I have a love-hate relationship with stickers. On the one hand, they’re undeniably awesome. I mean, who doesn’t love a sticker?! Decorating a surface with bright, colorful stickers is fun and therapeutic, even if you are old enough to know better.
But my sensible adult side also loathes them since they can be so darned tricky to remove. Occasionally, by some miracle, they peel off just fine, but most of the time, they leave behind a white papery film or a horrible sticky residue that attracts dirt and dust. Ugh.
Books are a particularly tough surface to remove stickers from because getting the pages wet is a no-no. Most stickers on books are the not-so-fun kind, the ones stuck on by the retailer to tell you the price. And often, they’re placed in a really annoying spot, like over the title, the author’s name, or the all-important blurb on the back.
Whatever type of sticker you’re trying to remove from a book, there’s a method here that will work for you (and none of them involve soap, water, or soggy pages).
I’ll start by showing you some techniques to remove the sticker itself, and then I’ll move on to some easy ways to get rid of that pesky residue that stickers often leave behind.
But first, a disclaimer:
These de-stickering methods are much safer than using water-based products, but they still come with a few risks. Some of the products and tools used can strip away or scratch the protective surface of your book, remove pigmentation, or even leave a permanent stain, so always test a small, hidden patch before you begin. Still, any damage is likely to be more subtle than a great big unwanted sticker.
That being said, if you’re working with a precious or valuable book, it’s always best to get help from a professional rather than doing it yourself at home.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s dive into some easy methods to remove stickers from books.
Methods to Remove Stickers From Books?
Method # 1: Use your fingernails
This is the most obvious and intuitive method to remove a sticker from a book, but it only works with less stubborn adhesives. Even so, using your fingernails (if you have them) it’s a good starting point. If it doesn’t work, you can move on to a more heavy-duty method below.
Start by gently levering your fingernail under the bottom left corner of the sticker. Once you’ve lifted off a small area, grasp it between your finger and thumb and slowly lift it up and away from the surface of the book. If you meet any resistance or the sticker begins to break apart, stop, and move on to method #2.
#2: Use a thin utensil
A razor blade, a thin precision spatula, or a putty knife are all handy tools to help you remove stickers, and they’re often more effective than just fingernails alone. If you don’t have any of these at home, you can also use a credit card.
Always use your tool at an angle of around 20-40 degrees to minimize the chance of cutting into or scratching the surface of the book. Start by gently coaxing up the edge of the sticker with your tool until you’ve unstuck enough of it to grab hold of, then gently peel it back at a sharp angle.
If the cover of your book is relatively tough and non-porous, you can even work the tool around all of the edges until the sticker is completely removed, even if it isn’t all in one piece. But again, if it starts to resist or tear, stop and move onto a more intensive method below.
If fingernails or utensils alone don’t remove the sticker, then try them alongside one of the following methods. These techniques use heat to up the ante and banish that stubborn sticker once and for all…
Method #3: Use a hairdryer
Hairdryers have a wide variety of uses other than just drying your hair, and removing stickers from books and other surfaces is one of them.
This 2 step method works by heating and remelting the glue that binds the sticker to the surface of your book so that you can easily remove it all in one piece. You might be left with a bit of sticky residue, but don’t worry, I’ll show you how to fix that later.
This technique is easier to carry out if you have a second pair of hands. That way, one person can hold the hairdryer, and the other one can peel back the sticker. But you can also do it solo by leaning your arm against the cover as your peel back the sticker with one hand and hold the hairdryer in the other.
- Step 1: Turn your hairdryer onto the hottest setting, and aim it towards the spot where the sticker is. Do this for 30 – 40 seconds until the adhesive begins to warm up and melt.
- Step 2: Keep aiming the hairdryer at the sticker while you peel up one corner with the help of a fingernail or thin utensil. Continue to slowly and gently pull at the corner until the whole thing comes off in (hopefully) one piece.
Be careful not to burn your hand with this method. If it gets too hot, hold the hair-dryer further away from your hand as you peel back the sticker, or take breaks and peel it back in stages.
Method #4: Use an Iron
This is another simple, 2 step method that uses heat to remove stubborn stickers, just like the hairdryer method above. The heat from the iron melts the adhesive, so the whole thing peels off in one satisfying sweep.
- Step 1: Place your book on a flat heatproof surface, sticker side up, and drape a thin towel or t-shirt over the top of it to form a protective fabric layer. Set your iron to medium heat, and gently pass it back and forth over the top of the protective fabric layer for around 40-60 seconds.
