Stainless steel is one of the common materials where people just love to put stickers. Why wouldn’t they? Any custom sticker will beautifully adhere to a stainless steel surface because of its smooth, clean texture.
While stickers can add some character and personality to your fridge, stainless water bottles, and other items, the issue starts when you decide to remove them. Especially if they happen to be permanent custom vinyl stickers that usually come with a very intense adhesive.
Because stickers adhere strongly to stainless steel, getting them off is a tough prospect. To help you get rid of the sticky residue without damaging the stainless steel, here are the top 3 most effective methods you can try.
Method 1: WD-40
WD-450 is a multi-purpose solution that’s used for a variety of purposes, one of which is removing sticky adhesive. To remove stickers from stainless steel with WD-40, here’s what you need to do.
Get a Can of WD-40
WD-40 is a very popular household solution, so chances are, you already have it in your storage cabinet or toolbox. If not, then don’t worry — you’ll easily be able to find it in your local hardware store or supermarket. There are plenty of sizes of WD-40 Multi Use Product you can get depending on the size of your sticker problem.
Shake and Spray the Liquid on the Residue
Once you get your hands on a can of WD-40 and are ready to use it, shake it well. Then, spray the liquid on the sticky residue until it’s completely covered with the solution. Don’t spray too much, though — while WD-40 is safe to use on stainless steel products, a little goes a long way to get rid of sticky residue.
Wait a Few Minutes
After spraying WD-40 on the residue, let it sit for a couple of minutes. This gives the WD-40 time to work its magic, breaking down the adhesive bonds and loosening them up so you can easily wipe or scrape them off.
If you’re working with a vertical surface, you might need to spray another coat of WD-40 solution after a while to allow it to soak the sticker.
Scrape or Wipe Off the Residue
After some time, get a soft cotton rag and wipe the residue off. A couple of gentle swipes should do the trick and remove the sticky residue, leaving you with a smooth and clean stainless steel surface. But if that doesn’t work, you can use a blunt tool to scrape the residue off. Don’t use sharp items that can damage the stainless steel.
Once the adhesive is fully removed, you can wash the stainless steel item with soap and water to get rid of any remnants.
Method 2: Rubbing Oil
If you don’t have a can of WD-40 solution at home and have no time to get one from the store, you can also try using another common household item: rubbing oil. Any type of oil, including mineral oil, baby oil, or olive oil should work.
Pull off as Much of the Sticker as Possible First
Before soaking the sticker in rubbing oil, you should try to peel off as much of the sticker as possible while it’s dry. Gently lift a corner and pull upwards slowly. Keep doing this until it’s virtually impossible to peel off any more of the sticker. If the sticker tears as you pull, lift another corner and resume from there.
Cover Your Workspace
The next step is to cover your workspace with newspaper or scrap paper. A large garbage bag may also work. This should help prevent oil from dripping on your table or countertop and staining it. If you’re working with a vertical surface, like a fridge, you can cover the floors beneath the fridge with sheets of newspaper in case of spillage.
Soak Slightly a Soft Cloth or Paper Towel in Oil
Place the stainless steel item on your workspace, laying it flat and making sure it stays balanced as you work. Then, grab a soft cloth or paper towel and your bottle of mineral oil, baby oil, or olive oil.
Soak the cloth with oil slightly, just until there’s a good spread of oil on it. Don’t soak it entirely so things don’t get too messy. If you’re using a paper towel, fold it a few times to make it thick enough to absorb the oil without tearing.
Rub/Spray Oil on the Sticker and Wait
Now, dab the sticker with your soft cloth or paper towel, making sure to cover the whole sticker thoroughly. Pay a little more attention to the edges of the sticker where the adhesive is the strongest. Alternatively, you can also put oil in a spray bottle and spray it onto the sticker.
After soaking the sticker in oil, allow it to sit for a few minutes. Generally, 5 minutes is enough time, but this would depend on the size and strength of your sticker. During this time, the oil will loosen the adhesive enough for you to be able to wipe it off cleanly.
Wipe the Adhesive Off the Surface
After 5 minutes is up, use the same cloth to wipe the adhesive off the stainless steel surface. When doing this, follow the grain of the shine on the stainless steel to prevent damaging its finish. To find the grain, angle your stainless steel item towards the light. Look for where the vertical or horizontal lines are going and follow them as you wipe.
Wipe Again to Remove Adhesive Remains
If you’re still unable to easily remove the adhesive at this point, repeat the process again. Add oil to your cloth or towel and dab it onto the residue. Wait for another 5 minutes and wipe the surface clean once again.
This second pass isn’t required in most instances but may be necessary for more stubborn adhesive residue.
Method 3: Removing Stickers With Alcohol
Last but not least, you can also use rubbing alcohol to remove stickers from stainless steel. Chances are, you already have this at home, making it the most accessible solution. Here’s how to use alcohol to remove stickers.
Put Some Rubbing Alcohol Onto a Paper Towel
Get your bottle of alcohol and dab some onto a paper towel. Lay the towel over the sticker for a couple of minutes. This will allow the alcohol to transfer from the towel to the sticker and dissolve the adhesive.
If your alcohol comes in a spray bottle, you can also spritz the sticker a few times and leave it to soak.
Rub Slowly Until the Glue Starts Dissolving
Once the alcohol has done its job, you should be able to easily rub the sticker off the stainless steel surface with a paper towel. You’ll notice most of the sticker coming off during this process. Make sure to rub gently and slowly to prevent scratching your stainless steel item.
Scrub the Sticker
If adhesive residue remains, continue scrubbing the sticker with a paper towel, focusing on the edges. You should be able to lift the sticker and peel it off with your fingers. If not, keep scrubbing until the residue comes off. You may want to add more alcohol to the paper towel for more stubborn stickers.
Remove Any Remaining Adhesive
After a good amount of scrubbing, you can use your fingernails to scrape any remaining adhesive off the surface. Similar to what we discussed in the rubbing oil method, follow the grain of the stainless steel when scraping to prevent scratching the surface and causing it to lose its luster.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways you can remove stickers from stainless steel without damaging its surface. Most adhesives are oil soluble, so when water-based detergent solutions don’t work, you can always turn to a can of WD-40, rubbing oil, or alcohol to remove your stickers from stainless steel easily and like a pro.