Removing sticker residue from porous book cover
November 2, 2021 11:18 PM   Subscribe

Surely *someone* will have a solution: I got a lovely little book of color schemes, used, with a bar code sticker on the back. The sticker came off! Yay! How can I get the goo off without leaving a greasy stain?

Here's my book tax. I like it so far. It's really a lovely thing to hold in one's hand, so I'd like that to be as enjoyable as possible. Also I would like to avoid dirt accumulating on the residue -- you get it. The sticker area is substantial, too, about 1.1" x 1.5". Ugh.
posted by amtho to Grab Bag (29 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I usually use lighter fluid to remove sticker residue. Maybe do a small patch test of it first. You can also try using Silly Putty to lift it.
posted by mezzanayne at 11:34 PM on November 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have used Blu Tack to remove things like that, rolling a cylinder of it carefully back and forth.
posted by unearthed at 11:37 PM on November 2, 2021 [3 favorites]

Is it like a regular textbook cover? I would try an alcohol wipe after you've removed the majority of the adhesive. It definitely removes adhesives - both on people and items, and it evaporates.

Thanks for posting the book tax. I now have Christmas presents for Young Dancing Lamb!
posted by dancinglamb at 1:11 AM on November 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

I've cleaned book covers with Goo Gone before. I do it very carefully with a very, very light amount (spray bottle) on a paper towel. Like, think the tiniest amount possible on the paper towel. To remove the goo gone, afterwards, I used some combo of paper towel, napkins, tissues and/or toilet paper, and microfiber towels. On one of those, I often use a very, very light plain water to help "rinse" the Goo Gone, in a very slow and careful way, keeping it dry.

I love the magic of the stuff, but I don't like the way it feels, so I'm pretty particular about getting it all off. I *might* (but can't remember for sure) have used, once or twice, instead of plain water, the water-with-a-tiny-bit-of-dish-soap-in-a-spray-bottle that we have in the cupboard for plants that might need it. (That's the weak/cheap dish soap, and not the Dawn, that goes in that bottle.) And then used water. I know I've used it more heavily on fabric I've Goo-Gone-ed, the dish soap cuts the greasy/oily feeling.
posted by stormyteal at 1:13 AM on November 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Seconding Goo Gone. It's basically orange oil, so if you have any of that sitting around, that'll work too.
posted by Orkney Vole at 2:18 AM on November 3, 2021

A small amount of isopropyl alcohol on a cotton bud, gently applied, will get that right off.
posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs at 3:19 AM on November 3, 2021

I usually dab gently at this kind of thing with the sticky side of a bit of gaffa tape, pulling up little clumps of adhesive residue until it's all been lifted. A purely mechanical attack like this means I don't need to worry about the effects of solvents on what's underneath, I only need to take care to be very gentle and work slowly so as not to tear it.
posted by flabdablet at 3:57 AM on November 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

Similar to ^ if you have some rubber cement, you can make a “pick up” by rolling a bit of rubber cement into a ball the size of a marble and then tapping it on the adhesive to lift it up.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:26 AM on November 3, 2021

I was going to suggest basically what flabdablet suggested, trying tape to remove the adhesive. Gaff tape is nice but regular masking tape works pretty well for this application as well.
posted by BlueJae at 4:40 AM on November 3, 2021

Gaffa tape is particularly good at it because its own adhesive, though completely competent at sticking gaffa tape down to all kinds of surfaces, is specifically designed to hold itself together very strongly and come off those surfaces without leaving a residue, and the tape itself will only tear when you rip it deliberately.

Masking tape, in my experience, is rather more willing to come to bits by accident and its adhesive also tends to dry up annoyingly if the roll has any age on it. But if you already have reasonably fresh masking tape and don't have gaffa, by all means give it a try.
posted by flabdablet at 4:49 AM on November 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

I sell used books and lighter fluid is the best thing I've found for this. The kind you use to fill a Zippo, not the stuff you use on your grill.
posted by goatdog at 5:30 AM on November 3, 2021

The last time this happened to me (a sticker on the bill of a hat), I used the removed sticker to "blot" the remaining stickiness off the hat. It stuck to the sticker and came off easily without adding new stickiness. Had to blot for a while but it worked perfectly.
posted by Twicketface at 5:34 AM on November 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

If there's an office supply or art supply store near you, pick up a crepe eraser aka a rubber cement pickup. It will last a lifetime and is good for all kinds of residue removal.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 6:23 AM on November 3, 2021

Response by poster: Um... is "gaffa tape" the same as gaffer tape?

Sorry to those suggesting liquids -- I should have emphasized: while many book covers are shiny/slightly plasticky/coated, this particular one is more like thick card stock. Porous, matte, essentially a piece of paper.

I read elsewhere about lighter fluid and rubbing alcohol, and they seem like they might work, but I worry about seeping into the fibers of the paper... no?

Goo gone is a no go. I have trouble getting that off a lot of surfaces. I love it for some things, but not this.

