Removing Sticker Residue From Stainless Steel

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Stainless steel may resist rust and corrosion, but it isn't immune from sticker residue. Using harsh abrasives could scratch the stainless steel, so it's best to use safe household solvents such as rubbing alcohol and a sponge or a soft cloth. Scratching at the wet adhesive residue with your fingernail helps loosen it afterwards.

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Rubbing Alcohol to the Rescue

Rubbing alcohol does a great job of making sticker residue less sticky, ultimately making it easier to remove from stainless steel items such as bowls, travel mugs, or appliances. It also helps remove any of the original sticker paper stuck on the steel.

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Wet a clean sponge or a folded paper towel with rubbing alcohol; then apply the wet part to the sticker residue, gently rubbing the sticky area. Scratch at the residue with your fingernail to remove whatever you can, following up with more rubbing alcohol. For a horizontal surface, soaking the spot in alcohol for a minute or two may help loosen the adhesive even more. In a pinch, unflavored vodka works in place of the rubbing alcohol, as the alcohol in the vodka also works as a solvent.

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Other Household Solutions

Some stainless steel finishes scratch easily so it's best not to use harsh cleansers, even if you're sure a cleanser will remove the remaining adhesive. Instead, wet the gummy residue with either a water-displacing lubricant, such as WD-40 or a citrus-based adhesive remover such as Goo Gone, pouring the liquid on a clean microfiber cloth and working it into the spot. Both products loosen stubborn stickers and sticker residue with ease, and they won't damage stainless steel.

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For a horizontal area, squirt some of the glue-fighting liquid directly onto the adhesive residue and let it sit for a couple minutes before rubbing it with the cloth. If the residue covers a large area, work from the outside edges toward the center to avoid spreading the mess. Rotate to a fresh area of the cloth as the cloth picks up some of the gunky debris. Use your fingernail to gently scrape and lift the debris.

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A somewhat flimsy plastic scraping tool such as a plastic gift card also comes in handy for scraping the goo off without harming the stainless steel. Avoid using stiff, hard plastics or metal scrapers that may scratch the finish on the metal, as there may be a protective coating on the stainless item. Once you've removed the residue, follow up with a fresh microfiber cloth to remove anything remaining on the surface. Finish with warm, soapy water. For an item small enough to wash in a sink, wash it with dish soap and warm water.

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Heat for Stubborn Stickers

If part of the actual sticker is stuck to the stainless steel and won't come off no matter how hard you try, heat may loosen the adhesive enough to peel the sticker away. Aim a hair dryer set at high heat over the sticker, holding it a few inches away from the stainless steel for a minute or so. Scrape at the edge of the sticker or peel it with your fingernail; if it's still stuck tight, apply more heat.

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Once the sticker is off and the adhesive is warm, the residue is most likely a gooey mess. Use rubbing alcohol, WD-40, or a citrus adhesive remover to loosen the adhesive and wipe it all off with a microfiber cloth.

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