The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 11, Number 25, June 22, 2008, Article 14


Last week Tim L. Shuck wrote:
I'm looking for advice on how to safely remove price sticker residue from a hard-bound book.

A number of E-Sylum readers chimed in with useful advice. Here's what they had to say:

Anne E. Bentley of the Massachusetts Historical Society writes:
Usually a rubber cement pick up eraser works for me--available at any art supply store. The trick is to gently circle the eraser around on the adhesive to allow the eraser to gradually roll up the excess into a ball, which you then manually pluck off of the eraser. Takes a steady, gentle hand and patience, but it is the least destructive mechanical means possible.

James Higby writes:
For most situations I use paint thinner (NOT lacquer thinner or acetone), available by the quart at hardware stores. I also have a little can of solvent specifically sold for sticker residue removal, also available in hardware stores. The only problem is that, the longer the sticker has been in place, the more it will resist removal.

Steve Tompkins writes:
To remove a sticker with adhesive residue from a book, the easiest way I know of is to heat the glue enough to destroy the bond. Using a hand held hair dryer works very well (who knew something of the wife's could be used for something Bibliomatical?! - I'm not sure if that is a word or not, but it sure sounds cool!)

Anyway, after the sticker is peeled off any glue residue can usually be removed by taking the sticky side of the sticker and pushing it back down and quickly pulling it back off. Care must be taken if this is being done on a non-slick surface such as normal paper or cardboard as you may rip some of a layer along with the residue.

If the removed sticker is from a slick finish, on say a dust jacket, then any residue can be removed using a small portion of paint thinner on a soft cloth (again using care). These techniques take practice and I have been removing labels from boxes as part of my business for many years.

Paul Petch writes:
I have had very good luck removing the kind of glue found as the backing on stickers with nail polish remover, which is actually acetone or acetonitrile. It works best of course on materials that will not absorb the liquid. I use a cotton swab on the glue and this causes the glue to "pill" so it can be easily picked off. I then use a second swab with water for clean up. The nice thing about using nail polish remover is that most guys will find it is already somewhere in the house... if you just ask the right people.

Pete Smith writes:
Last week I was annoyed by the build-up of gummy residue on a pair of scissors I was using to cut packing tape. I took the scissors outside, sprayed the blades with WD-40 and wiped off the gunk with a paper towel. At a former employer, we used a little WD-40 on a paper towel to remove glue residue from old price stickers on coin slabs. I suspect that WD-40 might remove price sticker glue from books. I also suspect that WD-40 might remove the ink or color on the binding of a book. Removing the glue might do more harm than good. I suggest anyone attempting to use WD-40 on a book should test it first on something that is not valuable.

Harry Cabluck writes:
A few squirts of Pam onto a corner of a paper towel and then applied to the sticker loosens it enough for removal. And then more application of the soaked paper towel will help remove the adhesive. Sometimes a few squirts of WD-40 on the corner of a paper towel works as well.

Chick Ambrass writes:
Being in the "retail" trade for the last 40 often occurs, that you have to replace the price sticker on an item for sale....whether the product is paper, plastic, or cloth.... what ever you do, you want the product to remain looking new and attractive.... the staple product to use (and I have been using it for close to 40 years, and used it just a few weeks ago....) is LIGHTER FLUID, it contains Naphtha, a petroleum distillate and just a few drops, applied to the sticker, saturates the paper, and allows easy removal of all of the paper and the majority of the adhesive...a few more drops, along with a tissue, or paper towel will remove the remainder of the adhesive....granted, I have never used it on an expensive, collectible book cover....but I would guess, used judiciously, you won't have any problem.

Kerry Rodgers of New Zealand writes:
I was taught the answer by a Dinkum Aussie Librarian of the female persuasion - who worked with rare books. I assume the cover has a gloss of some sort and is therefore not too porous. If it does not then experiment on some similar but expendable surface. Get yerself some eucalyptus oil. Touch some to a tissue or, better, a soft cloth. Keep the amount minimal. Gently rub the glue. 99.9% of glues dissolve quickly and easily. As soon as the glue has gone, wipe off any excess oil + glue quickly.

And it smells good too! Happy sniffing.

Bob Neale writes:
I should think that using a little hydrocarbon solvent, like paint thinner, would work, even isopropyl alcohol, without damaging the cover. I do this to remove adhesive remnants from photos after mounting them. Use a Q-tip at first, just to be sure no color comes up.

George M. Vanca of Santa Clarita, CA writes:
I have several suggestions that are tried and true... Liquid Lighter Fluid is effective in removing stickers, glue residue, etc., from dust jackets. I have actually seen rare book dealers using lighter fluid in their booths at Antiquarian Book Fairs.

My wife is a Registered Nurse and saw my frustration at removing stickers from paperback books, and suggested I use an adhesive remover (in packet form), similar to what she uses at the hospital to remove surgical tape from patients. I have personally found this to be the most effective and am thoroughly satisfied with the results. No more frustrating endings to those exciting numismatic literature finds!!!

In the "on the other hand" department, Jørgen Sømod writes:
Will you remove a hundred year old price sticker from a hundred year old book? Your new book will also be an old book. It takes some time and a coming owner will love that old sticker. Never remove anything.

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at

To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor at this address:

To subscribe go to:



Copyright © 1998 - 2008 The Numismatic Bibliomania Society (NBS)
All Rights Reserved.

NBS Home Page
Contact the NBS webmaster