I'm fascinated by the crepe eraser, blue tack, and gaffa tape suggestions. New substances to explore!
posted by amtho at 6:52 AM on November 3, 2021

is "gaffa tape" the same as gaffer tape?

posted by flabdablet at 7:02 AM on November 3, 2021

The lighter fluid will seep into the paper, but it will dissolve leaving no stain or residue. I've used this technique on similar covers.
posted by goatdog at 7:15 AM on November 3, 2021

I worry about seeping into the fibers of the paper

Even if you pull off all the adhesive residue with gaffa tape, you might see a slight discolouration or shadow on the paper where it's been. Matte paper is really good at wicking stuff out of things that have been in contact with it for extended periods, even things like adhesives that you'd normally not think of as having a readily separable oily or solvent component.

Zippo-style lighter fluid is very volatile and won't leave any part of itself behind when it evaporates, but depending on the exact formulation of the adhesive it might thin out the glue to the point where matte paper could actually wick some of the thinned glue permanently into its own fibres.

It doesn't do that most of the time: most sticker adhesives react to both lighter fluid and alcohol by going wibbly-wobbly and losing most of their will to grip rather than turning fully into slime. But I have seen some of them just thin out, which is why I prefer to go the dab and peck with gaffa tape as a first line of attack. Even on non-porous surfaces it can be easier to get the last little skerricks of adhesive off if they keep their original cohesiveness.
posted by flabdablet at 7:17 AM on November 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

You can also try heating it with a hair dryer and then rolling your finger gently over the glue.
posted by goatdog at 7:17 AM on November 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

That's a good call. A bit of gentle heating can make adhesives more cooperative if you're using something like that crepe block to get them up, too.
posted by flabdablet at 7:21 AM on November 3, 2021

I agree with overeducated_alligator about using a rubber cement pickup, that is probably your best bet. I have also had some luck using a clean Magic Rub Eraser as well.
posted by blacktshirtandjeans at 8:15 AM on November 3, 2021

Seconding Goo Gone. It's basically orange oil, so if you have any of that sitting around, that'll work too.

Yeah, no. Goo Gone is comprised of hydrotreated light petroleum distillates with a tiny touch of d-Limonene and orange sweet extract to give it an orange scent and color.
posted by slkinsey at 8:40 AM on November 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

a rubber cement pickup

No experience with these, but the ultimate solution to adhesive residue is rubber cement solvent (which removes almost every stickiness, even when old and dried-out) and doesn't affect the original surface. I have a notion that Goo Gone, which is always an answer to this reoccurring question (previously), is similar to my own recommendation, but I've never used that so I can't comment. However, somebody on YouTube compares it here with Bestine rubber cement solvent, available at art supply stores (maybe not locally, but Amazon has it). Add a can to your tool-kit; it's indispensible. Wikipedia says its actually the gasoline additive heptane.
posted by Rash at 8:42 AM on November 3, 2021

Someone here in the past recommended Un-Du as something used by librarians. It evaporates very quickly and leaves no residue. I used it successfully to remove wall mount residue off a poster after 35 years.
posted by ShooBoo at 8:51 AM on November 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

According to their respective material safety data sheets (MSDS), Un-Du and Zippo lighter fluid are very similar: Un-Du fluid is Naphtha (petroleum), hydrotreated light and Zippo fluid is a mixture of that and Distillates (petroleum), light distillate hydrotreating process, low-boiling. Given that both usually get stored at room temperature I would not expect to see many of the really low-boiling-point fractions left in either by the time they get used, so their performance in this application should be pretty much indistinguishable.
posted by flabdablet at 9:13 AM on November 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Gaffa tape is particularly good at it because its own adhesive

I have always known it as "Gaffer tape" and lament that it is kind of expensive, but useful. Linguistically, I am in the American mountain west. I like to use it to block out tiny lights on electronic bedroom gadgets to make the room even darker. It is also known as gaff tape.
posted by mecran01 at 9:51 AM on November 3, 2021

It's the same stuff. Two languages divided by a common tape.
posted by flabdablet at 10:00 AM on November 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

I would try a kneaded eraser.
posted by brachiopod at 12:45 PM on November 3, 2021

Book conservator here. If you can get your hands on some cellulose powder and an adhesive pick up rubber, you should be able to pick up most of the goo mechanically instead of chemically. The powder will adhere to the stickiness, and you rub it (like an eraser) with the rubber until it balls up and you can brush it away. It might take a few applications of the cellulose, but it should (hopefully, #tapeisevil) get rid of most of the goo.
posted by ikahime at 1:13 PM on November 3, 2021 [6 favorites]

Most paperback book covers have a thin layer of plastic laminated on. In that case, I put a drop of dish detergent on a not wet, fairly damp sponge, place it on the gooey area overnight, wipe away crud in the morning with a paper towel. If the cover is not plasticized, adhesive from labels will stain it anyway, and I'd try lighter fluid.
posted by theora55 at 2:00 PM on November 3, 2021

« Older Health Tracker App for iPhone?   |   Good books for primary kids about puberty? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments