Sticker Shock

By: Joe Truini

I think I’m a relatively calm, even-keeled person (considering I was born in the Bronx). I don’t get upset or flustered very easily. OK, once I flung my sand wedge into a water hazard, but who could blame me? That club didn’t hit a single green in two years!


Even fruit isn’t safe from sticker scourge

However, despite my ordinarily cool demeanor, there’s one thing that absolutely drives me mad: stickers. It seems that every single thing I buy nowadays—tools, books, furniture, frying pans, appliances, clothing, you name it—has some sort of decal, label, logo or UPC tag stuck to it.

Heck, you can’t even eat an apple anymore without first having to scrape off its sticky insignia. Even more maddening is that the sticker usually has a picture of an apple on it. (Hey, Mr. Apple Company, we get it, it’s an apple!)

I bought a new gas grill last year that had stickers plastered to nearly every surface, including one on its stainless steel hood that was only slightly smaller than my car’s windshield. And, of course, it was impossible to peel off the stickers in one piece. They came off in tiny bits and pieces, leaving behind a big mess. Apparently sticker manufacturers are using the same adhesive employed by NASA to secure heat-shield tiles to the nose of the Space Shuttle.

Well, unless my gas grill had to re-enter the atmosphere on its way from the Weber factory to my local Home Depot, there’s no reason why these stickers couldn’t be coated with a low-strength, peel-off adhesive.


Heat helps peel away stubborn stickers

Anyway (exhale), even though I haven’t solved all of my sticker issues, I did experience a small breakthrough recently when I discovered a quick, neat way to remove the most tenacious stickers and labels. And all you need is a little heat.

Take an electric heat gun, set it to “low,” and use it to warm up the sticker. Within just a few seconds, the heat will soften the adhesive and you’ll be able to peel off the sticker. (If you don’t own a heat gun, try using a blow dryer.)

For stickers larger than, say a legal-size envelope, it’s best to direct the heat at one corner of the sticker, and then peel it away just a bit, being careful not to tear the sticker. Then, aim the heat gun behind the peeled-up corner, wait a few seconds, then gently tug on the sticker using pliers, if necessary, to protect your hands from the hot air.

Continue to simultaneously apply heat and pull on the sticker until it peels off in one piece. If there’s any sticky residue left behind, remove it with a white cloth dampened with mineral spirits or acetone.

Now this technique works great on all metal and wood surfaces, and even some hard plastics. But be careful because the intense heat can melt plastic and blister wood finishes.

By the way, if you’d like to view a video of me removing stickers with a heat gun, check out the Simple Solutions on How to Remove Stickers and Labels Using Heat.

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2 Comments on “Sticker Shock”

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  • Official Comment:


    joe t. Says:
    April 12th, 2010 at 8:47 am

    Hey Craig, I feel your pain, buddy. I recently bought a stack of pine 1x6s, and every one had a UPC sticker glued to its surface. (I also found it odd that the stickers stated that the boards were a product of Sweden. Sweden? The USA has more pine trees than citizens, and we’re importing pine planks from a Scandinavian country that has an incredibly high cost of living. I don’t get it? Anyway…)
    It’s easy enough to scrape or peel off each sticker, but you must remove the sticky residue left behind, otherwise you’ll see the sticker’s “footprint” when you go to apply a coat of stain or varnish.
    Sanding alone won’t always remove the glue, so I recommend scrubbing the spot with a white cloth dampened with mineral spirits or acetone. Wait for the spot to dry then sand as usual.
    That procedure’s a big hassle, I know, but your only other option is to cut out the section with the sticker or–and here’s what I typically do–be sure to place the stickered surface toward the back of the project, where it won’t be seen.
    Thanks for writing, Craig, and good luck!–Joe T.



  • Craig Brewster Says:
    April 11th, 2010 at 1:08 am

    What drives me crazy is stickers on hardwood boards. The last thing you want is glue to mess up the staining of the wood. You have a good tip on removing stickers.


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