Duct tape is useful in some emergency situations (like if a seam of your jeans rips when you're out and about) or if you need a heavy-duty way to keep fabric together (like an upholstery tear on your sofa). Unfortunately, it can also leave behind a sticky mess when you try to remove the tape. The sticky residue is oil based, so it won't come off in just a regular wash. While it may be hard to remove duct tape residue from the most delicate fabrics — it's not recommended to try fixing a silk shirt with duct tape in the first place — it can be removed from many fabrics without too much trouble.
Try Scraping the Stain First
Before you reach for the detergents or solvents, try the simplest method of stain removal: scraping. With a blunt knife or the edge of an old credit card (or something similar), try to scratch off the sticky residue while holding the fabric taut. This method can work for light stains.
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Soak in Prewash Stain Remover
If scraping doesn't work completely or you're dealing with a heavier stain, reach for your regular prewash stain remover. A remover designed for wool fabrics, such as Woolite, is a good choice and can work on other fabrics too, even synthetics and blends. The detergent can break down the oils in the residue without damaging the fabric.
Fill a sink, bucket, or other large container with warm (but not hot) water and place the stained fabric in the water. (Obviously, this method won't work for stains on furniture fabric.) Let the fabric soak for about half an hour or the time recommended on the product label. After it has been soaking for a while, give the stain a bit of a rub between your hands to try to loosen it. Let it soak some more and repeat, as needed. Rinse the fabric in cold water. You could also put it through a regular wash cycle in your washing machine to freshen it all up.
Try Rubbing Alcohol or an Adhesive-Removing Solvent
If you're dealing with a bigger stain or you're treating fabric that can't easily be soaked (such as furniture), you might need to try a different approach. Isopropyl alcohol — household rubbing alcohol — breaks down oil and is a great general-purpose adhesive remover. You can also use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if you don't have a bottle of rubbing alcohol on hand. Alcohol can remove color from some materials, so always test a small amount in an inconspicuous area before tackling the tape residue.
If you're dealing with an even bigger mess and don't think rubbing alcohol will do the trick, you can reach for the strongest option of all: a stain-removing solvent, such as Goo Gone. If you get a formula that's safe for use on fabric or clothing (always check the label), then you don't need to worry about your fabric disintegrating, as the combination of solvents and other chemicals is designed for this purpose.
Method for Removing Tape Residue
If you're going to use rubbing alcohol or adhesive-removing solvent to remove duct tape residue, follow this method.
- Lay an old towel or cloth on a hard, flat surface.
- Spray the stain remover on the stain if it's packaged in a spray bottle. Alternatively, pour some into a small bowl and dip a corner of a rag into the liquid. (It's a good idea to wear gloves for this step.)
- Work the liquid into the stain using a rag.
- Let it sit for five to 10 minutes.
- Rub the stain a bit more to loosen it further, then let it sit with the alcohol for a few more minutes. Repeat this process if the stain appears to be stubborn.
- Rinse the fabric in cold water or put it through a washing machine cycle.
This method can also be adapted for use on furniture by wiping off the solvent with a wet rag and then rinsing and repeating.