Q: I've just moved into a new apartment with bathroom windows covered in contact paper. I scraped off the paper, but I can't remove the adhesive residue that remains. What will get this stuff off?

— Gwen, New York, N.Y.

A: Steve Thomas replies: First, try to remove as much adhesive as possible using a single-edge razor blade mounted in a sturdy scraper. They're available at paint stores and home centers. Change blades frequently to keep the edge, well, razor-sharp. The next step, cleaning off the remaining residue, may involve some trial and error because we don't know what kind of adhesive was used.

According to the folks who make Con-Tact paper, most self-adhesive papers these days use a water-based adhesive that's usually fairly easy to remove with household cleaners such as Formula 409. But older papers with solvent-based adhesives will be harder to get off, as will any water-based adhesives that have been regularly exposed to sunlight.

Luckily, there are several relatively benign products out there for removing labels, gum, masking tape, and the like from nonabsorbent surfaces. These carry trade names like Lift Off, Goo Gone, Unstick, and Duck Brand Adhesive Remover. Most use citrus-based compounds and aren't abrasive. One of them ought to be able to get rid of this particular residue. Just be sure to test them on adjacent surfaces first so the paint and window putty aren't damaged.

Generally, you just spray or sponge them on, wait a few minutes, and then wipe or scrape off the resulting sludge. A second application should take care of any adhesive that doesn't come away entirely with the first wiping. Adhesive removers are usually sold in hardware stores and home centers; they're also found at janitorial-supply companies and even picture-framing shops. If you strike out at all these places, or nothing else seems to be working, there's one big gun left: lacquer thinner. Make sure to use it sparingly so that you don't damage the surrounding surfaces, or yourself. With this flammable cocktail of solvents, it's prudent to keep the windows open and wear butyl gloves, an organic-vapor respirator, and eye protection.
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