Removing old dried stickers from wood, what works best?
December 6, 2009 1:35 AM   Subscribe

Removing old dried stickers from wood, what works best?

I have some drawers with many old stickers on the front of them. Each sticker is 1"x1.5". For many of them I can start picking from the edge/corner and carefully peel off at least 60% of the sticker. But that still leaves me with a lot of sticker material left on the wood (not residue, actual sticker).

These stickers could be decades old. They're dry and somewhat brittle. I've used things like Goo Gone, lighter fluid, etc. to remove stickers/residue from books and CDs before, but those don't seem applicable in this case. I'm not trying to clean residue. And soaking the leftover sticker parts makes it no easier to peel/rub off.

What should I be using?
posted by 1001 questions to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Depends how precious the wood is, and what you plan to do with it later (paint, varnish, rub down?). If you're not too concerned about the odd scratch, careful use of a utility knife blade (this sort) might work. You just slide the blade long side first under the edge of a sticker, then use it like a chisel or a plane to take off the sticker.

If you're just going to sand the wood down later anyway, you could take the stickers off with a sander, although you may gum up a few sheets of paper that way.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:04 AM on December 6, 2009

Oh, steaming them off may also work, if you want something less dangerous. Someone you know is bound of have one of those multi-purpose steamer things for removing wallpaper and unblocking sinks and so on.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:06 AM on December 6, 2009

Mineral spirits on a cotton rag. Might also remove the wax or varnish on wood. Very bad for brain, they say. Takes off stickers, great!
posted by at the crossroads at 2:39 AM on December 6, 2009

To remove 30 year old Star Wars stickers from an old painted wooden door, I did the following:
-Got the stickers pretty moist with plain old water.
-Placed a kitchen towel over the sticker, and ironed over it to warm the glue up in a slapdash version of one of those steamer things.
-Used a plastic paint scraper to get under the sticker and push it off.
-Goo-gone the residue.
-A spritz of Simple Green for the oily goo-gone residue.
posted by Mizu at 3:22 AM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I once saw someone on TV recommended putting on mayonnaise, leaving it, then scraping off, but I can't speak for its success. I guess it's probably the oil that makes the difference.
posted by penguin pie at 3:43 AM on December 6, 2009

WD 40.
posted by fire&wings at 4:17 AM on December 6, 2009

As the stickers are possibly 'decades old', I assume the wood is also. What were you thinking of doing to the wood when you had the stickers removed? If you were going to put a fresh finish on the wood why not use sand paper to remove the top surface?
posted by birdwatcher at 4:30 AM on December 6, 2009

I'd suggest using a penknife to remove the stickers, then Goo-gone or lighter fluid to remove the sticker residue. Slowly work the blade through the corner of the sticker, and while angling the blade slightly inwards, use a gentle sawing motion to scrape the sticker off. Then use Goo-gone for the sticky residue.
posted by titantoppler at 5:03 AM on December 6, 2009

I have found that anything with an oil takes off stickers and sticky things (oil, mayonnaise, peanut butter, etc.).
posted by Houstonian at 5:38 AM on December 6, 2009

Seconding WD40, it took a dozen "totally punk" stickers off of my now beautiful sunburst stratocaster
posted by goHermGO at 6:21 AM on December 6, 2009

Vodka. Also works to take Band-Aids off your skin.
posted by lily_bart at 7:20 AM on December 6, 2009

+1 for Goo-Gone

It does a treat on old adhesive that won't come off. Basically, you let the old adhesive soak up the goo-gone for 5 minutes, and it turns into a gel that you can wipe away easily. It has worked for me in situations where WD40 and lighter fluid have failed.
posted by kaudio at 7:35 AM on December 6, 2009

wd-40 diluted on a rag or whole strength Took off heavy duct-tape residue from hard wood floor like it was sweeping dust, and shined it up nicely in the process
posted by Kensational at 7:55 AM on December 6, 2009

Sticker goo is oil based, and will generally leave a stain on wood. Rub a bit of oil on the sticker, leave overnight. Warm with a blow dryer or warm cloth, and they'll peel off.
posted by theora55 at 8:17 AM on December 6, 2009

Nail polish remover. But test it somewhere inconspicuous first.
posted by col at 8:35 AM on December 6, 2009

There's a possibility that if the stickers are decades old you may actually be facing a water soluable adhesive. Have you tried a damp cloth? Be careful with that too because water is bad for lacquer and some other finishes. All modern era stickers use an oil soluable adhesive. As most of the responses above say an oil or alcohol based solvent would be appropriate for them. You can use either vegetable or petroleum based oils and them clean up carefully with soap and water. Nail polish remover is primarily acetone which can damage most paint or varnish finishes very quickly. Mechanical removal by sanding or scraping would be my last resort.
posted by X4ster at 8:52 AM on December 6, 2009

Orange oil is fantastic. It's great for wood and helps dissolve sticker stickiness.
posted by cachondeo45 at 11:32 AM on December 6, 2009

Any kind of citrus oil wood renewing oil is good for this, but last time I had to remove sticky-back detritus from wood I used barbecue starter fluid, AKA kerosene. Cheap, easy to find, it got the sticky stuff off fast and left minimal residue.
posted by motown missile at 11:41 PM on December 6, 2009

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