The Stack Exchange sticker on the back of my iPad had been there for over a year and a half, and it was time to retire it (for a new one, of course). I carefully peeled it up, and put it in a sticker graveyard.

But left on the back of my (formerly) pristine iPad was a light colored, sticky residue. It seems like I can get it off slowly by rubbing it with my fingers (smearing it into little balls that could be pulled off), but I only got about ½ a square inch of it gone before my fingers started hurting.

What can I do to get this residue of my aluminum (silver, not colored) iPad?

11 Answers 11


Go to the store and buy some product that will work, but since that is not a real answer and most products apparently don't work that well: The best fix is Alcohol. It is everyday and simple and I have proven it to work.

  • Use Vodka (or better still, isopropyl alcohol / rubbing alcohol) - It takes hard work and rubbing and may take sometime.

While Goo Gone can take down any residue with a few strokes, I've found that it leaves its own oily residue behind that's just as hard to remove as the original glue (and forget about washing it off your fingers). If you're willing to take an extra 60 seconds or so, vodka will save you the hassle and leave you with a clean, shiny finish when you're done. Of course, if you don't have any vodka handy, you can always try a pencil eraser too.

So Goo Gone may not work that well and pencil erasers can work.

Create a mixture of equal parts baking soda and cooking oil. Put the mixture on top of the label you want to remove. Wait at least 30 minutes. Then, scrub off the bottle and the glue is gone. Finally, wash the bottle to remove the oil and baking soda.

  • And of course the other answer outlines the best household product.
    • Alcohol- Is apparently the best, like I said.

the rubbing alcohol was far and away the best we tried

  • Lighter fluid

The lighter fluid was the worst, though we expect it's because Ronsonol lighter fluid—the most commonly recommended—no longer contains naphtha, the solvent that made it so effective (Update: This is true, Ronsonol doesn't contain naphtha, but we also got the wrong kind of lighter fuel, which is the real source of the problem)

  • WikiHow- Had some of my favourite fixes.
    • Steam(gives a incomplete fix, most times)
    • Fast Food Hand wipes
    • Credit Card scrapers(won't fix the problem unless you take time for it and they still need some products to finish the job.
    • Essential oils(this may effect your paint on the phone, oils like tea tree oil can burn through Styrofoam and plastic so beware.
    • Rubbing with your fingers takes a while and make not work completely. It is basically you rubbing your fingers against the bottle until it rubs off.
  • I don't understand your report on Ronsonol. Did you not get regular Ronsonol? Or you did, but it didn't work?
    – Adam
    Aug 29, 2017 at 15:18

There are numerous options here:

  • Rub it off using your fingers.

    1. Must I really explain how this works?
  • Use cooking oils or essential oils.

    1. Put some on a rag/paper towel and let it sit over the sticky stuff for at least 5 minutes.
    2. Use your fingers to roll it off. It will be much easier.
  • Citric Acid / Lemon Oil / GooGone

    1. Get a lemon (pretty lifehacky) or buy the special GooGone from the store (not really lifehacky).
    2. Apply and let sit.
    3. Dry it off and possibly polish.
  • Scraping

    1. Use a card or plastic spudgers to scrape it off.
  • Lighter Fluid

    1. BE VERY CAREFUL! -- Use this as a last resort!
    2. Wearing gloves, place bit on some cotton cloth.
    3. Rub over icky stuff.
    4. Dry off excess fluid.
    5. Throw away gloves and cotton cloth. Most everything sourced from WikiHow

I like to use the tape technique to remove adhesive residue:

  1. Put a piece of tape on top of the area with adhesive residue. I like to use clear packing tape, but you could also try masking tape or perhaps even scotch tape.
  2. Use your finger nail to rub the tape against the surface to make sure it is pressed firmly against the adhesive residue.
  3. Pull off the tape quickly. The tape should remove some of the adhesive residue.
  4. Repeat steps 1 through 3 several times. Each time you do that, it should remove some of the residue. After a while, you may have to use a new piece of tape because the tape will lose pulling strength as more residue becomes stuck to it.

