Date: Around 1999
I am looking for a good, readily available solvent to
Acetone works well but tends to attack many types of
surfaces. Xylene seems to be a good remover but it too can attack
the finished surface and is a bit more hazardous. Alcohol is fairly
safe but does a poor job. Is there another solvent that does a
better job without destroying the surface? Or, can you mix any of
these three and gain better results without a dangerous chemical
Are you talking about adhesives for serious bonding, like the various
plastic cements, crazy glue, things like that? If so, it's almost
inevitable that you are going to get surface damage to many paints and
plastics with any solvent that works, as the adhesives are often chemically
If you're talking about adhesive tape residue, then it's much easier, as
lighter fluid, citrus oils, and various other solvents work very well on
those, without leaving noticeable or serious damage (usually- depends on
the material- best to test in a hidden spot first if possible).
Donald Yee Ph.D.
San Francisco Estuary Institute
180 Richmond Field Station
1325 South 46th St. Richmond, CA 94804
Good luck. As far as I am aware (I am an organic chemist with years of
experience with hundreds of solvents), there is no solvent that will safely,
quickly, and completely remove adhesive from finished surfaces without also
damaging the surface.
Basically, what will work the best depends on the surface. For surfaces
that aren't sensitive (metal, glass), xylene is a good choice. (Methylene
chloride or M6 will work even better, but these are more hazardous still).
MEK (methyl ethyl ketone) also should work well, but will also attack many
For surfaces that are more sensitive (paint), something like mineral
spirits, hexane, or that orange peel stuff may do the trick. They will take
a little longer to soften the adhesive, but they should also be fairly safe
for the surface. Of course, you will want to test every surface first.
Very sensitive surfaces (varnish) require careful treatment. Your best bet
here is to dab the adhesive with mineral oil (baby oil), let it sit for a
few minutes, and then wipe off as much of the softened adhesive as you can.
Repeat as necessary. Be warned, however, that if you let it sit too long,
even mineral oil can damage some surfaces.
Richard E. Barrans Jr., Ph.D.
PG Research Foundation, Darien, Illinois
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Update: June 2012