Household Cleaning: Removing Contact Paper From Wood

How to remove contact paper from old shelves or wood drawers doesn't have to be difficult.

If you have old wooden drawers or cabinets with contact paper in them and have tried to remove the old paper for a new style, or simply because it has become worn with time, then you are probably already aware that getting the old paper off is not an easy task. With a few tips and tricks, however, it can be made simple.

Begin by preparing a work surface for your object. If your drawer bottoms can be removed from the frame of the drawer, it is easier to work with the single piece of wood so that you can really get to the corners. Likewise with a cabinet shelf - if you can remove it, it will make your work immensely easier to handle. Once you have removed the drawer bottom or shelf, clear a large space on the kitchen table or other flat work surface. Be sure that the surface is clean and has been dusted so that you do not end up with any bits of debris or dust sticking to your wood. Cover the surface with newspaper or plain white butcher paper, if available.

Depending on what materials you have available and what you wish to use, you will need some or all of the following materials:



- A razor blade or utility knife

- A few cans of Coca-Cola

- Stiff brush or rough, lint-free cloth

- A hair dryer

- A spray bottle filled with plain water

There are a few easy methods for removing contact paper from these wooden surfaces. We will start with the cleanest: a hair dryer and a spray bottle of water. Though this is the cleanest method for removing contact paper, it is not always the best choice, as it will not remove all of the adhesive backing from the contact paper. However, if the wood has been treated, or if it is visible to the eye when it is placed back in the drawer/cabinet, then this may be the best choice.

Begin this method by heating the contact paper with the highest setting on the hair dryer. Start at a corner of the wood and spray the water onto the piece generously. Carefully peel while heating, and continue until the paper has been pulled back completely. Repeat with water and heat, using a stiff brush to clean the remaining adhesive and sticky residue from the surface of the wood. Allow to dry completely without heat to avoid warping, and re-assemble or re-cover the piece.

Coca-Cola and other similar, highly acidic colas can work wonders on removing contact paper adhesive. You may want to use this method if you want to be sure that all of the adhesive is removed, and if you are not overly worried about staining the wood. Although the cola will be rinsed from the piece, there is the potential that the caramel coloring in the soda will soak into and stain the wood.

Using the cola method, we begin by scoring the contact paper generously with the razor or utility knife. Do not cut too deeply; all we need to do is to cut through the paper and into the adhesive. When you are finished scoring the paper, you should have a series of one-inch marks spaced about one-inch apart, covering the entire surface. Next, take your rough cloth (such as a shop towel) and soak it generously in the cola. Do not wring it out. If you do not have a rough cloth, a stiff brush will work. In the case of a brush, pour the cola directly onto the paper. Rub with the soaked cloth, or work the stiff brush over the scores in the paper. Be sure to use a motion that runs perpendicular to the scores in the paper, and it will begin to easily peel back from the wood. Repeat until all of the adhesive has been removed, and then clean thoroughly with plain water until the cola has been removed from the wood. Allow to dry before replacing the piece into the drawer or cabinet.

With just a little bit of thought and planning, even the most difficult tasks can be accomplished easily, including getting that old contact paper out of the way.

© High Speed Ventures 2011