Be careful to keep the iron moving at all times and never let it sit in the same place for more than a couple of seconds, or you risk burning the book.
- Step 2: Place the iron safely to one side, remove the protective fabric from your book, and use either your fingernails or one of the thin utensils mentioned in method # 2 to work away at the edge of the sticker until you can peel it all back in one piece.
If there’s any resistance, stop immediately, repeat step 1 until all the glue is melted, and then try peeling again.
Hopefully, you’ve managed to remove the sticker using one of the methods above, but even powerful heat methods can still leave you with a sticky, messy residue or a white streak of leftover paper.
Thankfully, there are some great, non-water-based products that will banish the leftover goo, leaving your books sticker-free and good as new.
How to Remove Sticker Residue from Books?
Method #1: Goo Gone
Goo Gone is a favorite product of librarians everywhere since it cleans up not just sticker residue but all kinds of gooey, sticky substances, like tape residue, labels, oil, crayon, and more. It’s also environmentally safe, gentle enough to use on various surfaces, yet tough enough to remove even stubborn adhesive.
It works by using citrus to break down and dissolve the residue, and unlike some of the harsher products I’ll mention later, the citrus component smells lemony and lovely.
Simply dip a clean, dry cotton swab into the Goo Gone and gently rub it across the area with the sticker residue until every last remnant has gone. You’ll be left with a slightly oily finish which can be cleaned up using a fresh cotton swab or a dry paper towel.
Method #2: Rubbing Alcohol
You don’t necessarily need to spend money on a product like Goo Gone to remove unwanted sticker residue from your books. In many cases, rubbing alcohol works well, and it’s one of those items that you might already have lying around your home.
But first, a word of warning. Rubbing alcohol is harsher than GooGone. While it’s almost guaranteed to get rid of sticky marks, in some cases, it can also pull off the top coating of your book cover. Always test the rubbing alcohol on a small hidden area first to check you’re not going to damage your book, and never use this method on precious or valuable books.
Just like the Goo Gone method, a cotton swab is the best way to apply rubbing alcohol. First, gently sweep it back and forth over the sticky residue until it’s lifted from the surface, then take a clean, dry cotton swab to mop up any excess mess.
Method #3: Nail Polish Remover
Here’s another household item that’s great for removing sticky residue from not just books but most smooth surfaces.
Most nail polish remover is essentially acetone with some added minerals and scents to make it smell nicer. The acetone works in the same way as rubbing alcohol and Goo Gone to break down and dissolve the sticker residue so that it can be easily wiped away.
Again, use a cotton swab for this method, and once the surface is residue-free, take a clean, dry swab and clean up any excess mess.
But just like with the method above, be very careful when using nail polish remover. It’s a harsh substance that can strip away inks and break down protective layers, so always test it first before diving in.
Method #4: Baby Oil
That’s right; you can use baby oil, or other types of colorless oils such as mineral oil or even coconut oil, to remove sticker residue.
Oil is much gentler than some of the products I’ve listed above, and it’s less likely to strip away the color or the protective surface of a book cover. But it does come with its own unique set of risks. Oil can soak into the paper, leaving a permanent oil stain behind, so you have to be super careful with this method. Never use oil on porous book covers, and always do a patch test on a small hidden area to check it won’t leave a stain.
I also recommend using a sheet of wax paper to separate the cover from the page block and avoid accidental spills or splatters.
Start by dipping the cotton swab into a small amount of oil and lightly dab it onto the sticker residue. Apply enough oil to fully coat the area, and let it sit for 30-60 seconds.
Now, gently rub the cotton swab against the sticker residue until it lifts all the remaining gunk away. Wipe away any excess oil with a clean swab or a paper towel until the surface is completely dry.
Stickers are so much fun to apply, but they can be a nightmare to remove. Plus, these days, it seems like every time I buy a new book, there’s a price sticker on the cover in the most annoying spot. But luckily, these tried and tested methods are designed to remove even the most stubborn stickers from books.
Do you have any secret sticker removing hacks you’d like to share with us? Here at hooked to books, we always love hearing your book-based tips and tricks, so please drop me a comment in the box below, and let’s share the knowledge!
You can also check out my other handy book-related how-to guides, like how to preserve old books, how to fix bookbinding and repair loose pages, and how to make a paper bag book cover.