Sticky Plastic and How to Fix Sticky Plastic

You find the darndest things when you are organizing, and not all of them are good. There are plenty of good things to stick to, but plastic gadgets aren’t on the top of the list. If you have something that feels gross like remote controls and hard plastic toys, here’s how to fix sticky plastic.

How to fix sticky plastic


My old lovely Bose stereo really does sound amazing, but lately I didn’t want to go near it because the controller for it was sticky on the back. Yuck. It’s over 25 years old, so it’s not surprising that the plastic becomes sticky for old devices like this.

Sticky Plastic and How to Fix It

How to Fix Sticky Plastic

I’ve seen this happen before to my organizing clients’ things, especially old toys, dolls, and game console controllers. Storing things in extreme temps (attics, basements, garages) seems to makes the plastic sticky faster in some cases, but my remote control has always lived inside, in a temperature controlled environment, proving that plastic becomes sticky with regular use.

Why does plastic get sticky?

After a little research, I found that some plastic items have some sort of coating that breaks down over time and becomes sticky. The trick is to clean off the coating to fix sticky plastic.

3 Ways to Remove a Sticky Surface on Plastic

I tried cleaning it with rubbing alcohol, which didn’t help at all. Don’t waste your time.

Sticky Plastic and How to Fix It remote cntrol


Orange essential oil is great for removing price stickers, and it also worked a bit here, but it’s kind of an expensive solution.

orange oil cleans sticky plastic


What worked the best to clean sticky plastic in this case was good old baking soda and water.

baking soda cleans sticky plastic


How to Clean Sticky Plastic with Baking Soda

Mix just a pinch of each to form a paste, then scrub the sticky plastic item with bare hands. It worked like a charm.

baking soda works to clean sticky plastic


I used less than a teaspoon of baking soda to clean the back of this hard plastic remote control. It took me about 10 minutes to get the whole thing cleared. You can see it in action here on the right side (below).

cleaned sticky plastic with baking soda

After rubbing the baking soda/water paste on the device, remove the residue with a damp (not wet) cloth.

If you clean sticky plastics that are electronics, be sure to wipe out the battery compartment and let it dry, or you’ll be dealing with other problems before long, like corrosion.

cleaning sticky plastic and battery compartments


Don’t do this to Fix Sticky Plastic

Avoid the impulse to reach for a green scrub pad, because that will scratch the plastic.

I was really thrilled with how easy the baking soda solution sticky plastic fix was. Some plastic that develops a sticky film really are outdated, and that sticky film might just be nature’s way of telling you to declutter (click here for how to declutter with the SORT and Succeed system), but that wasn’t the case for the remote control of my beloved stereo.

cleaned and fixed sticky plastic


Do you keep things for a long time? Have you ever run into the problem of some hard plastic item developing a weird sticky coating? Did this solution work for you, too?

If you were trying to get organized when you came looking for your sticky plastic fix, check out my book, Organizing Your Home with SORT and Succeed to change your life in just 5 simple steps. Click on the image below.

Organizing Your Home with SORT and SUCCEED_ Five Simple Steps to Stop Clutter Before it Starts, Save Money and Simplify Your Life

This Post Has 29 Comments

  1. Dan


    First I’d like to say thanks for writing this, just because… donating your own time trying to help others deserves acknowledgement. I too developed an issue with an old, old Vizio VU42L TV remote becoming SO badly gunked up that I could actually stick it to horizontal surfaces.

    I wanted to add my story for your knowledge and anyone else reading. I tried your Baking Soda method first and must say it did improve the surface quality of the remote, almost back to shiny-new in some places. However it got extremely messy at times, and some patches just would not respond to the treatment, no matter what variation or technique, etc. So back to the drawing board.

    And the drawing board delivered on this one. And in my humble opinion, not to purposely 1-up you… I feel that it may be the absolute best possible fix for this problem in existence. The only drawback is what makes your Baking Soda method still very appealing… which is the use of strictly natural ingredients. Because my fix does involve obtaining and using automotive-based chemicals (although not dangerous ones by any means), so if that concern makes this choice not up your alley – read no further.

    But the stuff I got is called “Mother’s Plastic Polish” in a little red squirt-bottle ( And it’s a liquid with little abrasive particles in it normally meant to buff & shine plastic parts on cars. But I can’t emphasize enough how instantaneously this Mother’s polish worked. The 50% of remaining problem-areas that had taken ~30 minutes of intense elbow-grease just to get that far… were then fixed with ONE SINGLE rub-down with a shammy cloth dabbed with the Plastic Polish on it. Literally took 15 seconds to fix the rest of the sticky spots, and in general made the remote look even more sparkly/shiny new. The only other drawback I’ve noticed was it does leave the slight odor a typical cleaner you’d use for your house or car (Windex, etc.) and in only 3-4 hours has already diminished greatly.

