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How to Get Tape Residue Off a Car Without Damaging It — 8 Tips and Tricks

drywall paper tape

Nothing says new car like the luxurious smell of the interior when you drive it fresh off the lot. However, dealership stickers are annoying and are probably the first thing to be removed from your new vehicle. Similarly, if you’ve recently repaired your vehicle’s windows, you might have duct tape residue clinging to the glass panes. Thankfully, these sticky leftovers aren’t difficult to remove, but you want to definitely make sure you use the right tools, so you don’t scratch your glass or paint.

car and road divider

The 8 Trusted Ways to Remove Tape Residue from Your Vehicle

You can try any of these methods, or use a combination for particularly stubborn stains:

1. Hot Water and Soap

Dunking a clean towel into a bucket of hot soapy water and gently rubbing it on the residue might solve the problem right away. It’s worth your first shot, as it’s the least invasive method with almost nothing that can go wrong. Just make sure you use a clean towel without dirt or foreign particles on it that could scratch your paint.

2. Vinegar

If hot water and soap didn’t cut it, don’t dump your bucket just yet. Add some vinegar to the mix and try again. You probably don’t want to use vinegar on the first attempt though because it has some pretty strong components that can damage your car’s paint. If you do decide to give it a try, don’t let it linger on the paint for too long, and be sure to wash the affected area of your car with plain soap and water afterwards.

Image Credit: Vinegar by evita-ochel, Pixabay

3. Isopropyl Alcohol

Also known as rubbing alcohol, isopropyl alcohol isn’t the type you’d take to a party, but it can fix many common problems around your house, including breaking down annoying residue. Simply dab a little on a clean cloth and gently wipe away the smudges.

4. Vodka

As it turns out, the other kind of alcohol also works. You might wonder if you can use any type of alcohol, including wine, beer, etc. The truth is, we don’t know how efficient it would be, but other beverages might include extra ingredients such as colorings which wouldn’t be good for your paint. Vodka is the best choice because it’s odorless and colorless, with a high enough proof to get the job done.

5. WD-40

The hero of the hardware store, WD-40 comes to your car’s rescue by breaking down the stickiness left behind by the tape. You’ll want to apply a small amount to the sticky area and let it sit for a little while before wiping it off with a clean towel.

Image By: Benedek Alpar, Shutterstock

6. Heat

You can use a hair dryer to partially melt the glue before wiping it off. This method works best in combination with WD-40 or alcohol.

7. Cooking Oil

Similar to the WD-40, cooking oil can dissolve the residue if you let it rest for a few minutes. Apply the oil to the area and let it rest for about 10 minutes before wiping it away with a clean cloth.

8. Commercial Solvents

Your local auto supply store should sell a solvent that’s designed to remove tape. It’s a cocktail of strong chemicals that should definitely do the trick but might cost you a few bucks.

car and road divider

What Not to Do

While we appreciate all the friendly advice on the Internet, everyone knows that you can’t trust everything you see. That being said, there are a few DIY solutions that can potentially end in disaster. Here are a few you definitely shouldn’t try:

1. Acetone

Also known as nail polish remover, acetone is a common remedy for many household crises, but we recommend keeping it off your car’s paint. Acetone’s primary purpose is to remove paint and it’s very good at its job.

2. Scrubbing Sponges or Other Abrasive Tools

Scouring pads, kitchen sponges, sandpaper…all of these rough surfaces should stay off your car’s exterior.

3. Razors

You should definitely never apply a razor to your car’s paint or glass. There’s too much of a risk of causing scratches.

Image Credit: stevepb, Pixabay

car and road divider


Tape residue can leave a mess. Thankfully, the problem doesn’t have to stick around thanks to common household supplies such as vinegar and WD-40. If a simple homemade remedy doesn’t do the trick, your local auto parts supplier should have a solvent that’s made to dissolve the sticky residue. While we love DIY solutions, be sure to stay away from things that could damage your car’s exterior, such as acetone and abrasive tools.

Featured Image Credit: Darkwisper S, Shutterstock


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