DIY Gunk Remover: Non-toxic recipe to remove sticky adhesive residue

I’m pretty excited about this one, folks. I’m big into making my own cleaning products and finding cheap substitutes for things I’d normally purchase…and this recipe hits a home run in so many ways.

DIY Goo Gone - Non-toxic sticky residue remover

DIY Goo Gone: Two ingredients, non-toxic, works great.

You know how price tags and jar labels leave a sticky residue behind that’s super tough to rub off? For years I’ve used the major brand products to fix the problem, namely Goo Gone or Goof Off. I’ve been looking for a homemade replacement for a while, both for the simplicity of one less thing to buy at the store, and because I had the vague impression that it’s something of a toxic chemical. Before publishing this, I thought I’d confirm the facts by looking up some info on their ingredients.

Both Goo Gone and Goof Off brands are required to post Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) on their website for the hazardous materials they contain. Turns out these two products have quite the list of reasons not to buy them.

Here is a sampling (for full details, you can do a web search for the product you have and add “MSDS”):

  • Causes eye irritation
  • Contact with skin may cause irritation; Prolonged or repeated contact with skin may cause drying or cracking
  • Ingestion/Inhalation can cause headache, nausea, drowsiness, central nervous system depression, convulsions and loss of consciousness. ASPIRATION HAZARD. Harmful or fatal if aspirated into lungs. (Um, yikes.)
  • Extremely flammable
  • Keep away from children

You get the picture. Which is why I’m so excited to announce victory in the hunt for a good substitute. Last Saturday, I started my morning by going to one of my favorite thrift store and found, among other things, a box of pint-sized mason jars plus two big gallon jars with lids, which ranked as a spectacular start to my day. All of them had sticky labels, of course. I purchased my first jar of coconut oil last week after reading online about its many, many uses. This article in particular contained just the nugget of wisdom I had been looking for:

34. Mix with baking soda for a non-toxic “Goo Gone”.

Replacing a toxic cleaning product with one that’s safe enough to eat? Sign me up. (But don’t. It would taste awful.)

Coconut oil and baking soda - non-toxic substitute for Goo Gone or Goof Off

Equal parts coconut oil and baking soda makes an effective, non-toxic replacement for Goo Gone.

I mixed 1 part baking soda and 1 part coconut oil, rubbed a little on the sticky spot, and let it sit for a minute or so. Then I scrubbed the spot with a scouring pad, rinsed it off, and voilà! Good as new, gunk is gone. There was one jar that had a full label on it that barely budged when I tried to peel it off―that one took three cycles of putting the mixture on, letting it sit, and scrubbing. But that’s right on par with how much Goo Gone I would have applied as well―from my test, the two are interchangeable as far as effectiveness in getting rid of the sticky stuff. And this mixture smells like tropical paradise.

My next test was our vacuum cleaner. We’ve had it for a year and a half, and still hadn’t gotten around to getting the big giant sticker off the front. That stupid sticker has been bugging me, but I was worried that Goo Gone would affect the color so I let it be after attempting unsuccessfully to peel the thing off.

Big stupid vacuum sticker.

Big stupid vacuum sticker.

Problem solved!

Sticker is gone! Ninja Bob is trying to figure out where that yummy coconut smell is coming from.

One quick caution–the baking soda is a mild abrasive, which is ideal for glass, but might leave faint scratches on plastic. If you’re concerned about plastic finish remaining perfectly smooth after you get the residue off, you might want to try something else first.

I mixed up about a tablespoon of each and had some left over after all this, because a little goes a long way. I’m going to store it under the sink for next time. I got a pint of organic coconut oil at my local co-op for $9.99, and the baking soda was $1. Both are available on Amazon (here is the brand of coconut oil I use), and each one has hundreds of other uses in your home, for cooking, cleaning and body care, so you can use up the rest real easy. (For ideas on using coconut oil, read this or this. I don’t have articles to recommend off the top of my head for alternative uses for baking soda…but Google or Pinterest can help you, there’s no shortage.)

There you have it! Let me know if you try it, or if you have any additional tips of your own for other non-toxic cleaning gunk removers.