    Hopefully that can provide a second option for anyone with extremely difficult cases of this, and thank you for allowing me to post. Have a nice day.


    1. Darla

      Thanks for adding this info. Always welcome.

  2. Mark Allyn

    I had no hope for a very sticky Casablanca ceiling fan remote. Tried dish detergent but that just pushed the sticky around. Brainstorm! Murphy’s oil soap and DONE!!! Dampen a wash cloth with hot water and wring out excess water, dampen wash cloth with oil soap full strength and clean remote or sticky plastic. Rinse wash cloth then wipe remote, repeat, should be free of any sticky!

  3. t

    I just cleaned an old radio and a heater remote just by using clear hand cleaner and a toothbrush. apply, scrub it around real good and wipe with a good thick terrycloth rag. repeat as needed. worked great!!!

    1. Darla

      Thanks for sharing! Not sure if both of your items were sticky or just dirty. That sticky stuff is hard to get rid of, so having a couple of different things to try is a good bet.

  4. Paula DeGroot

    Thanks for the advice and comments as it all led me to my solution. I use Goo Gone wipes for scrapbooking to remove sticky tape and glue from tools. I decided to try them first. I used a wipe for each remote. One fireplace and one fan. I was done in less then two minutes cleaning both. The fan remote had been sticky for three years. I am so happy to finally get them clean.

    1. Darla

      Thanks for sharing. Apparently, this is a bigger problem than I realized when I wrote the post. Glad we have some good options for solving it.

  5. Paul

    I used finger nail polish remover and it worked like a charm. I rinsed the part with a damp paper towel a few times when I was done.

  6. Bernita

    I have a sticky center section on my steering wheel. Anyone tackled that?

    1. Michelle M. Van Veenendaal

      I have the same problem. Expensive car and sticky center of the steering wheel. Have you found a solution that works?

      1. Darla

        There are several different solutions offered in the comments. Try them out and let us know what works.

  7. Mr. C.

    Front plastic panel on a pair of bookshelf speakers had turned “gummy” and this worked perfectly!

  8. Kate

    Thank you so much for your post and for all the replies!! So helpful- my emergency radio flashlight is back to perfect just using the baking soda trick.

    1. Darla

      So glad it helped, and on some important equipment!

  9. Ann Hobbs

    Baking soda paste worked like a charm on our Verizon remote, which had turned totally disgusting. Saved $17.99 for a new one, not to mention that space in the landfill!

    1. Darla

      So happy to hear that!

  10. James

    I tried using Windex using a cloth to scrub my soft plastic tape dispenser. It became smooth, shiny and non-sticky.

    1. Darla

      I love having options. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Mark

    Thank you! It worked a treat.

    1. Darla

      So happy you got some help here. Thanks for visiting.

  12. Holly

    I almost threw away a box of old Haooy Meal toys because they were sticky. This post saved the day! Thanks!

  13. Thomas Barbera

    I tried nail polish remover, alcohol, and goo gone to no avail. In fact it made it worse. Sure enough the baking soda solution did the trick! Thanks so much for this simple and effective solution!

  14. Ruth NYC

    Since I had Murphy’s Oil Soap on hand, I used it 100% successfully on a lovely umbrella handle that had gone sticky. THANK YOU!!!

  15. ClimberMel

    Some good ideas, but a word of WARNING on the nail polish remover. It is acetone and if the item you are trying to clean has any parts that are acetate (hard plastic like models) it will dissolve the plastic.

  16. Roger d lodger

    Another approach: The “breadboard method” like your mother rolled dough in flour. I had an expensive noise-canceling headset, irregular parts of which got sticky. After being unable to dissolve the residue with the suggestions above, I just powdered with talcum powder, then scraped with fingernails and a wire brush. Where some stickiness remained, I just used more talcum powder. Eventually all the (now) dry residue will rub off, leaving me with a smooth, unsticky surface. I’ve used this, “dry” method before, but this headset will take time — appearance is not an issue as much as not having a sticky headset with which to deal!

  17. Bryan Nazareth

    Worked like a charm on an old pre-amp remote that I love. Thanks so much Darla!

  18. Silvio6

    Great tip, worked for my mini speakers, thank you so much !!!

    1. Darla

      Fab! Thanks for stopping by.

  19. Wes

    I have some expensive electronic tools (toys) that have suffered from this condition. A few years back my laser range finder had it and was so bad I took matters into my own hands. I tried “shake ‘n’ baking” tossing it in a bag of talc. This took a bit of stick away but it came back. Next I tried rubbing alcohol and stronger alcohols, this stripped the sticky coating down to the bare plastic. It worked but it also removed all the printed on labels.

    Today I found a world band radio I have had for a few years was also sticky. It has lots of printed on information and I was considering buying a new one rather than attempt to figure it out if I cleaned it the way I had done with my range finder. I did a little googling and found and tried your solution. It works without any damage to the labeling!

    Thank You!

Comments are closed.