How to Remove Duct Tape Residue

A square of duct tape with smaller pieces inside.
  • 1 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-40
What You'll Need
Butter knife, putty knife, or razor blade
WD-40, Vaseline, car wax, or mineral oil
Cotton cloth
Dish soap

Has duct tape saved you a few times when you needed quick fixes before you could fully repair an item? Duct tape is illustrious for its many uses and is a must-have tool for the DIYer, but it can leave behind an awfully sticky residue on many a surface after the tape is removed. Get rid of that duct tape residue once and for all using the following methods for a smooth, residue-free surface that will seem like the duct tape was never even there.

Step 1 - Scrape Away

Several putty knives.

Use a butter knife, putty knife, or razor blade to gently scrape away any thick, gunky residue before treating the residue with a liquid solution. Be careful not to scratch the surface you’re working on, especially if it’s painted—such as a car, boat, or appliance. Press very lightly, staying a short distance away from any delicate areas of paint or sealant. Scratching can do more damage than the duct tape goo.

Step 2 - Soak the Surface

Get a slippery, petroleum-based liquid such as WD-40, Vaseline, a car wax, or mineral oil and apply it to the sticky duct tape residue with a cotton cloth that won’t scratch delicate surfaces. Some folks also suggest using lighter fluid, rubbing alcohol, or acetone, but some of these solutions can take more soaking time and power to work through the sticky residue duct tape leaves behind. Products like acetone also run the risk of damaging finished surfaces.

Step 3 - Rub With a Cotton Cloth

A cleaning cloth held by a yellow-gloved hand.

Use a cotton cloth to rub at the sticky residue and remove it, adding more of your petroleum-based or residue-removing liquid, if needed. Saturating the area and the residue can help remove it more quickly, rather than just dabbing with a little of the liquid at a time. Also, a thicker cloth with some scrubbing power may be helpful, as long as it isn’t too thick or rough and is made of cotton or another scratch-resistant cloth.

Step 4 - Rub the Residue

Use a small section of the cloth, such as the corner, and saturate it in the residue-removing liquid if there’s still resistant residue. It may take a bit of rubbing and elbow grease to remove the residue. Never mix multiple residue-removing liquids—just stick to one for safety’s sake. It can take up to 30 or 45 minutes of rubbing to get some of that goo removed, so you may have to keep at it. If you get tired, you can always take a short break and come back later to rub some more.

Step 5 - Clean up With Soap

A close-up image of soap bubbles against a white background.

After all of the duct tape residue has been rubbed away, it’s time to clean the surface because it may be a little slippery or glossy. Use gentle dish soap in some water and another clean cloth, preferably cotton. Dip the cloth in the soapy water, and rub it over the slippery surface left behind after removing the duct tape residue. Wipe it dry with another edge or side of the cloth to make sure you’ve removed all of the slippery residue.