Get It Off Me! Remove Sap, Glue, and Sticky Goo

Updated on December 17, 2009

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.

Delicate Cleaning:
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


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      • profile image

        Erica W 24 months ago

        I came across another remedy about a year later:

        For small, fresh blood stains (the kind you might get without murdering anyone at all) the most amazing stain-remover is spit.

        Apparently we have an enzyme in our spit that starts 'digesting' the blood. Anyway, if you can spit on the stain while it's fresh, you can watch the red color disappearing right before your eyes.

        It's hard to produce enough spit to neutralize larger blood stains, unless you salivate at very different things than I do.

      • Erica K Wisner profile image

        Erica K Wisner 6 years ago from Oregon

        That tie problem is a bummer. I did the same thing to a former boyfriend's dress shirt, only the gunk was on the iron. I didn't know what to do, and I was just miserable.

        The best advice I've seen since then is to take a clean, absorbent paper like a tissue, and iron the spot again and again. The glue may not all go away, but it should help remove most of it, and perhaps the tie can be salvaged. If you use a tougher handmade paper that is more absorbant than the tie, you might be able to peel it off, but be careful as this can damage the fabric.

        It may be too late for your dad's tie (sorry for the delayed response) but hopefully this can be useful to others.


        Erica W

      • profile image

        Tony Mack 7 years ago


        Can you help !

        the problem is I used one of my dads ties last week but before I could use it I washed & ironed it, as I was ironing I was using a piece of card to flatten & did not see some glue on card & yes it's on Tie can you advise ?

        Thank You