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  • Catherine

    Just use mayo. You cover the sticker with mayo and leave on for about 15 to 25 minutes and then remove with paper towel. For more stubborn goo, leave for longer. :)

    • Michelle

      Thanks for the suggestion, Catherine–I’ll have to try this one out, too!

  • Emily

    Thanks for the tip! I just tried it out on some glass bottles and was pleased with how well it worked.

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  • Pam Davis

    Eucalyptus oil does the same job – just wipe it over the sticky residue & hey presto. Smells nice, too.

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  • Kerri

    Did you use the coconut oil in its solid form or did you heat it up first?

    • rosyblu

      Hi Kerri, I heated the coconut oil just a bit when I mixed it with the baking soda, because it was easier to blend that way. After that, I just keep it in a jar and smear it on at room temperature.

      • Kerri

        Thank you!

      • Gammy/Tammy

        I wonder if any oil added with baking soda would work?

  • ily

    can i use virgin coconut oil?

    • rosyblu

      Yes, you can–from what I can tell, it doesn’t make a difference in this recipe whether you’re using virgin coconut oil or not.

  • Nancy Cavillones

    I used this concoction on my wood floor, where one of my kids stuck a label. Worked like a charm! One caveat: my floors are in sore need of refinishing anyway so I wasn’t worried about scratching the wood. If you have nice wood floors, I would test it first in an inconspicuous spot. 

    • rosyblu

      I never thought of using it on wood floors, that’s brilliant! I imagine it would be easier on the wood than actual goo gone would be, since it has fewer chemicals (although I agree about testing it first for nice floors!)

      • http://www.facebook.com/blmcfarlane Brenda McFarlane

        One thought, I’ve hear that if you ever want to refinish your floor with something other than oil, don’t use oil on floor, it rebuffs any later attempt to refinish wherever the oil soaked into the raw wood.

        • rosyblu

          Thanks for the input Brenda–good to know!

          • Emeline

            I can definitely assure you that what Brenda heard is 100% true. But you can use Terre des Sommières or failing that talcum or flour to soak the grease out before applying your furnishing (leave it on at least a full day though)

  • Likeyournails

    I use this same mixture to brush my teeth

    • rosyblu

      That’s interesting! Does it seem to work pretty well?

      • http://www.facebook.com/pam.fries.5 Pam Fries

        Works great. I use Coconut oil, baking soda, Xylitol and a bit of peppermint essential oil. Sometimes I dampen it with hydrogen peroxide for whitening. You don’t have that coated feeling one your teeth ever since there is no glycerin like in commercial toothpaste. Your teeth can get the minerals to re-mineral-ize since they do not have a coating on them that prevents that.

        • rosyblu

          Thanks for the input, ladies–I’m going to try this when my toothpaste runs out!

        • oros

          I tried switching to that recipe last summer, but I couldn’t get over the awful salty taste mixed with the oiliness. Do you have any suggestions? I’m really keen on ditching regular toothpaste :0

          • yourorganizedfriend

            Hi, that is what I use to brush my teeth as well, just add some Agave to change the taste. you can find my recipe at http://www.yourorganizedfriend.com

    • http://www.facebook.com/blmcfarlane Brenda McFarlane

      I was thinking the same thing, I make a toothpaste with both ingredients.

    • BethM

      Me too!

  • Bethany

    Great recipe! Thanks for sharing. I added a few drops of tangerine essential oil and didn’t have to use a scouring pad. 

    • rosyblu

      That sounds fantastic! Adding tangerine essential oil to my shopping list…

  • Minilorenz

    Hi there i am not sure if you will read this as it long after you have posted. But here goes I just sort of burnt my iron hot plate (Tefal) & it has a braunish tint to it and something stuck on it as well..any advice on how to remove all this without scratching  the Tefal plate would be super. Iron instructions don’t really help :( your post says baking soda will scratch sir am wondering if you have any other ideas! Thanks
    Minnet

    • rosyblu

      Hi there! I’m not familiar with the hot plate you’re talking about, but you will definitely want to be careful with using ingredients that are abrasive (like the baking soda in the recipe above). You could try using just the coconut oil on its own to see if it gets rid of it, or one of the other comments here suggests using tangerine essential oil, eucalyptus oil or mayo. Hopefully one of those will do the trick!

