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topic 25827

Removing protective plastic film adhesive residue from stainless steel, brass, etc.

An ongoing discussion from 2003 through 2020
Many successes were reported with hot/boiling water, ammonia, or acetone.


Q. Our company manufactures and installs sheet-metal systems for enclosing piping, wiring, etc. in commercial construction. We are presently working with a stainless-steel material that comes from the metal suppler covered with a protective plastic film. This film is removed at the job site after installation. The film is sometimes extremely difficult to remove, often leaving a heavy adhesive residue on the metal. We have tried to remove this residue using MEK / methyl ethyl ketone, lacquer thinner [affil. link to product info on Amazon] , Xylene [affil. link to product info on Amazon] and Toluene products, and even gasoline and WD-40 [affil. link to product info on Amazon]. None of these solvents have any significant effect on the adhesive residue. What do we need to remove this residue?


Bill D [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
Tech Rep. - San Bruno, California

Ed. note: Several people have recommended that readers proceed immediately to Terry S's entry of June 17, 2011 as the simplest solution.


A. I use "Unseal adhesive releasing solvent". Works great but is very expensive. Active ingredient is Heptane. It is manufactured by Hunt Corporation in Statesville, NC. You can get small container (32 Fl.Oz) from your local picture frame molding supplier. Catalog # 470. I hope it will work for you.

Danny T [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
Art, framing - Hayward, California


A. Recently discovered a citrus solution that works wonders: De-Solv-It [affil. link to product info on Amazon] made by Orange-sol.

Michael Liu Taylor
Michael Liu Taylor
   specialty stainless steel distributor
Dallas, Texas


A. Bill,

You really should find out WHAT the covering material was and WHAT, if any, was the 'glue' used! Then and then only could people make suitable suggestions.

Let's hope that those other people's helpful suggestions will work .... but when you mentioned a slew of aromatic hydrocarbons, I was a-wondering if the protective sleeving was Polyethylene which had somehow 'heat bonded' itself to the sheeting ... in which case, Oh Dear ... maybe heat would have to be used.

freeman newton portrait
Freeman Newton [dec.]
White Rock, British Columbia, Canada

(It is our sad duty to advise that Freeman passed away
April 21, 2012. R.I.P. old friend).


thumbs up signThanks to everyone for responding helpfully to my question about removing adhesive residue from stainless-steel sheet metal. I also made direct inquiry to the 3M company and they suggested if the adhesive resists organic solvents like toluene, MEK, xylene, etc., as well as citrus-based products, the adhesive may be acrylic-based and it might be attacked with household ammonia. This was indeed the case. Household ammonia removed the adhesive residue easily.

Bill D [returning]
- Port Townsend, Washington


thumbs up signThanks so much for keeping this information out on the web. I bought a stainless-steel gas range, and have been unable to get the residue off with WD40, hair spray, etc.
The ammonia worked like a charm! Now I can cook in the new oven. I believe the protective plastic did not pull off cleanly because of the hot climate down here in Mexico.

Thanks again.

Linda G [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Paamul, Q. Roo, Mexico

Plastic film on Vermont B-B-Q Grill


thumbs up signMy greatest appreciation to Bill D for his tip about household ammonia dissolving plastic film on stainless steel. I live in the Dallas area and found a great 5 burner Vermont grill I really coveted. As the price was way more than I could budget, I caressed it fondly every visit and kept cooking away on my old Wal-Mart grill. After Christmas THE grill was put on clearance. They had left the protective plastic on and displaying it in the Texas heat melted it to the steel ... a discounted price of $300+. After trying everything from De-Solve-it to the blow dryer to remove it I Googled and ended up at your site. The ammonia melted the plastic, even in the crevices, and removed the adhesive residue. (Total $2.19!)
The grill looks brand new, has been appropriately installed and just this weekend broken in!

Thank you for the great time and money saving tip!

