Candy Apple Redd posted the following tip on our old 2002 message board in response to a question about removing stickers from guitars. Subsequent to her posting, Candy Apple Redd wrote to us suggesting that folks with sticker shock, who didn't visit the message board, might find the information useful, too.
I asked a friend of mine who is an artist that deals with varnish and glue all of the time. She said the biggest NO-NO is to use things like lighter fluid, paint thinner, hairspray, nail polish remover and stuff like that. Guitars are sealed with various types of varnish and even acrylic based finishes that can be damaged by using solvents, she said. Her advice was to look at the finish of your guitar. The shinier it is the better your chances of removing old stickers. If the surface isn't at all shiny you might be better off just leaving the old sticker on or figuring you're going to have a possibility of damaging the wood when you try to pull it off. According to her, you can actually pull off splinters of wood when you try to remove a sticker from a guitar that has a dull finish! About the only exception, she said, is those kind that are licked to put them on. I guess you can try wetting them down really good by dropping water off your fingertips right onto the sticker until it, hopefully, will come off. Don't leave the water on, though, for more than a minute so you don't saturate the wood underneath. And that's only for very dull finishes on guitars, though.
The other kinds of stickers are the kind that have a glue on them that didn't need to be licked and they're harder to get off. My buddy told me that patience is the best answer to those stickers. In other words, plan on spending some time cuz they ain't coming off easy! If they're not metallic or plastic do this stuff,
Abrade the surface of the sticker with your fingernail. Don't push hard or use things like knives or screwdrivers, just your fingernail because you can damage the varnish and even the wood if you dig too deep. The idea is just to rough up the surface a bit so step two works better.
Take a piece of paper towel or a cotton ball, it doesn't matter which, and moisten it with hot water. It only should be as hot as washing your hands water, not boiling. Don't let it be sopping, you have to wring it out some. Press it on the sticker after you mess up the surface. That's what you messed up the sticker surface for, so the water would soak in to the paper. Keep the paper towel on the sticker until the sticker starts to look soft/wet. This makes the paper mushy. Keep repeating it until the paper does get mushy. If it isn't use your fingernail to abrade the surface of the sticker some more. When it gets mushy (only part of it will get mushy at a time, probably) use the tip of your finger where your fingerprint is and rub in little circles. You're trying to make little balls of wet paper out of that sticker. Be really careful not to rub outside the sticker area or you'll spread the glue to an even larger area than you already have. Take a piece of Magic Transparent Tape and press it against the sticker stuff and kind of burnish it by rubbing over the top of it with your finger. That's so the sticker stuff sticks to the tape and when you pull off the tape some of the sticker comes with it. Don't use a piece of tape bigger than the sticker because it will only leave more glue which is the last thing you need ------ but leave an edge "up" and not pressed on to grab onto to pull the tape off. (She has a trick. She cuts the tape slightly long by maybe a half inch and folds that half inch sticky side to sticky side so she had a little "handle" that won't stick to anything to use to pull the tape off with.) Like I said, this is a very time consuming process, but we're talking a guitar, right? It's worth the work. She warned not to use any tape except Magic Transparent Tape, the kind that looks a bit "foggy" instead of cellophaney. The other kind can leave behind more glue.
Repeat steps one and two over and over again.
She said if you're desperate and willing to mess up your finish you try a fast removal by putting a piece of thick brown paper like heavy grocery store paper bags are made out of over the sticker and pressing it with a hot iron on the cotton setting then trying to peel the sticker off. But she claims that can really screw up your wood as well cause fogging of the finish on your guitar. Also don't ever use an iron with the steam setting. Very very bad news there!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And she says that trying to just pull them off is kinda bad, too, because you can pull off some of the surface with them which leaves little pock marks or fogging on your varnish.
The best way is the damp towel, rub, tape, over and over again. Just don't use a wet towel, only a damp one. And if it damages your guitar wood then you probably needed to refinish and seal the wood anyway so light sanding with a very fine grain sandpaper, she said a very very fine grit, would be appropriate provided keeping the original paint job wasn't a big priority.
Oh,those metallic and plastic stickers she said about all you can do is try the jerk and pray method. She calls them evil little things and claims that they're nasty, nasty, nasty. The plastic ones you can try the abrade/moisten/pull method and it might work. The metal ones try the iron method. Neither method is a promised to work, though, which is how come she said jerk and pray. If you just have to jerk it off, pray that the axe survives.
Hope this helps. Good luck.
Candy Apple Redd
PS SHE WANTS ME TO SAY DO THESE THINGS AT YOUR OWN RISK and I second that! Don't try it unless you're willing to take on the responsibility for damage. We think you should go to a professional refinish person. Yeah, like we can all afford that, huh? But, use these ideas at your own risk, all right?
We're not luthiers --- that's the right word, right? --- we're rockers so it's your fault if it goes kahooey, okay? We're just redheads with axes, that's all.
Candy Apple Redd signing off :-)
© Candy Apple Redd 2002
All Rights Reserved
We recently received a response to Candy's tip, by Tubeswell...
I find a bit of eucalyptus oil on a cotton ball works good to get the adhesive residue gunk off and dissolve the paper from those stickers. It doesn't hurt the laquer at all, it only works on the sticker gum and that's AFAICT (which is Irish for 'a fact' ;)). 2CW