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  • my_girl_thursday

    I did this but substituted EVOO for coconut oil and it worked like a charm.  Thanks for the tip!

  • River

    To make this, I combined 1 tablespoon Extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon baking soda, and a few drops lemon extract. It worked just as you said! I thought it is very useful to know olive oil works to, since it is a more common oil.Thanks for posting this! It was REALLY USEFUL!
    PS I also did it on plastic, and it worked ok. Try it on a small place first though!

  • Dktalley55

    After reading the article and several comments, I decided to try T-Tree oil(in African American Hair care section among other places) to remove lable residue from a plastic container. Rubbed a few drops onto goo, used plastic pot scrubber and wiped away residue with a cotton pad. Washed surface with dish detergent. Fantastic, fast, no scratches.

  • Megan B

    would this work on photos? i had photos hanging on ribbons at my wedding last year, & finally went through them in order to hang them in my home…only to find a bunch of them got u-glue stickies stuck to the front of them! i don’t want to damage the photos anymore by trying this one them, but i’ll try it if you think it’s safe

    • rosyblu

      I don’t think I’d use this on a photo… I’d start with a little bit of water on a Q-tip and see what happens. I’ve heard of using rubbing alcohol to clean photos, too. Does anyone else have any tips for Megan?

    • Domer49

      Megan, take your original photos to a photo shop in your neighborhood, they can make you .jpg files of each, and save to a mem stick. Then load them into your puter, fire up on of the free photo fixers online (fotoflexer dot com), fix up your files digitally, save and print them (you might have to go to your local photo shop again, for enlargements, etc) Good Luck

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  • Laura

    My husband had to change the chain on his motorcycle tonight, so I made some up for him to clean his hands. It worked so well! I might even add some lemon or orange essential oil just so it smells like the store bought stuff. Thank you for sharing!

  • Erica

    Ah, this works brilliantly!!! Thanks so much :)

  • Beth Hatos

    what about dog stains or other stains like carpet? I was thinking of mixing half and half with goo be gone in my vacumm shampooer but the go gone is grease based and I was thinking…ewww. However the instructions do say to put soapy water on the area afterwards???? Have you tried your coconut oil and baking soda for shapooing whole carpets? Goo gone does get up pet stains and coffee, but to shampoo the whole carpet…whew.
    Beth

    • rosyblu

      Hi Beth–I don’t have a ton of carpet-cleaning experience, but I would not recommend using this mixture for carpets. Since it’s made with oil, I think it would be hard to rinse out of the carpet once you put it on.

      Best DIY cleaner I’ve used for pet messes is vinegar…anyone else have any remedies for Beth?

      • Rouschel

        Yup, blot the stain as dry as possible, scrub in baking soda as deeply as possible into the stain and then pour on the white vinegar. Let the reaction of baking soda and vinegar do the work for you. Best to test in a small area of corner of carpet first to be on safe side. I blot with damp cloth afterwards to get rid of vinegar smell, let dry and then vacuum any remaining baking soda bits.

  • Rachel

    Great idea, I will have to try this. I tried it with vegetable oil and Borax and it worked great too. I think the baking soda sounds less toxic though, will have to try that next.

    • Tracey

      Borax is a natural & versatile product as well. In very small amounts it can even be mixed w/ water & ingested to help w/ various things internally. However, baking soda is for sure much cheaper.

  • Sweet & Woodsy

    This is a great idea! I like to use Lemon essential oil for removing sticky substances too.

  • http://twitter.com/schrammalot schrammy.

    Didn’t work at all on tape from glass.

  • Kim C

    I have to laugh at your cat! I make soap (to sell) and everytime I start making it, my cat will come down while I’m making it…why? She LOVES coconut oil! I give her a little – she eats it – and then is content to leave me alone!! I wonder if yours would like it, too? I keep thinking it might be helping with Bailey’s hairballs!!

