How to Clean Glue and Adhesive Stains From Furniture

A young woman sanding down an antique chair

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Everyone makes a mistake once in a while, even when building, repairing, or crafting, which might include dropping some glue on your clothing or work surface. However, spilling a little bit of glue on wood furniture doesn't have to mean it's been ruined.

This is particularly true for lower-quality types of glue that aren't as strong. However, super glue (cyanoacrylate glue), carpenter's glue (polyvinyl acetate), contact cement, and construction adhesive are so strong that you're unlikely to get it off without damaging the furniture itself—but you can take measures to minimize the effect.

Check the Glue's Label

For the best advice about removing specific types of glue, look to the glue manufacturer—they likely have advice for removing the adhesive from surfaces after errant spills. If you have the glue container, check the print for removal tips or visit the manufacturer's website for recommendations.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Unused credit card
  • Cleaning rags
  • #600-grit sandpaper
  • #1200-grit sandpaper

Materials

  • Furniture polish
  • Nail polish remover
  • Cotton swabs
  • Mineral oil
  • Satin or dull gloss finish

Instructions

To avoid ruining wood surfaces, try the gentlest solutions first and work your way up to stronger, more abrasive solutions as necessary.

  1. Scrape Away Excessive Adhesive

    If there's a lot of glue or adhesive on the wood, use an old credit card that you're no longer using (or something similar with a hard edge) to scrape away the excess. If you need a stronger tool, use a pull scraper with a sharp blade for larger glue spots or a razor knife for small spots of dried glue, particularly carpenter's glue. You may have to scrape away the glue in layers, so be careful as you get closer to the bottom of the glue and closer to the wood itself.

  2. Apply Furniture Polish

    After you've manually removed excess adhesive from the wood surface, try furniture polish to remove the glue. Spray the polish directly on the sticky stuff and gently rub it with a cloth. It might help lift the adhesive or glue off, and you'll be done with the task. 

  3. Try Nail Polish Remover

    Your next effort to remove spilled glue from wood furniture should be acetone-based nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol, particularly if it's super glue that has been spilled. Dip a cotton swab in the nail polish remover and, with a light touch, rub the swab over the glue and then lift it up using your fingernail or a butter knife. Be careful not to damage the finish, if possible. 

  4. Use Mineral Oil

    If the nail polish remover doesn't do the trick, pour a small amount of mineral oil on the spilled adhesive and rub at it with a clean cloth. If you only have mineral spirits, combine it in a 1-to-1 ratio with olive oil to make a spirits-oil mixture before lightly applying it to the glue spot.

  5. Use a Commercial Residue Remover

    If none of the previous methods work to remove the adhesive from the wood, try a residue remover. Test the remover in an inconspicuous place before using it to ensure that it won't damage the finish of the wood. 

  6. Wipe Down the Wood

    Finish your cleaning job by wiping the wood with a clean cloth. 

Clean Tougher Glue Stains With Sandpaper

If you can't get rid of the adhesive or glue stains with residue remover and the various steps above, it might be time to consider a more aggressive approach. You might have to turn to sanding it off the wood.

  1. Sand With #600-Grit Sandpaper

    Start with #600-grit sandpaper, which is very fine-grit sandpaper that is less likely to damage the wood finish of the furniture. Sand the residue until it's level with the wood.

  2. Switch to #1200-Grit Sandpaper

    Sand the remaining residue with the even finer-grit sandpaper until it's been removed.

  3. Refinish With Gloss

    If necessary, apply satin or dull gloss finish to return the shine to the wood.

Tips

  • To protect your wood furniture, always put down a protective layer whenever anyone is doing a craft project that requires glue or adhesive. Old newspapers, a drop cloth, or plastic wrap will all keep the adhesive from sticking to the furniture. 
  • To avoid ruining wood surfaces, try the gentlest solutions first and work your way up to stronger, more abrasive solutions as necessary.
  • Before trying any products, particularly ones you're less familiar with, test the solution in a small, inconspicuous area. 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.