How to Remove Contact Paper

This is your complete guide on how to remove contact paper from any surface. Contact paper ideas are a great way to completely change the look of anything. But removing old contact paper from surfaces can feel like a daunting task and can leave behind lots of sticky residue. Let me walk you through exactly how to remove it.

Removing contact paper from countertop with text overlay

If you have been around here for any amount of time, you know that I love to use contact paper – not just to cover up unsightly surfaces but also to decorate and in crafts.

The first time I used contact paper was when I updated my  kids’ bathroom countertop with contact paper. I get a lot of questions about them and have an update on how the contact paper countertops looked 10 months later.

Contact paper countertops in bathroom with text overlay - 10 months later

Of course, the next most common question  I get is how to remove contact paper?

What do you find underneath?

Do you get a sticky residue from the contact paper adhesive?

How about around the sink area? Do you get mold?

To answer all your questions (and mine), when it was time to move, I decided to record the video of me taking it off and looking underneath!

Plus, I am answering a lot of other questions related to removing contact paper from any surface.

How to Remove Contact Paper


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Removing contact paper FAQ

If you would rather just read about it, here are the frequently asked questions about removing contact paper from countertops –

Is it easy to remove the contact paper?

The answer to that depends on the quality of the contact paper. I used this one and it was really easy to simply pull it up as you can see in the video. Of course, if you have old contact paper used as shelf liner from the 70s in your kitchen cabinets, that will require some amount of elbow grease.

What is the Best Way to Remove contact paper?

As I said, it depends on the quality of the contact paper. You should try removing contact paper using the below techniques (in order)

  1. Try pulling at a corner of the contact paper. If it is good quality, it should simply come off with a little bit of force.
  2.  If you have stubborn contact paper, hold a hair dryer on the highest setting a few inches from it. This will help melt the adhesive and you should be able to peel away the contact paper more easily. If you are unable to peel, you can also try using a plastic scraper or putty knife. This technique does require a bit of patience but it works well for those old contact paper shelves.

Does contact paper leave a residue?

Again, the answer to that is in the quality.

The marble contact paper I used on the kids’ bathroom countertop or the kitchen countertop, did not leave any residue behind at all!

In fact, I had cleaned it thoroughly before applying the contact paper and once I removed it, the countertop was exactly like it was before it went on!

shiny countertop after removing contact paper

But if your contact paper leaves a residue, you should be able to clean it up using soap and water.

If it still doesn’t take all the residue away, you can use an adhesive remover to get it all out. This is my favorite one!

How to remove contact paper from wood?

Now here, it gets a bit tricky. It depends not only on the quality of the contact paper, but it also depends on the wood surface you applied it to.

If the wood is bare, you most probably will have to try technique #2 above to remove it and possibly use a heat gun in place of a hairdryer. You will most probably get a residue left behind.

You can use an adhesive remover to get the adhesive off on the wood.

If the wood is well sealed with a good quality varnish, you should be able to apply and remove the contact paper with minimal damage. However, if the paint or varnish quality is not great, the paint will peel off with the contact paper.

How to remove contact paper adhesive?

If you removed contact paper and a sticky residue is left behind, it is very easy to remove too!

If you need to remove adhesive from painted or sealed surfaces, you need to be sure to use a citrus-based remover like this one. Solvent-based adhesive removers can dissolve the varnish and mess up your furniture!

How to remove contact paper. Is it easy to remove contact paper? What's the best way to remove contact paper? What's underneath it? Get all your questions answered!

How to Remove Contact Paper

Active Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Beginner
Estimated Cost: $0

The complete guide on how to remove contact paper from any surface. Removing old contact paper from shelves, cabinets and countertops is not hard at all!

Tools

Instructions

    1. Try pulling the contact paper off. If it is good quality, it should simply come off with a little bit of force.
    2. If your contact paper is not coming off easily, you can hold a hairdryer on medium a few inches from it. This will help melt the adhesive and you should be able to peel away the contact paper more easily.
    3. If your contact paper leaves a residue, you should be able to clean it up using soap and water. If it still doesn't take all the residue away, you can use an adhesive remover to get it all out
    4. To remove contact paper from bare wood, you most probably will have to try technique #2 to remove it and possibly use a heat gun in place of a hairdryer. You will most probably get a residue left behind. Use an adhesive remover to get the adhesive off on the wood.
    5. If the wood is well sealed with a good quality varnish, you should be able to apply and remove the contact paper with minimal damage. However, if the paint or varnish quality is not great, the paint will peel off with the contact paper.
    6. If you need to remove adhesive from painted or sealed surfaces, you need to be sure to use a citrus-based remover. Solvent-based adhesive removers can dissolve the varnish and mess up your furniture!

Anika's goal is to inspire and empower beginners with woodworking, DIY, home improvement, and home decor ideas.
She wants everyone to unlock their creative potential and experience the feeling that comes with making something. Nothing feels better better than seeing something and saying "I can make that!"

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5 Comments

  1. Linda L Weeks says:

    Dear Anika: Thank you for the video, my experience was different from yours, but then I wasn’t using that nice surface you had to work with. I had these shelves from IKEA and a few years ago I covered the back with some very substantial contact paper – it did look good, but I wanted to see it without, so I pulled it off, but the paper on the shelves came off as well as the contact paper, so now I have a big greyish tear where it lost its white surface! Meanwhile I’m covering up that spot with some tall books and such! Live and learn!

    1. Hi Linda, I am so sorry this happened to you! Yes, the ease of removing contact paper largely depends on the surface and I would certainly not recommend it for a painted of laminate surface.
      But, you could surely try covering up the shelf with a new pattern of contact paper 🙂

  2. Marsha Stevens says:

    Thank you so much. You are so helpful. Have a great day.

    1. You can paint the ikea shelves with chalk paint

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