Linda C [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Dallas, Texas


thumbs up signThank you, Thank you, Thank YOU. I too bought the Vermont Casting Grill at the Clearance price only to have the same glue/plastic staining/residue ... I am buying ammonia tomorrow. Thanks.

Sara C [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania


Q. I have the same Vermont Casting Grill from Home Depot with the plastic baked on. I tried the ammonia, but did not see the plastic dissolve. I have a feeling that I am not applying it properly. Can someone please let me know how they used the ammonia on their grill.


Dov S [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Sammamish, Washington

A. Hi Dov. Keep reading and Alison M's posting of November 22, 2008 explains how she applied the ammonia. Good luck.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

affil. link

February 7, 2009

! I didn't get the hoped for melt-away on my Vermont Castings barbecue. After about 40 minutes of soaking via ammonia covered paper towels, however, it was easier to scrape off. I then used non-acetone nail polish to get the glue residue off. (didn't have Acetone type). Still have plastic on back side of the hood around small vent holes and don't plan on making myself nuts getting it off. Thanks for all the suggestions, I suspect a lot depends on how long it's been stuck on.

Jan Clarence
- El Paso, Texas

August 26, 2010

! Read this post, found some household ammonia, used it on the blue plastic on the doors to my new BBQ. The blue stuff just peeled right off. It doesn't just dissolve away. It seems to just loosen the plastic from the steel so that it can be peeled away easier. Start at a corner of the blue, apply a bit of ammonia with a rag and then start peeling. My brother-in-law (who knows everything) stumped. I said I would go check on the net and voila - there was the solution. Thanks all.

Pat Kvill
- Edmonton, Alberta, Canada


Q. We have stainless steel panels inside our library, in the 6000 sq. ft. lobby area. I am trying to remove glue residue from supposedly removable little foam stickers off the stainless panels and it's taking a long time and the fumes are just about killing everyone. I first tried low odor Goof Off 2 [affil. link to product info on Amazon] and then Scrubs Graffiti and Paint Remover. There's a lot of residue to remove so I'm looking for something quick but not too stinky. thanks,

Jim B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
library - Zion, Illinois


A. My own routine is to try rubbing alcohol first (Isopropyl Alcohol [affil. link to product info on Amazon]). If that doesn't work well, try ammonia. If that doesn't work, try Acetone [affil. link to product info on Amazon]. If that doesn't work, resign myself to picking, pulling, rubbing, scrubbing, cursing, and throwing stuff.

Ammonia and acetone won't harm most finishes, but might ruin some, so try to test on underside or inconspicuous spot.

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

2007 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. Dear Sir,

We are Stainless steel fabricators in Dubai, UAE. We have a major problem in one of our project sites. We had installed a stainless steel hand rail and the plastic which was covered on the pipes is melted and has got stuck on the pipe and is finding it very difficult to remove the plastic.

Kindly provide us a suitable solution at the earliest. We tried cleaning with WD 40, thinner, etc., but failed.

Please reply at the earliest.


Mahmood B.S
General Manager - Dubai, UAE


Q. I'm a mason contractor at the NJ shore that built an outdoor stone kitchen area. The homeowners bought and installed small Delfield Refrigerator and freezers that were installed around the stone. Being summer residents, they reminded me to remove the protective plastic coating from the doors as they were not present at the site. Unfortunately I got busy and after a couple of months the sun got to the doors before I could. I was able to peel some of the plastic off, however most has embedded itself where without using solvents it's a millimeter by fingernail process. I haven't tried any solvents except a quick dab with ammonia which did nothing. I'm a bit hesitant to use Goo Gone [affil. link to product info on Amazon] or goof off as a last resort as I'm afraid that I may wipe any protective coating which will induce rust. I need help in direction or products, solvents, heat gun, anything that may work.

