Updated April 2022
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Buying guide for Best adhesive removers

Whether it’s glue, tar, or gum, getting a sticky substance off the surfaces in and around your home can be impossible without the proper supplies. That’s why it’s always a good idea to keep an effective adhesive remover in your cabinet.

To get the results you want, you have to decide on the appropriate type of adhesive remover. What formula will work best on the substances and surfaces that you want to clean? Considering the number of options on the market, sorting through your choices can be a challenge.

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Tired of that bumper sticker you put on your car years ago? Adhesive remover can make it easy to remove unwanted stickers from your car.

What is adhesive remover?

Adhesive remover is a chemical cleaning product created specifically for removing residues and films that are too sticky or thick to peel off manually. It works by soaking the residue, turning it into a liquid or paste form that can then be wiped or scraped off the surface.

Most adhesive removers are designed for specific tasks, so one formula might be better than another for your needs depending on the type of residue you want to remove and the surface you need to remove it from.

Adhesive remover uses

Depending on the formula you choose, an adhesive remover can be used to clean a variety of messes, such as the following:

  • Tape residue (clear, masking, and packaging)

  • Sticker and label adhesives

  • Epoxy, urethane, and silicone adhesives

  • Glue

  • Caulk

  • Gum

  • Candle wax

  • Tree sap

  • Tar

  • Grease

  • Crayons

  • Shoe polish

  • Makeup

  • Permanent markers

How to use adhesive remover

The steps for using an adhesive remover are usually the same no matter what type of formula you buy, but you should always check the label instructions to determine the proper steps.

In general, start by testing the remover on a small, hidden area of the surface to make sure that the formula won’t damage the material. If the adhesive remover is safe to use, apply it only to the area where there is adhesive residue.

Allow the adhesive remover to sit for the time recommended on the label, and then rub it away with a rag, cloth, or scraper. Use a clean, damp cloth to wipe down the entire surface once you’re done to make sure there is no residue from either the adhesive remover or the problem substance.

Expert Tip
Adhesive removers work better with cloths or sponges. I don’t recommend using paper towels because they lack of absorbency.
BestReviews Cleaning Expert

Adhesive remover features to consider


While all adhesive removers essentially work the same way, different ones use different ingredients to help soften and break down residues. The three main types are citrus-based removers, soy-based removers, and solvent-based removers. Each one can be effective, but you might prefer one formula over another based on your cleaning preferences.

Not all adhesive removers are designed to be used on all sticky or stubborn residues. Before purchasing a remover, check that it can actually handle the mess you’re dealing with. While all can handle most basic tape and adhesive residues, if you’re trying to clean up oil, candle wax, or tar, you should verify that an adhesive remover can handle it before purchasing.

  • Citrus-based removers: For eco-minded homeowners, citrus-based adhesive removers can be an ideal option. That’s because they contain approximately 80% citrus fruit extracts and only 20% chemicals such as propane, chloride, and sulfur. These adhesive removers come in either a paste or spray form. They work well for most of the substances that adhesive removers traditionally clean up and can also handle mildew and grime in a shower or bathtub. Citrus-based adhesive removers usually have a mild, almost pleasant scent, making them a good option if you’re sensitive to odors. They also rinse away easily with water.

  • Soy-based removers: These adhesive removers are another effective choice if you prefer a more environmentally friendly option. They contain approximately 60% soybean oil and 40% water. Because the formula lacks chemicals such as xylene, it usually needs to sit on the mess longer to effectively lift off the residue. Soy-based adhesive removers work well on a variety of adhesives and other sticky substances, and homeowners appreciate that they easily rinse away with water.

  • Solvent-based removers: For particularly stubborn messes, solvent-based adhesive removers are the most effective option because they tend to be stronger than citrus- or soy-based formulas. These contain strong chemicals, including xylene, ethylbenzene, P naphtha, VM, benzene, and toluene, so they’re extremely flammable and must be used in a well-ventilated area. It’s usually best to save solvent-based adhesive removers as a last resort when citrus- and soy-based formulas don’t work. If you’re using a solvent-based formula for a smaller mess, it should be diluted with water.


After choosing the type of adhesive remover, it’s important to consider the formula. Most come in a liquid, spray, paste, or wipe form.

Liquids and sprays are easy to apply, though sprays can sometimes cover a larger area than you intend. With a liquid, you simply dip a rag or cotton swab in the adhesive remover and apply it to the residue in question.

Paste adhesive removers are applied in a similar manner to liquid formulas, but they tend to be messier and are often harder to spread across the surface. Adhesive removers that come in wipe form are usually designed for use on the skin.

Expert Tip
Protect your skin when using adhesive remover. Wearing things like gloves, long sleeves, and goggles will help keep you safe.
BestReviews Cleaning Expert

Suitable surfaces

In addition to being effective for the particular messes you need to clean up, check that a specific adhesive remover is suitable for use on the surface in question. Most formulas can work on a variety of surfaces, including the following:

Some may also be effective on car exteriors, as well as fabrics like upholstery, clothing, sheets, and blankets. Always check the label on the adhesive remover first, so you don’t damage the surface or material.

Expert Tip
When using the liquid adhesive remover, always place the cap of the product back on securely. This helps prevent spills.
BestReviews Cleaning Expert

Adhesive remover prices

Adhesive remover prices vary based on the formula, type, and quantity. In most cases, you’ll pay between $5 and $55.

Citrus-based adhesive removers range from $5 to $40.

Soy-based adhesive removers range from $10 to $44.

Solvent-based adhesive removers range from $15 to $55.


  • Use adhesive remover in a well-ventilated area. Just to be safe, do this even if you’re using an adhesive remover with mainly natural ingredients.

  • Place the item you’re cleaning on newspaper or plastic sheeting. This will protect other surfaces from the adhesive remover.

  • Always wear rubber or latex gloves when using adhesive remover. This will help prevent skin irritation.

  • Spot test first. While an adhesive remover may be marketed as safe for a certain material or surface, it’s always a good idea to do a spot test first. Apply a small amount of the remover on a hidden area to see if there’s any reaction before using the product on a larger, more visible area.
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Some adhesive removers are effective at removing scuff marks from floors.


Q. Are adhesive removers safe to use?

A. While many adhesive removers contain strong chemicals, they’re usually safe to use if you follow the instructions carefully. Always work in a well-ventilated area, and only apply the remover to substances and surfaces for which it’s approved. Do a spot test before using the adhesive remover even if the surface is listed as workable, just in case you’re mistaken about what the material is.

Q. Can I use any adhesive remover on my skin?

A. Not all adhesive removers are meant to be used on the skin. Those with harsh chemicals can cause redness and other irritation if applied to the body. Look for an adhesive remover that contains mostly natural ingredients and is specifically marketed as safe for the skin.

Q. What’s the best way to store adhesive remover?

A. Adhesive removers can evaporate if exposed to air and sunlight, so make sure the lid or cap is tightly secured. Keep the remover in a cool, dark spot to help it last as long as possible.

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