Glue is a major part that cannot be ignored when working with woodworking projects.
However, it can also damage your project – if not used correctly.
Fortunately, removing the fresh glue from wood is not that difficult.
To simply wipe out the glue, from a finished or semi-finished wood surface, you can use a piece of rag dampened in warm water.
But, in case the glue dries out on wood, it will be hard to remove.
So, if you are repairing old woodwork, furniture or trim it is essential to know how to remove dried wood glue in a simple, safe, and quick manner so that your project doesn’t get ruined forever.
Getting rid of dried glue is also important if you plan to repaint the surface – for getting desired finish.
Removing Dried Glue from Painted Wood
Wood glue is simply an adhesive that includes molecular chains known as polymers.
These polymers provide the feature of “cohesion” to the glue, making it capable of binding itself.
The binding of the wood and glue is a distinctive bond known as “adhesion” which works on the molecular attraction between the wood and glue molecules.
Removing old dried glue from already stained or painted wood surfaces (like your kitchen cabinets, table, chairs, hardwood floors, laid parquet, etc) is therefore not very easy.
You will need the right products in addition to applying some elbow and grease before you can get the desired results.
What follows are a few simple steps you need to follow to remove the glue from wood that has dried over time…
Step 1. Find out the glued part
Once the glue dries out, it dissolves with wood and gets transparent.
Therefore, it may be tough to locate the troublesome area once the wood glue is dry.
You should therefore locate the problematic area carefully.
In order to do it, just wet a big piece of cloth and rub it all over the painted wooden surface.
Due to water on the wood, the glued part will get darker.
Irrespective of the size of the wood, this method will help you locate glued areas very easily.
Step 2. Loosen the glue
Once the problematic area has been sited, scrap the excess glue with your nails, a plastic spatula, or a scraper.
You will need to work carefully on the painted and waxed surface so that you do not damage the paint.
Just in case, scrapping the glue does not work, you will need the products that can loosen it.
Start by trying cooking oil as it will not damage the wood if painted or varnished.
Apply a bit of vegetable oil on a rag and rub over the sticky glue residue vigorously in circular motions.
Then wipe out using a wet sponge and allow the surface to dry.
Using white vinegar is another good method that can help loosen the dried glue on the painted wood surfaces.
- Dip a soft cloth in white vinegar
- Gently dab over the glue stain for few minutes
- Wipe out the loosened residue with a wet sponge
Using heat (hairdryer) is another very effective technique to loosen the dried wood glue on the finished painted surface.
- Turn on your hair dryer and set it on the lowest level
- Apply the heat on the glue for a few seconds from a distance of about 25 cm.
- Once you see the sticky vinyl adhesive loosening over the surface wipe over the surface with a paper towel
If you are trying to remove the traces of dried glue from waxed wood you can use a cloth ironing machine instead of a hairdryer.
- Start by covering the adhesive with some sheets of absorbent paper
- Set the temperature of iron that can soften the stain easily without burning the paper
- Pass the iron over the paper and you will see the paper will most likely absorb the glue automatically
- If required repeat the process 2-3 times until the glue is removed from the waxed wood completely
Step 3. Scrub and sand gently
For scrubbing the stained/painted surface you will need some tools like a brass wire brush or steel wool.
Take any of the mentioned equipment and scrub the area where you have used the vinegar.
Make sure you don’t put more effort than needed or it may damage the wood surface.
Scrub the glued areas and ensure it is completely done. Then use a dry cloth and clean the area.
Next, with the help of wood sandpaper, sand the glued part.
It is recommended to use fine grit used sandpaper as you will need to sand it gently without any damage.
Step 4. Clean the surface
Once you are done with sanding, clean the wood surface with the help of a dry cloth.
If there is some glue still left, rub the surface with a cloth soaked in lukewarm water.
It will help you wipe out all the remaining glue, dust, and dirt from it without scratching the varnish, paint, or stain.
When using water, be careful that you do not leave the damp rag on the wood surface for long as it can damage the wood.
Step 5. Finally, finish the surface
After all these steps, you will have a nice piece of teak that you can start working on again.
This means you can make use of glossy or matte wood finish, furniture wax, varnish, paint or stain to finish and make it look better.
How Can You Remove the Glue from Unfinished Wood?
Unlike painted wood, you do not need to be much careful when you need to remove the dried glue from the unfinished or untreated wood surfaces.