Marshall Gemal
Owner - Long Branch, New Jersey

Plastic film on roofing sheets

April 16, 2008

Q. Hi fellow sufferers of the accursed plastic cling foil to metal surfaces.
I have the same problem with a corrugated powder coated steel roof.
I have tried acetone, vinegar, domestos, meths, turps, petrol (gasoline to North Americans), heat gun, detergent and diluted pool acid to no avail.
The damn stuff is indestructible - any ideas from anyone would be welcome
Thanks to one and all

Ken Myers
- Penrith, NSW, Australia

May 22, 2012

Q. I have a painted metal roof where the plastic protective coating has fused to the metal panels. We left the protective coating on thinking we were protecting the roof from contractors who were working on it but didn't realize the work was going to take this long so we left it on too long and now it is almost impossible to remove. The areas that were exposed to the sun are the worst. I have tried warm water, heat gun, ammonia, goof off, goo gone with no luck. These products will remove the residue where I can remove the plastic -- but for the most part I am stuck with the plastic not being able to be removed.

Nick Delli Veneri
- Ridgewood, New Jersey, USA

May 28, 2014

Q. Please tell me what happens if the plastic cover on the top surface is not removed while installing the sheets on the roof?

Manu N Hegde
- Mysore, Karnataka, India

May 2014

A. Hi Manu. Are you referring to a plastic protective film?

It's hard to predict consequences ("For want of a nail ... the battle was lost"), but perhaps it may create pockets of rainwater that become stagnant and smelly, or accelerate the corrosion. The film is supposed to be removed. And if you don't do it now, Ken warns that it will only get harder :-(

Good luck.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

May 28, 2008


- ST. PAUL, Minnesota

June 5, 2008

Q. I guess I used the stove before taking the blue protective cove off the face of the door, so after a painful time removing it I find a glue cloud mark on the front but I can not seem to remove it with paint thinner or soup and water.

Any ideas what might work?


Dean Waltr
- Toronto, Ontario, Canada

June 8, 2008

Q. Same problem but in my case, I'm a trucker with 6 stainless steel under-storage compartments. I've tried just about everything mentioned above. We truckers like things shiny so I am getting a little p-o'ed with this. Today, I went to Home Depot and bought a angle grinder, a Crossive 6" disc, a hand held buffer as well as buffing compound. I intend to grind this stuff off and mar this finish up then use the compound then buff it out with metal polish. I'll let ya know how it works!

Christopher Bennett
- Minneapolis, Minnesota

June 19, 2008

A. To the people asking about removing the protective plastic film stuck on stainless steel appliances, nail polish remover with acetone works perfect. I first tried goo-gone which didn't work, then read on another site about using acetone and it works perfectly. Removes it clean off.

Lisa Wells
- Clearwater Beach, Florida

November 22, 2008

A. Bought a new/used stainless steel outdoor refrigerator. Prior owner let the blue plastic film shrink-wrap and melt to the door. Tried everything to remove it. Then found this column. I soaked a washcloth with lemon ammonia and let it set on the door (set horizontal) for 15 minutes. Then used a plastic scraper to scrape away the softened film. Worked great and did not hurt the brush stainless finish. Thanks!

Alison MacKenzie
- Poway, California

March 23, 2009

A. I just purchased a new stainless wall oven and put it in. The Blue Plastic Film was stuck to it like a price tag. I set for an hour with an orangewood stick carefully pulling the film off piece by piece and worked for an hour doing this. I was at my wits-end and decided to look for an answer online. I did try several things and it did not work. So I read on this site about acetone and had some and got some cotton balls and applied it to the area that I was working on. It made the film turn loose and then I went back over the area again with the acetone and got the glue off. It took me 15 minutes to get all of it off, and I am pleased to say it really works. I worked on a very small area for over an hour and finished all of it including polishing the over in 15 minutes . Thanks for the help.

Terry Works
- Rainbowcity, Alabama

May 6, 2009

Q. I recently (may 2009) purchased a name brand refrigerator that came with the standard, protective shipping film, that when removed, left an almost invisible residue. You can see it best when you look at the fridge from an angle. The manufacturer says to use soapy water and a sponge...tried that. Didn't work.

