Removing Glue and Adhesive Stains from Furniture

Grandfather and grandchildren building up a model airplane
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You were using some super glue and a little dripped onto your oak table. Your son covered his wood dresser with stickers, and now he wants to take them off. After a late-night model-plane building session, you noticed drops and smears of model glue on your hardwood floor. How do you get rid of them? Here are a few ideas for what to try to get those stains off of wood.

General Recommendations

For the best advice about removing specific types of glue, look to the glue manufacturer. If you have the glue container, check the print for removal tips, or visit the manufacturer's website for recommendations. Barring that, it's best to start with the safest solutions first and move to stronger solutions only if you have to. Before trying anything on your furniture, test it in a small, inconspicuous area of the wood you are trying to clean. Keep in mind that a lot of wood furniture and flooring has a surface finish, such as lacquer or polyurethane. In this case, you're removing the glue from the finish rather than the wood, so be careful that the remover won't damage the finish material.

Orange-Based Cleaner

Try an orange-based cleaner as your first line of defense. This will work especially well on small adhesive stains. You can also use an actual orange peel to dissolve glue. Rub the peel onto the stain, let it sit for 10–15 minutes and then wipe with a clean rag.


Apply WD-40 to a clean, dry rag, then rub the stain in small circles to remove the adhesive. This works especially well for sticker residues. WD-40 and similar penetrating lubricants are oil-based and can stain fabrics and other surfaces; use it only where you can safely remove the lubricant after the glue is gone.

Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is an effective home remedy for many types of sticker adhesive. Soak a cotton ball or cotton swab with the alcohol and then rub the stain until the adhesive is gone. It can also help to rub the stained area with a damp cloth and a small amount of dish soap after using alcohol.

Petroleum Jelly 

For a glob of glue on a finished wood surface, swab petroleum jelly over the glue spot and leave it for several hours or overnight. This should loosen up the adhesive so you can pull it away, then rub it with a clean cloth. Petroleum jelly is, of course, oil-based, so be sure to keep it away from fabrics to prevent oil stains.

Dish Soap

Try a mild dish detergent (for hand-washing dishes; not detergent for the dishwasher), and a small amount of warm water on wood furniture or flooring with a heavy surface finish. Rinse the area with a damp cloth afterward. Do not use this method on unfinished or oil-finished wood, which might not do well with the moisture.


If you've got a glob of stubborn glue on an unfinished piece of wooden furniture, you can try carefully sanding it away with sandpaper. This is a good option if you're planning to refinish the piece. The trick is to find the right grit of sandpaper: If it's too coarse, you'll scuff up the sanded area; if it's too fine, you can make the wood so smooth that it accepts stain or other finish differently than the surrounding wood. Experiment in an inconspicuous area to find the best match for the original surface.