For this reason, you can use different solvents for different varieties of glues to weaken the glue.
Some of the most common ones are as follows…
1- Soap solution
If you have a few spots of dried superglue on your wood the cheapest way to clean them is by using a regular soap water solution.
- Mix some laundry soap in warm water
- Soak a piece of rag into it
- Put the dampened rag on the stain for few minutes
- The glue will most likely get softened and is now easier to remove using a scraper
2- Baking Soda
Baking soda is another great home remedy by which you can easily remove dried glue from the wood surface.
- Soften the adhesive with a hairdryer first
- Using a spatula remove the glue that can be easily cleaned
- Now prepare a paste in a dish with some baking soda and hot water
- Apply this paste directly on the spot and let it sit for about 30 to 40 minutes
- Now rub the spot with a dry cloth, rinse with warm soapy water and allow it to dry naturally
At this point, all dried sticky residue will be removed from your piece of wood or furniture.
3- Lemon with salt
The lemon and salt blend is an ideal way to clean glue stains from unfinished wood furniture.
- Cut the lemon in half
- Squeeze some juice onto the glue stain
- Wait for about 15 minutes and then put some salt on it
- Wait for few minutes again and you will see the glue has softened
- You can now remove the glue using a plastic spatula or a scraper
4- Nail polish remover
Before using nail polish remover on glue stain make sure it does not contain acetone.
This may damage or discolor the wood or the finish it may already have.
- Apply some nail polish remover on the stain with a clean rag
- After few minutes you can easily remove the softened glue with emery paper
Steel sponge or steel wool can also be used for scrubbing in place of emery paper if you don’t have one at hand.
5- Brake Cleaner
Residues of all-purpose glue, sticker adhesives, hot glue, or duct tape can also be cleaned from wooded surfaces by using products like brake cleaner that are easily available in a hardware store near you.
The brake cleaning liquid is safe to use on untreated wood which means you can use it without any worries of wood being attacked.
- Simply spray the brake cleaner onto the wood area stained with adhesive
- After 2-3 minutes wipe down the area with a clean cloth or a rag
- If required spray the brake cleaner several times on the adhesive and clean the area until the glue is removed completely
6- Rubbing Alcohol
When dissolving wood glue keep in mind that you will need an agent that is stronger than the glue.
Rubbing alcohol (also known as isopropyl alcohol) is one such inexpensive substance that can effectively dissolve wood glue.
- Take some rubbing alcohol in a bowl
- Dip small piece of rag into the alcohol
- Apply it to the wood glue area and rub gently
- Continue rubbing the area until you see the glue dissolving
- If the glue is too stubborn let the rag sit on the area for 2-3 minutes and rub again
Keep in mind that if you need to remove bits of dried paint, clear finishes, lacquer, shellac, and polyurethane finishes, denatured alcohol can work better instead of isopropyl alcohol.
7- Glue Solvents
If everything above fails, you can use solvents like white-spirit or mineral spirits for getting rid of adhesives like Super Glue, Gorilla, and Loctite.
There are also several solvents designed specifically for the type of glue you have used.
Some of these that are easily available online include:
- WD-40 Multi-Use Cleaners
- Goo Gone Original Adhesive Remover
- 3M General Purpose Adhesive Cleaner
- Elmer’s Sticky Out Adhesive Remover
Before using any check the manual to know about the glue solvent in detail.
Also, read the instructions mentioned on the solvent packaging to get the best result.
At most times, you just need to apply some amount of solvent to the unpainted wood area and leave it for about one hour.
Remember, the waiting time shouldn’t be more than an hour because then it may start dissolving the wood fibers.
Once the waiting time has passed, it will leak into the glue and loosen the structure.
The Bottom Line
Sticky foreign substances, adhesives, or glue such as Titebond and Elmer’s can stick to wood very easily even if the surface is painted, stained, waxed, or varnished.
However, to remove the glue and its sticky residue, wood can be sanded out, cleaned, and finished.
Based on the type of finish you have on wood, and how terrible the glue stain is, you can use products like soap water, vinegar, ammonia, acetone, etc. to dissolve dried wood glue.
Whatever method you choose, it’s good to do a test on a small area of your wood, to verify that the product does not damage the furniture piece.
Also, make sure that you follow the right process and be patient so that you can remove the stain without damaging the paint and the wood.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.