Removing Dried Glue Antiques

If you’ve collected artifacts or antiques long enough, you’ve undoubtedly encountered a sticky situation: glue. The sticky stuff comes in the form of old stubborn labels stuck to glass, Elmer’s Glue used to mount arrowheads onto a display board, or a bad repair job involving antique wood. Whatever the situation may be, you’re not stuck without choices.

Try these safe and simple fixes that easily remove dried school glues and other common adhesives from antique glass, wood, and stone.

Removing Glue from Antique Glass

Removing Glue from Glass

When faced with the task of removing sticker residue from antique glass, you might be tempted to turn to household staples like white vinegar or nail polish remover. While those products can certainly get the job done, the lubricating ingredients in WD-40 make it the best tool for the job.   

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Materials & Tools Needed

  • WD-40
  • Soft Rags
  • Glass Cleaner

Glue Removal Instructions

  1. Prior to spraying the glass with WD-40, take precautions to ventilate the designated cleaning area.  
  2. Generously spray the oil onto the glue or adhesive residue.
  3. Let the oil soak the dried glue for at least 5 minutes.
  4. Remove the glue residue by wiping it away with a clean, soft cloth.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4, if needed.
  6. Once the glass is clean, spray it with everyday glass cleaner such as Windex.
  7. Wipe clear to reveal a spot-free finish.

Removing Glue from Wooden Antiques

Removing Glue from Wood

On the off chance your children convert your antique furniture into a slime-making station—which for those of you not in the know, involves insane amounts of Elmer’s Glue—one unexpected hero can reverse the havoc caused by those domestic terrorists; your hair dryer.

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Materials & Tools Needed

  • Hair Dryer
  • Soft Plastic Scraper
  • Fine Grit Sandpaper (optional)
  • Oil Soap
  • Water
  • Soft Rag

Glue Removal Instructions

  1. If tackling a particularly thick layer of glue, carefully sand the residue to remove excess buildup before proceeding to the next steps. Be careful not to sand into the surrounding wood.   
  2. Position the end of the hair dryer 2-3 inches away from the glue. Anything closer may risk damaging the wood’s finish.
  3. Switch the dryer on at its lowest heat setting.
  4. Direct the heat over the dried glue for 15 seconds.
  5. While still applying heat, use a plastic scraper to carefully peel the glue residue from one edge. Thicker glue deposits may require a longer duration of heat before it becomes pliable.
  6. Once the glue residue has been removed, clean the wood with oil soap and water.
  7. Wipe clean with a soft rag to reveal a beautiful, spot-free, antique finish.

Removing Glue from Stone Artifacts

Removing Glue from Stone

Before collectors displayed arrowheads in foam-backed Riker mounts and wooden frames, stone artifacts were either tied or glued to a display. When Native American artifacts surface from old collections, it’s not uncommon to encounter arrowheads that are caked in dried glue. The fastest, cheapest, and safest way to remove it? Hot water. Really, that’s it.  

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Materials & Tools Needed

  • Large Bowl
  • Oven Mitts
  • Silicone Tipped Tongs (optional)
  • Soft Plastic Scrapper (optional)
  • Small Strainer
  • Water
  • Soft Rag

Glue Removal Instructions

  1. Heat a bowl of water in the microwave for three minutes, or just before it reaches its boiling point.
  2. Using oven mitts, remove the bowl of hot water and place it on a stable surface.
  3. Place the stone artifacts into the strainer.
  4. Lower the strainer into the hot water, submerging all of its contents.
  5. Let the arrowheads soak for approximately five minutes.
  6. One at a time, remove the arrowheads from the hot water with a pair of tongs (or your fingers).
  7. Using your thumbnail or a soft plastic scraper, gently push the glue off.
  8. When the glue is removed, rinse the arrowhead in clean warm water and dry with a soft cloth.

Commercial Glue Removers

While commercial glue removers like Goo Gone are available; and work, they have the potential to damage wood finishes and strip historical patina from culturally and historically important artifacts. If you’re determined on trying a commercial grade glue remover, review the dos and don’ts first, and always test the product in an inconspicuous area first.

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