Also tried vinegar, ammonia, and orange degreaser. Still nothing.

I have heard to try WD-40, goo-gone and xylene. I of course don't want to ruin the finish of the fridge, but would like this residue removed.

Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you.

Alan Jacobson
hobbyist - phoenix, Arizona

May 23, 2009

A. Easy. Use a blowtorch, melt the plastic and wipe off with a cloth. Slow but effective.

Johan Sunpay
- Pretoria, South Africa

June 30, 2009

Q. We have metal garage doors where the previous owner/builder failed to remove the plastic protective film and it has now sun-baked onto the surface. I have tried a number of solvent based product with no success. I have even tried pressure washing at about 2500 psi 40 degree spread. t took the loose bits off but the majority remains firmly adhered to the painted metal surface. Should I consider just painting over it?

Ken Ines
- Vancouver BC Canada

July 1, 2009

A. Yes, I'd say it's unfortunately sounds like it's on for good and try Krylon Fusion [affil. link to product info on Amazon] paint.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

July 26, 2009

A. Success! After reading this column, I figured I would try Citric solvent, ammonia, acetone and Goof-off (in that order) to remove the blue cellophane from a nice stainless microwave some friends gave us. They had used it for a while without removing the protective file, and it was hopelessly stuck and leaving a gluey residue. We happened to have a bottle of Orange TKO "super concentrated cleaner", and it worked like a charm. It did NOT work instantly. I had to pour the orange concentrate on the remaining blue plastic, spread it around, and wait for a few minutes. Then, using a paper towel soaked in the cleaner, my thumbnail would easily scrape the plastic off. It even started coming off in sheets (like it was supposed to) after soaking for a little longer. I still had to scrape with my fingernail through the soaked paper towel to get some stubborn parts off, but it was spotless after 15 minutes of work.

Joe Cordes
- Berkeley, California

August 18, 2009

Q. Would Shellac, Kilz [affil. link to product info on Amazon] (oil), or Zinsser Zinsser Cover Stain [affil. link to product info on Amazon] work in a situation where the plastic coating has baked on to a primed metal door over a 10 year period of time? Which would be the best option.

Len Doerksen
- Abbotsford, B.C. Canada

August 28, 2009

A. I have had to remove the plastic film from stainless steel on many occasions over the years so was surprised/happy/delirious when I came across this site suggesting that ammonia would remove the film. Wow, I thought, is this what I have been missing! So I tried it, but alas, it wasn't to be. Actually, I probably would have been pissed thinking about all of the work I could have avoided.

Anyway, the ammonia seemed to make no difference at all. The plastic I am talking about is the white kind that is standard from the mill to protect polished SS. It is very tough and, if left exposed to sunlight, is almost impossible to remove without trashing the underlying surface. The basic problem is that the white (vinyl?) coating makes it very hard to get at the glue with anything that can soften it.

Here's what I have found to be the best way to remove this plastic coating from polished SS:

- Use a heat gun (mine is a B&D Heat and Strip) and a 1 1/2" putty knife, to heat the plastic coating and gently scrape it off the surface. This is the slow part. Someone else here suggested a blow torch, but I have found that that can damage/distort the surface. Be sure to work in the directions of the polishing to minimize surface damage.

- The result will be a mottled, greasy-looking surface, the remains of the plastic and the glue.

- Next, using rubber gloves, apply a generous film of Jasco water based paint stripper, all over the surface. Wait 5 minutes and then re-strip with the putty knife. This should remove almost all of the residue.

- Buff out the remaining residue with a paper towel soaked in Jasco.

- Buff out any remaining scratched with a SS pot scrubber, again working in the direction of the underlying polish. Incidentally, NEVER use mild steel tools or steel wool on a SS surface. If you do, atomic iron from the mild steel will become embedded in the surface where it promptly rusts and discolors it.

