How to Remove Duct Tape Residue From Your Car (9 Methods)

Duct tape is an excellent tool for temporary fixes. You can use it to hang headlights or even a broken side-view mirror. But how do you remove the duct tape residue from your car? Here are some effective methods that anyone can try:

  1. Use a combination of hot water and soap
  2. Apply isopropyl alcohol to break down the glue
  3. Try WD-40 to loosen the residue
  4. Add heat with a hair dryer
  5. Pour a little vodka on it
  6. Try out the vinegar technique
  7. Soften the residue with cooking oils
  8. Apply a solvent
  9. Gently scrape away the residue

In this article, I’ll go over what different ways you can go about removing the duct tape residue from your car, and what not to do to avoid damaging your vehicle.

Removing the duct tape residue from a car.

1. Use a Combination of Hot Water and Soap

If the duct tape has been removed recently, then it should be relatively easy to get rid of the residue. You can start by soaking a microfiber towel in hot water and holding it on the residue. 

Let this soak on the residue for a bit, and then you can start to scrub it off. It’s best to use small strokes back and forth through the residue. 

This may take a bit of time to work effectively. Make sure the water is hot enough that it isn’t completely cooled while you’re cleaning the residue. If it’s too hot, you can also wear gloves.

If it seems like it isn’t working or is taking too much effort, you can add a bit of dish soap to the water, which may make a slight difference. Repeat the process of soaking the area by holding a towel with hot water and soap. Scrub the area with small movements and take your time. This works the best if you can be patient and work in small spaces.

This option only works well with a small amount of residue or if the duct tape has been recently removed. Some duct tape will leave a thicker residue and be harder to clean. Also, if duct tape residue sits for too long and hardens, it may be more difficult to remove and could require a different method.

2. Apply Isopropyl Alcohol to Break Down the Glue

A common way to remove duct tape residue off of any surface is rubbing alcohol. Isopropyl alcohol is a solvent that dissolves the residue when applied. If you choose to use rubbing alcohol, all you have to do is apply it to a towel or cloth and rub it over the area with the residue. 

This should remove what’s left of the duct tape and keep your paint in good shape at the same time. If this doesn’t remove the residue, it may need something stronger.

3. Try WD-40 to Loosen the Residue

WD-40 works very similarly to isopropyl alcohol when it comes to removing duct tape residue. You can put a little of it on a towel or directly on the residue. Then, allow it to sit on the area for some time. 

Work the residue off in small strokes, rubbing the WD-40 in well. Wipe it off with a clean towel and clear away any residue the WD-40 left behind.

4. Add Heat With a Hair Dryer 

If the duct tape residue on your car isn’t coming off with water, rubbing alcohol, or WD-40, you may need to add some heat to soften the adhesive. You can do this by using a hair dryer to apply some warmth to the spot. Once the glue is softened, try wiping it away slowly, adding more heat as needed.

Watch this YouTube video to see how the hair dryer method works in action:

If you’ve been able to remove most of the residue, but the surface still feels slightly sticky, you can then try applying some rubbing alcohol or WD-40 to remove the remaining residue.

5. Pour a Little Vodka on It

Vodka works in the same way that rubbing alcohol works. Many have found this method to be effective for duct tape residue. 

Start by soaking a towel directly in the vodka, until thoroughly saturated. You can then apply the towel directly to the glue spot, holding it there for a few minutes. The alcohol in the vodka will help break down the residue and dissolve its stickiness. 

After a few minutes, the residue should be able to just wipe off.

6. Try Out the Vinegar Technique

Vinegar is a common item to have around the house for both cleaning and cooking. It’s also another way to get duct tape residue off your car. For this technique, you need hot water and a drop of dish soap again. 

To this mixture, you’ll add vinegar. You use this in the same way as hot water and soap, but vinegar can cause a more effective result because it’s acidic. Remember to use small motions to rub the duct tape residue off. 

After that, you can wash your car with water and a clean towel to ensure the residue’s been completely cleaned.

7. Soften the Residue With Cooking Oils 

Cooking oils, and even oil-based lubricants, can be used to remove duct tape residue from your car without causing any damage. Cooking oil is one of the best choices if you’re worried about damaging paint. If the area of your car with duct tape residue on it already has compromised paint, it’s a good idea to choose the cooking oil method. 

What you’ll need to do is soak the area with oil for some time. The best way to do this is to lay a dry towel over the area you need to treat and then pour oil onto that towel. Allow at least ten minutes before you try to wipe away the oil and residue. 

This usually works, especially if you’ve been attempting the alcohol method previously or the hairdryer and softened the glue ahead of time.

8. Apply a Solvent

Many auto stores and even some convenience stores sell different types of solvents. These can range all the way up to industrial grade. Solvents are potent chemicals and are designed to safely clean and buff your car, all without damaging the paint. 

And, fortunately, most can efficiently remove duct tape residue!

9. Gently Scrape Away the Residue

Scraping the duct tape residue off your car can be risky. If you use the wrong tool to scrape the residue off, you may end up scraping the paint of your car with it. There are a few items that you should have easy access to that can scrape the duct tape residue off without damaging your car or the paint.

One great choice is a credit card. Of course, you should pick a credit card that is expired and used by no one. This won’t damage your car, but there’s a risk of damaging the credit card. The edges of a credit card are thin and rounded, making it a perfect scraping tool.

You can also use an ice-scraper. They aren’t always as effective as credit cards because of the shape of some ice scrapers. 

When scraping, you can always combine with another method of removing the duct tape residue for even better results.

See also: Best Car Wash Soaps and Shampoos

What Not to Use When Removing Duct Tape Residue on Your Car

While there are a range of safe methods and products you can use on your are, there are also some you shouldn’t. These include:

Acetone

Many use acetone to remove duct tape residue from everyday objects around their home. There are several surfaces that aren’t damaged by acetone, but your car paint isn’t one of them.

If left on your car for any amount of time, acetone will start to eat away at your paint, so it’s best to avoid this when cleaning duct tape residue off your car. 

Razors

You should also never use a razor to scrape duct tape residue off your car. It’s almost impossible to use a razor to scrape anything off your vehicle without completely ruining the paint.

Old or Dirty Towels

Old or dirty towels can damage your car paint as well. Whatever towel you choose to use to scrub the duct tape residue, make sure it’s clean and not too old.

Old or dirty towels hang on to dirt and small particles that can be sharp enough to scratch your paint, and it’s best not to cause a new problem by fixing an old one.

Abrasive Sponges and Scouring Pads

Using abrasives to remove duct tape residue can also scrape, scratch, or damage your car’s paint. Instead, opt for soft sponges, cloths, and towels, that can safely spread around the removal product, without digging into your car’s paint.

Final Thoughts

Duct tape residue is an eyesore on a car. Many take pride in the appearance of their car, and even if they had to use duct tape on it in the past want to be able to have an attractive car again. 

You can use a number of household items to help dissolve the glue in the residue. When all else fails, you can turn to a solvent sold at auto stores to get that stubborn residue off. When you use a tool to scrape the residue off your car, be sure to pick something that won’t damage your paint, such as an expired credit card.

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