Get It off Me! Remove Sap, Glue, and Sticky Goo
A Sap-Free Christmas?
Pine resin smells wonderful at Christmas time, but I hate the black marks it leaves on my hands (and anything I touch) for days. This year, I discovered a miraculous reprieve: waterless hand sanitizer.
I squirted a glob of sanitizer gel onto the sap, rubbed it around with a paper towel to remove most of the sap, and then rinsed away the residue. At first, it left a little stickum when it dried, but a second application left both the tools and my hands smooth and sap-free.
It also works on many kinds of glues, softening them to peel or rub off easily.
To remove any goo, here are a few things to remember:
1. Physically remove as much as possible. If you can scrape, pick, or blot up most of the goo, you will be way ahead. Try using a stick or cardboard scrap to scrape up the worst lumps; or wrap a bag over your hand, so you can throw away the goo without getting it on you.
2. Find the right cleaner: do you need a chemical solvent, or a non-toxic or natural cleaner? Check the label for recommended solvents or 'cleanup' products.
Patented removers like Super Glue Remover or Goo-Gone usually work as directed.
Home remedies also work, and may be easier to find.
Here are some examples:
- Resins and sap: Alcohols (rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer), acetone, or turpentine.
- School Glue, Elmers' / wood glue, home-made 'slime': soap and water, vinegar.
- Chewing gum: Chill & chip away, or warm up & remove while gooey. Get residue with oil-based remedies like peanut butter or WD-40, then wash with soapy water.
- Tape, label goop, and adhesives: Try soap and water, WD-40, acetone (nail polish remover), Citra-Solv, or see "oil and grease" below.
- Sugar, gelatin, caramel, etc: Hot water and lots of it.
- Blood, egg, or animal proteins: soapy water, enzyme-based cleaners, hydrogen peroxide.
- Super Glue, model glue: check the label before opening! Home remedies include soapy water or acetone; Super Glue Remover is available commercially.
- Epoxy: Catch wet epoxy with vinegar before it cures. Acetone can speed curing for some epoxies (AAAGH!); read the container, and be ready to use a LOT of acetone to rinse quickly. Commercial 'epoxy removers' are also available.
- Oil and Grease: Soak up excess with rags, paper, kitty litter, or sawdust if appropriate. Apply concentrated detergent or soap and wash immediately. If water is incompatible with surface, consider non-toxic paintbrush cleaners, mineral spirits, or turpentine. (Kerosene or gasoline may also work.) Be very careful of flammable, toxic vapors.
- Plastecine clay, oil pastels, oil paints, etc: Treat as for gum or grease; physically remove as much as possible before heating / dissolving residue.
- Melted crayons, candle wax: Chill & chip away as much as possible; if any remains, warm up & blot with rag or paper. Treat residue as for oil or grease.
- Laquer, shellac, etc: Try pure alcohol, or acetone.
- Latex paint: Soak with water, scrape off. TSP or patented paint removers may be available. If it's 100% natural latex, mineral oil can weaken it.
- Wallpaper glue, paper-mache, or Play-Dough: Soak in soapy water, or steam to soften.
- Food Stains: Neutralize the specific food:
- If it is greasy, use detergent or soap. (See "oil and grease")
- If it's acid (fruit, wine, food dyes, vinegar, proteins) try a base (soap, ammonia, Borax, hydrogen peroxide).
- If it's a base (mineral stains, hard water marks, soap scum, plaster, ashes) try an acid (vinegar, lemon, carbonated water).
3. Test in a safe place. Make sure there's ventilation, no open flame, etc. If you are cleaning a treasured item, test a hidden area. If the goo is on you, use skin-friendly options like soap and water, hand sanitizer, nail polish remover, mineral oil, etc.
- Acetone, mineral spirits, & turpentine can discolor or dissolve wood finishes, fabrics, mirrors, and plastics.
- Alcohol and oils can also discolor or stain many surfaces; hydrogen peroxide can bleach.
- Soapy water is usually safest, but it may damage delicate fabrics or paper crafts.
4. Work the cleaner into the goo. It may take several treatments. Be gentle, and generous. Work a little cleanser in first, then add more as the goo softens. Try concentrated cleaners: e.g. start with pure soap, then add water after the goo is all blended in.
5. Remove both the cleaner and the goo, either with a rag or towel, or by rinsing well. (Avoid paper tissue until you're sure it's working; you don't need little paper fibers stuck in the goo.)
Find a good solvent for rinsing. Most cleaners can be rinsed away with soapy water; or use the usual cleanser for your surface (oil soap for wood, dish or fabric soap for clothes, etc). if this doesn't work, apply your cleaner again and try rinsing with acetone or alcohol.
6. If none of these work, you can request more information from the product's manufacturer or retailer. They are likely to know exactly how to remove their product. If they don't know, don't give up: ask for the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for workplace use of their products. The MSDS will give the chemical name(s) of the goop. Type the chemical(s) into a search engine to look for specific solvents or cleaners online.
The trick with delicate fabrics, fine finishes, and paper crafts is to find a solvent that attacks the goo, but leaves the surface alone. Test carefully, and refer to care instructions if possible. Professional dry cleaning is always an option.
- Freeze the goo with ice (or dry ice) to make it brittle. Carefully chip, flake, or pick off.
- Use a powder to absorb oily stains, then shake off or vacuum up. Baking soda works on oil, food or pet stains and most carpets; bentonite clay (kitty litter) absorbs oily spills on concrete, but avoid using it with any goop that can dry and harden. Both these remedies can be combined with wet or dry solvents, like soapy water or mineral spirits.
- Dry shampoos can remove grease or oil, using ingredients like starchs, salts, and powdered detergents. Shake-n-bake the dry shampoo with hair, fur, or fabric; then shake or vacuum out.
- Some solvents are almost "dry," containing no water or oils. Turpentine, mineral spirits, and WD-40 are particularly water-repellant; they dissolve oils, grease, and some gums. Alcohol, acetone, and ammonia mix with water, and may discolor water-based dyes & finishes - but they dry quickly, so you can blot them up without needing to rinse.
- Soak and Blot: While wet, scrape or blot away as much of the stain as possible. Test your solvents, then soak or steam the goop until dissolved. Blot, don't rub, with a paper towel or white rag: transfer the mess to the rag. Repeat as needed with fresh solvent and clean rags. When satisfied, leave a last clean rag on the damp spot to absorb any remaining mess that may be drawn up as it dries.
Hope these remedies help rescue your holiday!
Questions & Answers
How can I remove strong gum from the skin?
If it is sap-based, the solution described here may work. (Generous amount of alcohol-based hand sanitizer, scrub, rinse with water, repeat.)
If it's something else, like chewing gum or spirit gum, you may need to try other solvents that are safe to use on skin. One popular method is to work peanut butter or olive oil into the gum with a toothbrush, wait a few minutes for it to work, then remove it. Depending on the type of chewing gum it could either soften or harden/granulate the gum, but it should make it less sticky. The oil is also nice for the skin, helps it tolerate more scrubbing without getting chapped or scratched up. You could even use a good hand lotion if you prefer, to work on softening and scrubbing off the gum before washing with soap and water.
Here's one article on using these materials to remove gum from hair: https://www.aad.org/media/news-releases/b543a600-5...
Another source recommends vinegar as a possible antidote to chewing gum.
I have been able to avoid most types of goop besides tree sap for a long time, due to my lifestyle, so this advice is second-hand.