Hope this helps. Tim

Timothy Hicks
- Seattle, Washington

April 29, 2010

A. I can absolutely second the approach taken by Timothy Hicks (described above).

I used a heat gun (the type used on shrink tubing) to heat up the white vinyl (which effectively melted it) and a soft cloth to wipe it off. I was then left with the glue residue. A combination of Goof Off and a citrus cleaner worked fine. No marks or stains on the metal at all.


It takes a *long* time to do this. Figure 30 mins for 2 x 2 ft sheet of stainless sheet;

Wear a respirator - the fumes from the heated vinyl are toxic - you don't want to be breathing them in.

Good luck!

Colin Bodell
- Atherton, California, USA

September 9, 2009

A. As a vendor of temporary surface protection films, I may be able provide some insights on this topic. Said insights may or may not be of any assistance, depending upon your particular "how-do-I-remove-this-*#^&*%*^-stuff?!" situation.

* The majority (though not all) of the protective films manufactured in the USA, today, are comprised of a water-based acrylic adhesive coated onto LDPE (low density polyethylene) plastic. The white and black films (with the adhesive on the black side) commonly used to protect stainless steel are co-extruded LDPE films. Extruding two thin layers of molten plastic in contact with each other makes a stronger, more abrasion resistant film for the same amount of plastic as one thicker layer.

* Water based acrylic adhesives are pressure, UV light, dwell time and heat sensitive adhesives. The more you have of each of these variables, especially in combination with each other, the "better" these adhesives perform ... to the point where they won't let go of either the surface being protected nor the carrier film they rode in on. As I believe someone said earlier in this thread, the adhesive and/or plastic becomes "baked" onto the surface. If the surface has a texture that the adhesive can get into, consider it to be twice baked. Though it is slight, brushed stainless steel does have a texture.

* LDPE plastic is non-permeable ... liquids cannot penetrate it. Which is why you can't get your adhesive dissolving agent to work directly on the adhesive.

* LDPE plastic cannot be dissolved by most chemicals. If your liquid adhesive-remover arrived in a plastic bottle, chances are pretty good that that particular liquid isn't going to dissolve a plastic film ;-)

* LDPE won't break down, dissolve or degrade in less than 500 years, except at very high temperatures which would probably cause those few hazardous chemicals that will dissolve it to burst into flames.

* As noted by Tim, stainless steel can be stained and/or discolored. What sometimes appears to be adhesive residue is actually a stain in the steel. Buffing or other treatments may be required to get rid of the stain.

* Other, somewhat specialized, protective films are made with either polypropylene, MDPE, vinyl/PVC or latex saturated papers.

Net-Net: the odds of getting a plastic film to literally dissolve without lots of applied heat, are not in your favor. Concentrate on finding a [mechanical] method of removing the film then address the adhesive mess that got left behind.

Rick Pietrykowski
- Rockwall, Texas

September 23, 2009

Q. Hey Everyone,

Looks like we've all be scratching our heads on how to remove the 'baked on' plastic film. Mine issue is what Rick P from Texas called "twice baked'. I too bought a house where the previous owner had installed an insulated white finished steel wood grained look of a garage door where the previous owner listened to installer and his suggestion to 'leave on the plastic film as it will just protect the doors finish'! what a crock. I'm now left with this huge double garage door with a cracked, dirt filled plastic shell finish that seems to be bomb proof. I have tried the orange stuff, nail polish remover, gasoline, cooking oil, heat gun (Started to damage the surface), wonderwheel (Automotive pinstripe remover, which just smeared the plastic) and finally ammonia. Nothing has worked. The manufacturers of the door don't even know what to do, other than tell me that the guy should have removed the film on installation. I'm at my wits end with this project, but will not give up. There has to be an answer with this. Ammonia only cleans the surface, but the plastic is still there, and as tough as nails, it's just cleaner! So someone PLEASE HELP with an answer. This is MAJOR double baked!

Chris Stockster
home owner - Oakville, Ontario, Canada

1       2

Ed. note: If you're not weary yet, letter 30965 addresses pretty much the same topic :-)

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