    • rosyblu

      That’s hilarious Kim–I never thought of giving him any! I’ll have to try it out to see if Ninja Bob likes coconut oil, too :o)

  • Val

    I wonder if Vaseline would work in place of Coconut Oil, and much cheaper

    • Leigh Hudson

      They say peanut butter works well to remove goo and labels

  • Guest

    I just use neat tea tree oil or Eucalyptus Oil. But I live in Australia so it’s really cheap and easy to get.

  • http://twitter.com/IndecisivelyMe claire thompson

    It’s also good for scalp and face… The coconut oil is an antibacterial and moisturiser and as oil and grease is oil soluble it helps lift the dirt from your scalp and face, while the baking soda is gentle enough to use on skin and is a natural exfoliate. .. Also, baking soda instead of fabric softener is amazing, if you have sensitive skin it’s a really good, cost effective way to soften your clothes and bed sheets.. Especially for children since nobody wants harsh chemicals on their children’s skin.

    • rosyblu

      Thanks Claire–I didn’t realize coconut oil was antibacterial, too. When you use baking soda as fabric softener, how much do you use? do you just put it in the washer cup, or do you sprinkle it on the clothes before you turn on the washer?

  • cnith

    Interesting… I’ve always used water, alcohol, or just plain whatever cooking oil I’ve had for labels. Never had to make a concoction like this.

  • DLB

    So I am probably the only housewife in the US that doesn’t have baking soda/powder in my pantry at all times. I do have Barkeepers Friend though and when I needed to get label residue off a glass bottle I used about a tsp of Barkeepers Friend, an old srub brush and a dab of water. Worked GREAT! Plus my sink got a cleaning when I was done with the bottles. :-)

  • Pda

    Thank you will give it a try :)

  • Packo

    I’ve been digging baking soda as a natural alt_cleaner for a few years now. Just recently noticed the local co-op has an even more natural looking one in the bulk bins. More sparkly/crystalline and inviting as a tooth paste or in place of alka seltzer. A super easy DIY toothpaste is: baking soda and water to desired consistency + a bit of Jason brand or other fluoride-free natural stuff from your store-bought tube.

  • Rachel Ramey

    If you’re going to use coconut oil for cleaning, in addition to food/body care purposes, I think you could use the cheaper, refined stuff from Wal-Mart for this cleaning stuff. In case anyone was balking at the idea of using pricey coconut oil on jar labels.

    • Beth Dolan-Heipp

      Buy organic! The last thing we want to do is have nasty coconut sales going up. Just buy it in bulk and its cheap enough.

      • Rachel Ramey

        If your budget will allow you to buy all organic, even for cleaning supplies, and still feed your family, that’s great! Unfortunately, not all of us have the option to buy all organic all the time.

        • Sasharay

          You want unrefined, the refined stuff is only good for cooking and doesn’t have the same benefits as unrefined

  • Mary

    I had NEARLY admitted defeat on this plastic bottle. It was the perfect size and colour for the craft project I wanted it for but had a label that covered 95% of it. The plastic-coated/paper label had peeled off easily, but the glue refused to budge. I’d finished a bottle of goo-gone and refused to go buy more, since it didn’t work anyway. I’d tried lemon juice, orange peel, rubbing alcohol and nail polish remover…got a head ache from all that odor! It had even gone through the dishwasher repeatedly.The coconut oil and baking soda worked like a dream, in one application, without waiting!

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  • Karla

    Thank you! Just used the recipe to remove (very old) sticky gunk from the inside of my dryer! Yeah, gone! I don’t even know what it was, but goo gone didn’t touch it! Now, it’s clean and good as new.

    • rosyblu

      Thanks for the note, Karla, happy to hear it worked well!

  • Cary

    One thing backing soda is good for is removing stubborn stains off of your carpets. If the stain is set in just spritz some club soda on the stained area then sprinkle baking soda on top of that then spritz club soda again the sit back and watch this stuff go to work after a few minutes DAB do not rub, or twist the wrist with a clean white towel or old clean white t-shirt. If it is new stain the skip the first spritz of club soda. If it is an old set in stain then you may have to do this a couple of times. One thing to remember let it dry before you allow traffic on the area or you will have a larger stain from the foot traffic.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/rose.stalter Rose Stalter

    I do too but use raw coconut oil, tastes much better!

