How to Remove Adhesive from Painted Walls

hand sanding wall with tool
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Sticky stuff happens when you're a homeowner and at some point, you will need to know how to remove adhesive from painted walls. Do it correctly and you'll be left with a nice, smooth wall, but do it the wrong way and you'll have an even uglier mess on your hands.

The Sticky Stuff on Your Walls

Stick happens. All kinds of stuff will get on your walls over the years, but adhesive residue seems to be designed to be the most frustrating.

Adhesive can be left behind by tape, stickers, wallpaper, and stick-on hooks and shelving. If you attempt to paint or finish a painted wall with adhesive residue left on it, you will wind up with a poor final result that looks bad and ends up being a bigger problem later.

You need to know how to remove adhesive from wall areas without causing damage and without causing yourself more grief.

Assessing the Situation

So, how to get adhesive off wall areas? The method will depend entirely on the glue.

If you've ever had to go buy glue for any reason, then you know the universal truth of crafting: not all adhesives are the same. Certain adhesives require different practices in order to remove.

First, figure out what you're dealing with. Gently rub your finger over the adhesive substance on your wall to get a feel for the texture.

If the residue is hard and has no give to it, you are dealing with a strong adhesive, something like super bonding glue.

If, however, the residue feels soft and pliable, you are looking at a rubber cement type of glue.

Sticker and tape residue are usually crusty-looking and relatively flat, and often some of the paint around it will be missing or chipped.

How to Remove Adhesive From Painted Walls the Right Way

Unfortunately, since glue remnants take away the smoothness of the drywall surface and can destroy the overall look of the paint job from underneath, they have to go. This will make your walls look bad, and paint will not cover it, so you'll need to deal with this problem at some point, no matter what.

The best way to remove adhesive is to do it without causing damage to walls, which is why this procedure is so tricky. Work carefully and slowly to save the wall from harm as much as you possibly can.

Prep the Wall

Before you start to remove the adhesive, cover the floor below you with cloth or old paper to collect any debris from the process. You can also use painter's tape and place it around the affected area to help you stay within this spot as you work.

Safety should also be among your top priorities when dealing with chemical products. It's always a good idea to put on some goggles and gloves before you dive into any DIY.

Use Friction

There are no special tools needed for this step. Use your finger and gently but firmly rub the adhesive in a circular motion while applying some pressure.

This is the best way to remove adhesive when it works, but this only works with certain types of adhesive.

Rubber cement and other similar adhesives will react to the friction and the heat you're generating. Remove as much adhesive as you can, if you can remove any adhesive with this method at all.

Do not scratch the wall and do not be too aggressive, as some adhesives simply will not come off the wall this way. This is just an initial step that can work, but there are other methods that will get that sticky stuff off your walls without getting aggressive.

This is the easiest method and the first you should try when trying to learn how to remove adhesive from wall areas, but if it doesn’t work, don’t keep trying it. Move on to the next method.

Apply Heat

The worst enemy of an adhesive is water and heat. That's why steaming envelopes open really does work.

In the case of adhesive on the wall, however, you can use a hair dryer. If you don't have a hair dryer, you can use an iron but exercise extreme caution while doing this.

Plug the iron into an outlet and let it sit until it's hot. Place the flat of the iron close to the wall near the sticky spot and allow the heat to penetrate the adhesive for several minutes, or hold the blow dryer near the spot and blow hot air directly on it for the same length of time.

While holding the iron or hair dryer in place but never touching the wall with the tool, use a damp paper towel and gently scrub the sticky area in a circular motion.

Apply a little bit of pressure if the adhesive proves tricky, but again, avoid scratching the wall and do not get too aggressive. Pay attention to where the iron or hair dryer is at all times as you work.

Dissolve the Adhesive

If heat is not working, try liquid. Sticker and tape adhesive can usually be dissolved.

Pour some of the baby oil onto a clean sponge and wipe the adhesive with it in a gentle circular motion. Coat the spot liberally and let it soak for 20 minutes.

Apply a damp paper towel to the spot and rub the adhesive, again in a circular motion, to remove it from the wall. Baby oil is already a DIY adhesive remover—no additional ingredients needed.

Sand It Down

This is a last resort that you should use only when other methods fail. When you're dealing with super glue or a similar type of glue, however, this may be the only effective method to remove every last bit of residue from the wall.

Hardened superglue does not budge in the face of heat or liquid. It's pretty stubborn stuff, so now you will need to get a bit aggressive.

Using fine-grained sandpaper, gently apply this directly to the hardened glue. Work slowly and with small and precise movements to sand the entire area smooth.

Yes, this method will cause damage to the paint, and you will need to go back and touch up the paint afterward. However, you will no longer have a spot on the wall with hardened glue still stuck to it.

Adhesive On Painted Walls FAQ

gloved hands cleaning wall with circle buttons

How do you remove wall adhesive without removing paint?

If you use a little heat and light friction, perhaps in conjunction with a mild chemical compound, you can remove adhesive from wall areas without causing damage to paint.

The question of how to remove adhesive without damaging paint becomes trickier, however, when you're dealing with strong glue types. In some cases, it may not be possible to remove every trace of adhesive without resorting to tough methods that do cause damage to the paint underneath the glue.

How do you remove strong adhesive from painted walls?

The best adhesive for painted walls is something soft and pliable, like rubber cement, because this comes off the wall quite easily. But that's the best-case scenario, and in many instances, that's probably not what you're dealing with.

