knife
  • Towel
The Steps

Step 1: Begin with safety; wear protective gear such as rubber gloves and masks to avoid skin irritation or breathing complications. Work in a well-ventilated area.

Step 2: Test paint thinner is an inconspicuous area of your plastic surface to guarantee safety. Some plastics react with plastics and may cause damage.

Step 3: Sprinkle odorless paint thinner over the adhesive.

Step 4: Moisten a cotton swab with the paint thinner, then rub it over the adhesive in circular motions. Continue rubbing as you add more paint thinner to remove all of the adhesives.

Step 5: Scrape off the remaining residue with a plastic scraper or a knife.

Step 6: Once the surface is adhesive-free, wipe it clean with a damp towel.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best adhesive remover for plastic?

Acetone is the best adhesive remover for plastic. It is an excellent option to get adhesive or sharpie off plastic surfaces. If you can’t access acetone, use nail polish remover because it contains acetone as one of the ingredients.

How do I remove adhesive without damaging plastic?

Use vinegar. Vinegar provides a powerful clean without damage; however, you have to clean the surface thoroughly with warm soapy water to remove its pungent smell.

How do you remove sticker residue from painted plastic?

Rubbing alcohol or white vinegar will remove sticker residue from painted plastic.

You’ll need:

  • White vinegar or rubbing alcohol
  • Plastic scraper or credit card
  • Paper towel
The Steps

Step 1: Dampen a paper towel with warm white vinegar or room temperature rubbing alcohol.

Step 2: Place the damp paper towel over the sticker residue.

Step 3: Let it sit for 5 minutes as the residue softens.

Step 4: Scrape away the sticker residue with a credit card or plastic scraper. Be careful not to damage the painted plastic underneath.

You can also use WD-40, especially if it’s superglue.

Bottom Line

Adhesives are great until it’s time to remove them. But with household items such as dish soap, baking soda, nail polish remover, or rubbing alcohol, you can lift them off.

Goo Gone and paint thinner is a perfect bet for more challenging adhesives. So you need to put in some effort and embrace patience to remove any glue from your plastic.

The good news is if you don’t achieve the anticipated results with one method, you can pick another.