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  • vanessa webb

    actually you can use vegatable oil or even baby oil. Coconut oil is a little expensive, and can be used on & in your body. Lord knows Id never use baby oil ON my body but for something like this its great.

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  • etchasketch1986

    This is amazing! I can’t tell you how many items I’ve ruined trying to get sticker glue off with acetone. This works 1000 times better and it won’t ruin your clothes! Genius!

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  • Melissa

    Just used this to successfully remove silly putty from my carpeting! Thank you!

    • http://www.rosybluhome.com/ Michelle Urbick

      Oooh, good to know! (Side note: I once got silly putty stuck on our popcorn ceiling when I was a kid. Parents = Pissed!)

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  • niko2392

    AMAZING!!! Thank you!

  • shawnana

    Sort of off topic- where did you get that cute brown label for the jar? I love this instructional and I will try it out. Thanks!

    • http://www.rosybluhome.com/ Michelle Urbick

      Hi Shawnana! I made it. I printed in my favorite font on a piece of butcher paper that I cut to 8.5×11 and ran it through my printer, then cut it out with the arrows. I put it on the jar with double sided tape. Kind of a lot of work…but totally worth it, because I think cleaning product labels should always be cute :) xoxo

  • Virginia Ginny Harper Graham

    I ran across this by accident. I was trying many different things I had at home to get that sticky stuff off after I removed a label off a glass jar to no avail. Then I tried using peanut cooking oil and it work. I just dab some on a rag, placed the jar on a paper towel, dabbed the sticky area with the rag, let it sit for a few minutes. ta! da! It worked like a charm!

    • Cheryl

      This makes total sense! Peanut butter is great at getting gum out of hair – it just breaks the gum right down. Makes me wonder if just using peanut oil would be as effective.

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  • Cindy

    Haha, this is basically my toothpaste. So maybe I’ll just use my toothpaste on the gunk. lol

  • Kim Clayton

    Any options for those of us who are allergic to Coconut?

    • http://www.rosybluhome.com/ Michelle Urbick

      Hi Kim! I’ve been told this works equally well with olive oil.

  • One happy puppy

    Thank you for this – My little dog walked through asphalt sealer that had been put down earlier in the day and the only thing anyone could tell me to use was Goo Gone which if injested can make you sick. I didn’t want to use it on my dog. I did the mixture of Veg. oil and baking soda, a couple of times (with him licking each time) then applied it once again and wrapped the puppies feet in plastic wrap for 20 minutes, then used baby shampoo and it all came off. YEAH

  • Mary

    Just used Comet SOFT cleanser and elbow grease. Worked well on stubborn sticker:)

  • Lisa

    Thank you! I just used this to get residual duct tape off my hardwood floor. It worked like a charm.

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  • moelisha

    DIY Goo gone… Coconut oil is pretty awesome stuff. Who new with its million uses,there would be a 1,000,001?!?!?!

  • Erin

    I used this recipe on a great craft I made for my friend’s kids – I needed to get the label residue off of a water bottle. I was amazed at how well it worked! Thank you!
    The craft I made was a relax bottle/time out timer, so cool!
    http://mycrazyblessedlife.com/2011/10/03/relax-bottletime-out-timer/

  • fs9000

    I don’t know if your take on Goo Gone is fair. Have you looked at the MSDS for baking soda? There’s a whole paragraph on ” toxic effects on humans.”

  • Christi

    I’ve never used goo gone, but this recipe worked well for me with a little elbow grease. I had the ingredients on hand…so saved me time & money along with the other health benefits!

  • orianna

    i just tried this and WOW!!! i put it on some glue that had already been through 3 rounds of goo gone with minimal success. one application of this snd a huge chunk came off. awesome :)

  • Maryjen

    Wow! I didn’t have the jar of coconut oil to use with the baking soda to remove the duct tape residue, so I used my coconut oil baking spray, and it did the same thing. Amazing stuff!

  • Jana Sauer

    I saw your recipe and and thought I need this! Then as I was mixing the two ingredients together it dawned on me that it would make a great teeth whitener. The results were amazing! Because of the abrasiveness of the baking soda I would not recommend using more often then once a week.

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