This technique can take a while to completely remove the adhesive residue, as some residues can be very stubborn. But I like it because it doesn't involve chemicals (alcohol is a solvent and could ruin the coating on certain surface types), and there's no risk of scratching the object's surface. It also won't leave "rub stains" that some other techniques will leave.

  • 1
    This is the BEST non-messy way to completely remove adhesive residue. I haven't yet found this method to fail on anything I've used it on. Great hack.
    – Stan
    Aug 25, 2016 at 0:57

The alcohol idea seems like a good one but I have never used it.

What should work for sure is applying heat. Glue dissolves if confronted with heat. That means pointing a hair dryer on the spot with the sticky residue should get it to "melt" and become easier to remove. I would therefore warm it up like this and rub off the remains with alcohol afterwards.

And of course I do realize that not every device lends itself to head. So under no circumstances should you ever put any device like a mobile phone or an iPad into a microwave. That can be dangerous. That should be logical to everyone. So under no circumstances should you ever try to back or cook a device. It might remove the sticky clue but it would also totally destroy your iPad and possibly even get the microwave to blow up.

Pointing a hair dryer on the part with the sticky residue should be "survivable" for your i-Pad


Here is my failsafe: rub peanutbutter on it and let it sit for a few hours. Afterwards, scrub it of with clean and damp cloth.

Something in the peanutbutter absolves the adhesives. While alcohol can do the same, when alcohol touches your screen, it could leave permanent marks.


Since you are going to apply a new sticker anyway, the best thing to do is just put the new sticker exactly where the old one was, covering the residue.

  • You'd better hope that new sticker entirely covers the footprint of the old one!
    – Nick Udell
    Dec 11, 2014 at 11:39
  • AFAIK The design of the SE sticker has not changed.
    – fredley
    Dec 11, 2014 at 11:45
  • But what if I'm going to put a Stack Overflow sticker on instead?
    – user204
    Dec 11, 2014 at 14:35
  • @Undo Well that's a completely different question! :P
    – fredley
    Dec 11, 2014 at 16:40

Use WD-40. Apply, wait a minute and remove it. It works wonders to remove sticky residue.


Keep some lacquer thinner on hand (can be bought at any hardware store). It is a strong solvent for thinning (obviously) and removing paint, but it works fantastic on adhesives as well and will not leave a residue. tip some onto a paper towel. be careful if the surface you're using it on is painted. the adhesive will come off easier than the paint, but if you're not careful that paint will come off eventually.


Acetone is probably the best sticky residue remover I ever used but it's not technically a lifehack as it isn't such a usual matter that you have it at hand.


First thing first, I am going to suggest Acetone, that is nail polish remover. If you can obtain near 100% acetone from a hardware store please do.

Words of warning:

Acetone is flammable. It burns like gasoline.

Acetone eats plastics - It is the foundation of many plastics contact with plastics is not advised as it will attack them.

I recommend working with a fan over your work area to reduce the risk of inhalation and it will help disperse evaporating acetone in order mediate fire risk.

Sure lots of warnings and sounds like overkill... better to be safe than on fire.

  • Test if the acetone attacks the type of tape residue you want to remove on a test item. If it does so then you can proceed.
  • Important, take a q-tip covered in acetone and on a small patch on the back of the ipad rub with q-tip. Don't press too hard, and wait until it dries which should take a few seconds.
  • Confirm visually and by touch that no reaction has occurred. Discoloration and texture may change if the material on your ipad back is reactive with acetone.

If good to go, then have it, acetone will attack most glues and plastics used in tapes. Acetone evaporates readily so just work at it until you have removed the residue traces.

Alcohols that are very strong of ethyl and methyl types are an alternative but mostly same warnings apply, except you shouldn't have reactivity with any plastics.

They can be helpful to remove anything that wasn't destroyed by the acetone and on their own.


If you have access to an automotive garage, you might consider dabbing Brake Fluid into a disposable towel or cotton ball, and wipe a minimal amount of brake fluid onto the adhesive gum. It should dissolve and wipe away with little effort.

Be cautious however, as brake fluid will attack plastic, rubber, and painted surfaces, which probably includes clear coat. Ideally try it out on a hidden area to test if it will adversely affect the surface.

Since you mention an unpainted aluminum finish it seemed like this may be okay.

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