How to Remove Adhesives From Guitars

In the world of guitars, adhesive removal can be a sticky situation. Whether it’s glue, paste, tape, or stickers, these adhesives can leave behind a stubborn residue that can mar the beauty of a beloved instrument.

This guide will walk you through step-by-step techniques to break the bond and restore your guitar to its former glory.

So grab your chemicals and get ready to banish those adhesives for good!

Key Takeaways

  • Different types of adhesives, such as glue, paste, tapes, and stickers, have varying strengths and purposes on guitars.
  • Chemicals like naphtha, lighter fluid, acetone, and denatured alcohol are effective for safe adhesive removal.
  • Techniques for breaking the bond include peeling off weaker adhesives, using lighter fluid to soften the glue, and wiping off residue with a paper towel.
  • Removing severe adhesives may require more time, effort, and stronger chemicals, and patience is necessary for achieving a cleaner outcome.

Types of Adhesives Found on Guitars

Different types of adhesives, such as glue, paste, tape, and stickers, are commonly found on guitars and each have varying adhesive strengths depending on their purpose.

Glue and paste chemically bind objects together, ensuring a strong bond.

Tapes and stickers, on the other hand, have different adhesive strengths. Duct tapes, for instance, have stronger adhesives suitable for heavy packaging, while stickers for collectibles have milder adhesive bond strength.

It is important to note that the adhesive strength varies depending on the purpose of the tape or sticker.

Understanding the different types of adhesives and their adhesive strengths is crucial when it comes to removing them from guitars.

Best Chemical for Safe Adhesive Removal: Naphtha

Naphtha (lighter fluid) is an effective chemical for safely removing adhesive from guitars.  Naphtha will break down and dissolve various types of adhesives without causing damage to the guitar’s finish or electronics.  People will sometimes recommend acetone.  Acetone is safe for a polyurethane finish but can dissolve a lacquer finish.

Naphtha, in particular, is recommended by Fender for adhesive removal due to its effectiveness and safety.  Since it’s safe for any finish and works well, I keep this in my garage where I work on my guitars and recommend it.

Techniques for Breaking the Bond

Using naphtha, you can soften the glue and gradually separate the sticker or tape from the guitar. This technique is effective for breaking the bond between the adhesive and the guitar’s surface.

Here are some key tips to keep in mind when removing adhesives from guitars:

  • Work in a clear and organized space for safety.
  • Start peeling from the edges that have detached from the wood.
  • Use lighter fluid to soften the glue and make it easier to remove.
  • Wipe off any adhesive residue with a paper towel sprayed with lighter fluid.

Removing Severe Adhesives From Guitars

When dealing with severe adhesives on guitars, it is important to exercise patience and allocate more time and effort for their removal. Industrial strength packing tapes, for example, require a more thorough approach. One should not rush the process, as a cleaner outcome is desired.

Removing severe adhesives may take more than just a drop and a wipe. In such cases, more time and chemicals may be necessary. Taking the time to achieve a clean outcome when removing adhesives from a guitar is well worth the effort.

Tips for Minimizing Damage During Adhesive Removal

When removing adhesives from guitars, it is important to minimize any potential damage that may occur. Here are some tips to help achieve a clean outcome while preserving the integrity of the instrument.

Firstly, it is crucial to work in a clean area and make sure you don’t have tools and other items lying by. I learned this the hard way.

Secondly, take your time and avoid rushing the process, especially when dealing with more difficult adhesives.

Additionally, it is essential to follow safety precautions when handling flammable materials naphtha.

Finally, consider using gentle techniques such as using a paper towel sprayed with naphtha to wipe off adhesive residue.


In conclusion, removing adhesives from guitars requires knowledge and patience.

By following the step-by-step guide and considering important factors, such as workspace organization and safety precautions, guitar owners can effectively restore their instruments to their original glory.

So, embark on this adhesive removal journey with confidence, and watch your guitar shine like never before.

Rob Z

Got my first guitar in 1987, took lessons and played nonstop. Spent some time in hard rock and metal bands in the 1990s. I eventually switched to acoustic guitars only and rarely played for years. I got back into electric guitars when my daughter began playing in 2018. I now collect way too much gear.
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