how to remove glue from most surfaces

From super glue to wood glue, most households have tubes and bottles of glue for crafts, home maintenance, and repairs. We have glue in cabinets, drawers, and toolboxes—and sometimes we have glue and sticky residue on surfaces where it shouldn’t be! Whether it’s forgetting to put the cap back on school glue or going overboard fixing a broken vase, spilled glue can be a scary mess. But when you learn how to remove glue using field-tested remedies, you don’t have to panic.

Knowing how to remove glue from plastic, metal, fabric, wood, and other surfaces can mean the difference between saving an item or throwing it in the garbage. The next time you have a glue spill, use these tips to save the day—but safety first!

When you’re trying to clean up a glue spill, you could end up using acetone and other harsh adhesive removers, so wear disposable gloves and protective eyewear while you work.

How to Remove Glue From Plastic

Too often, many of us discover stains and glue spills long after the fact. Even if you find an old, dried-up glue spill on a plastic item, it’s possible to remove it without damaging the item. All you need are a few household tools and the right adhesive remover. As a precaution, always spot test a hidden area with your adhesive remover of choice before tackling the glue spill.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Tape
  • Cleaning cloth
  • Razor blade
  • Plastic scraper
  • Plastic wrap
  • Cotton balls
  • Nail polish remover
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Dish soap

Scrape

It’s best to remove as much dried glue as you can before you use the methods below. Take a razor blade and scrape away glue carefully so you don’t damage the plastic.

Soften

Dampen a cleaning cloth with water and dish soap. Lay the soapy cloth over the glue spill, cover it with plastic, and tape everything down. You’ll want to wait a few hours to give the soap and water time to soften the glue, then move on to the next step.

Blot

When the glue is softened, it’s easy to blot up most of it with a disposable cloth. Take care not to rub the glue; you could risk spreading it further, causing even more problems. Depending on how much glue remains, use one of the following glue removers.

Use a Debonder

When soap and water aren’t enough to remove glue from plastic, use a debonder that contains nitromethane or a similar ingredient. You can find debonders at most hobby stores, and many are designed specifically for removing glue from plastic.

Use Rubbing Alcohol or Nail Polish Remover

If you’re not having any luck using a debonder, try using rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover instead. Both are harsher than debonder, so proceed with caution. Test a hidden area first and then dampen a cotton ball and blot the glue until it softens. Keep the cotton ball wet and use a new one when the old one gets too much glue on it.

With the right tools and some patience, getting even dried glue off plastic isn’t so tough. But what about getting super glue off metal? Relax. We’ve got that covered, too!

How to Remove Super Glue From Metal

You can use the same tools and supplies we discussed above to remove super glue. If it’s dried, you may have to use a little more firepower, like hydrogen peroxide, to get the job done. Spot test the adhesive remover you choose on a small, out-of-the-way area before you work on the spill. Some metals, like stainless steel, are prone to scratching, so never use abrasive tools or compounds to remove super glue.

Scrape

Use a plastic scraper or razor blade to scrape off excess dried super glue before you work on removing the spill. Scrape carefully, so you don’t damage the metal finish.

Soften

Dampen a disposable cloth with nail polish remover and press it down lightly on the glue spill. Let the acetone soften the glue for 10 minutes and check your progress. If the glue needs more softening, add more acetone to the cloth and repeat.

Blot

When the glue is soft, blot up as much as possible with a disposable cloth. Take care not to spread the glue around as you soak it up. Move on to one of the glue removers below to finish the job.

Use Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is especially good on super glue, and it’s a safe way to clean up most glue spills on metal. Soak a cotton ball with the hydrogen peroxide and press it onto the glue until it softens. Use fresh cotton balls as needed to blot up any glue residue.

Use Rubbing Alcohol

Soak a cleaning cloth or cotton ball with rubbing alcohol and place it over the glue until it softens. Use a clean part of the cloth or new cotton balls to dab up as much as you can, and then wipe the residue away.

How to Remove Glue From Fabric

Glue, paint, and fingernail polish are some of the most feared things you can spill on fabric, and for good reason. These liquids harden when they come in contact with air because they lose their moisture. When you spill glue on fabric, it also absorbs into the fibers before hardening, making the glue removal process a little more challenging. For the best outcome, check the manufacturer’s care label before using any of these methods.

For most fabrics, the first step in removing a glue spill is to soften the dried glue. Rub petroleum jelly into the glue and cover the area with damp paper towels. After about an hour, the glue should be soft enough to remove it.

Remove Glue From Upholstery

Scrape off as much softened glue as you can with a plastic scraper. Mix a few drops of dish liquid with two cups of cold water. Use a clean cloth to massage the soapy mixture into the glue and surrounding fibers. Use your fingers to scrub the stubborn parts. Be patient! When you’ve removed all the glue, wipe the area with a clean, damp cloth to catch any residue.

Remove Glue From Clothes

Remove excess glue with a plastic scraper. Fill the kitchen sink with hot water, spray stain remover onto the glue, and let the garment soak for about an hour. If you still see glue residue, scrape it away and then wash the clothing on the hottest temperature the label permits.

Remove Glue From Carpet

Scraping glue off of carpet fibers isn’t as easy as it is with other fabrics. Instead of using a scraper, pick as much dried glue as possible using your fingers. Mix a few drops of dish soap with warm water and work it into the glue with a clean cloth. You may have to repeat this twice and keep picking out glue with your fingers until all the glue is gone.

How to Remove Glue From Wood

Whether it’s on your dining room table or your hardwood floors, getting glue off wood without damaging the finish can seem impossible. But you can learn how to remove glue from wood without harming it by following these tips.

For most wood surfaces, you’ll want to skip the glue removers used for plastics and metals. Instead, you’ll need a hairdryer, a plastic scraper, and some petroleum jelly.

Scrape

Use a plastic scraper to remove as much dried glue as possible from the wood. Scrape carefully, because even plastic can mar the finish of some wood.

Soften

Use a hair dryer on the lowest heat setting and hold the end about three inches from the glue. Do this for about 20 seconds and check your progress. If the glue is still too hard, repeat the process but be mindful of getting the wood too hot. If this doesn’t work, apply some petroleum jelly to the glue spill and let it sit overnight.

Peel

Once the glue has softened, peel it away from the edges using the plastic scraper. You may need a little more heat from the hair dryer to keep the glue soft during this process. When you’re done, wipe away any residue with a clean cloth.

Now that you know how to remove glue from most surfaces, check out our other pro guides for household stains and other cleanup jobs. Whether you are a DIYer using our proven housekeeping tips or you enjoy one of our popular residential cleaning services, The Maids is on a mission to make your home easier to manage. Get your free estimate and find out how we can help you enjoy a cleaner home more often.


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