To remove adhesive from wall paint, particularly strong adhesive, you might need to resort to using fine-grained sandpaper when heat and liquid solutions just don't work. This will cause noticeable damage to the wall, which you will have to touch up once the adhesive is gone.

When it comes to finding an adhesive that won't damage wall paint, there are many two-sided tapes that are designed for just this purpose. Look for two-sided tape that is marketed as wall-safe or no-damage wall adhesive, and you'll find plenty of options.

When you start with the right type of adhesive in the first place, you won't have to worry about how to remove adhesive from wall areas.

What adhesive remover won't damage paint?

Removing adhesive from wall paint is actually something many homeowners have to contend with and there are many products on the market that can be used to dissolve glues. The trouble is, some of these formulas designed to remove wall adhesive will remove paint right along with it.

General purpose wall cleaners that are designed to be paint-safe can soften up glue enough that standard friction can then remove the residue. Other products are specifically formulated to remove adhesive residue but not paint.

Check the label carefully to make sure the adhesive remover you want to use is truly paint-safe. Before applying any unknown product to your wall, it's a good idea to test it on a piece of wall that is hidden from sight to make sure it really will not damage your paint.

Can you use Goo Gone on painted walls?

You might turn to Goo Gone when you want to know how to get adhesive off wall areas, because this stuff is known to be a bit of a magic cleaning formula for removing all sorts of messes. However, using this on your walls gets a bit tricky, so you need to make sure you are using it the right way.

Goo Gone spray gel does not remove paint from walls. However, the manufacturer recommends that it not be used on unpainted drywall at all, so apply this only to painted areas.

Second, Goo Gone latex paint clean-up spray and Goo Gone wipes will both damage paint, so don't use these at all to remove adhesive from wall areas.

How do you remove tape from wall without peeling paint?

Finding out how to get adhesive off wall areas will be the least of your problems if you remove tape the wrong way. Avoid future issues with adhesive removal by learning how to properly get rid of tape and remove it without damaging paint so that adhesive residue is the only thing you have to worry about.

First, do not pull or peel the tape off the wall without doing anything to it to loosen it up first. Going in there and grabbing the tape and yanking is a good way to cause damage, so avoid doing this, no matter how tempting it might be.

If you're working with a tape that's actually designed to go on walls, something like painter's tape, simply take a razor blade and gently score the tape all along the edges. Once this is done, grip an edge of the tape and slowly, very gently, pull it from the wall.

If you're dealing with a stickier tape, more like a masking tape, soften the adhesive first with a little heat from a blow dryer. Hold the hair dryer on the tape as you very gently take one edge of it and pull it very slowly, moving with extreme caution and keeping the heat trained on the spot where you are working.

If an even stronger adhesive stands before you, thoroughly wet the tape with a mixture of liquid soap and warm water. Stnadard dish destergent works well.

Once the tape is wet, you can grip an edge and gently pull it away from the wall. Work slowly and apply more soapy water as needed.

If you have duct tape or cellophane tape on the wall, which is super strong and very sticky, you will want to soften the glue first with a solvent that will help break down the glue. Apply acetone to the back of the tape and all around the edges.

Now, you can use a razor blade to guide you as you gently pull the tape off the wall. Slide the blade under the tape and work it along the wall, under the tape, as you remove it from the wall.

In all tape removal situations, you may leave a residue behind. Don't worry about this, as the most important thing is getting the tape off without damaging the paint.

You know how to remove adhesive from wall areas, so don't worry about the sticky residue tape leaves behind, and focus instead on getting the tape off with no damage.

What is the best adhesive remover for painted walls?

There are many products on the market if you're looking for an adhesive remover for your walls. Many companies make their own glue-removing formulas.

However, simple household products like vegetable oil and rubbing alcohol are highly effective at loosening and dissolving glue. These products won't damage your walls in the process of removing the adhesive.

Does vinegar remove adhesive?

Vinegar is a popular all-purpose cleaner for many areas of the house, as it can safely be used on a wide variety of surfaces and finishes. Soak a clean cloth in vinegar and hold this to the adhesive for several minutes.

This will soften the adhesive so that it can be scraped away, and the vinegar will not harm your walls or your paint. In fact, a mixture of water and vinegar works very well when you want to clean your walls of any scuffs, marks, or dirt.

What is a natural adhesive remover?

Lots of food items can be used to soften up adhesive stuck to walls. Peanut butter, mayonnaise, canola oil, and even vodka can all be used safely on painted walls to soften and remove adhesive.

Will rubbing alcohol remove adhesive?

Rubbing alcohol can be effective at removing adhesive, even old and hardened adhesive. However, it can also remove some types of paint.

Don't use rubbing alcohol to remove a sticky residue from painted walls, as you could end up removing the adhesive and the paint right along with it.

What dissolves adhesive?

Acetone will work to dissolve old adhesive very quickly, and it can be highly effective in getting rid of old glue. However, acetone is also a paint stripper, and it will take paint right off your walls.

When you need to get adhesive off painted walls, stick to more paint-friendly options and skip the acetone.

Further Reading

4 Tips for Removing Heavy Duty Construction Adhesives

5 Tips for Removing Spray Adhesives

8 Ways to Remove Epoxy Adhesive

A Primer on Interior Paint Finishes

How to Paint Over Acrylic Sealant

How to Remove Acrylic Caulk from a Painted Wall

How to Remove Dried Water-based Paint from Your Walls

How to Prepare a Wall for Paint After Removing Wallpaper

Removing Acrylic Adhesive: 2 Tips

Use Paint for Easy DIY Wall Treatments