How To Clean A Sticky Plastic Remote Control In Simple Steps

The amount of stuff you can rediscover during a cleaning session can be surprising. But, it’s generally only the standard plastic items that appear the worse for wear. From learning how to remove scratches from plastic to finding the perfect way to paint it, keeping your items at top shape can be hard! And what about cleaning? That’s right; we’re talking about the sticky goo that sometimes covers plastic objects that have been neglected for too long. 

Dirty TV remote control

However, if your hair dryer handle or any other plastic item seems doomed, you won’t have to chuck it out just yet. The worst case of all? Your TV remote! That’s why we’re here! We can save it! Go through our cleaning guide to discover how you can make all your plastic remote controls feel brand new again!

Why does plastic become sticky?

Before jumping into how you can clean the sticky rubberised plastic from your old TV remote – let’s talk about the mystery behind gummy plastic

The following are some of the top reasons why you’ll often encounter a gooey surface on your household objects

1. Residue buildup

Some plastic products include a rubberised surface to add to their shelf life. The problem is over time, through wear and tear, these surfaces can end up with a buildup of grime, dust, and other nasties

Two TV remote controlers with a coffee mug

How gloppy a product’s rubber surface can become will also depend on the thickness of the coating. However, the good news is, you can tackle the gumminess by selecting the right cleaning method to eliminate the yucky residue and have your item looking and feeling normal again. 

2. Polymer decline

Without going into too much of a chemistry lesson, one of the most common reasons for soft plastic surfaces to feel all tacky is polymer breakdown. Plastics are a type of polymer, and they’re made from chains of organic or synthetic parts. 

When plastic degradation occurs, it causes plasticiser migration to the object’s surface, giving it its weird sticky feel. If the breakdown of polymer isn’t too bad, you can salvage the object by removing the sticky film

However, if you notice the stickiness keeps returning faster and faster, the breakdown of molecules is likely much more severe. In such cases, it’s best to throw away the item because no amount of surface cleaning will stop the polymer breakdown. 

3. Spill and thrills

Another common reason why remotes can develop a sticky surface is spillages. Anything from sauce to honey or even gluey hands can lead to grippy items and up the ick factor. Think about all the times that you enjoyed your favourite TV show while going through a bag of snacks!

Thankfully, this problem too can be handled quite easily by opting for the suitable cleaning method with the right type of cleaning products. Don’t worry; there’s more on this in the next heading. 

How to clean a sticky plastic remote control

This section is solely dedicated to discussing the various cleaning methods you can employ to have your plastic remote control feel neat and smooth again. Ready? Let’s go!

Cleaning tv remote control with disinfectant in plastic spray bottle

Clean sticky plastic with isopropyl alcohol

The isopropyl alcohol cleaning method is perfect for clearing away the sticky residue buildup due to handling the remote with glue-covered hands or stickers. This technique is also pretty handy to get rid of the once-soft-now-gummy plastic or rubber coating on remotes. 

  1. Grab a clean, lint-free cloth or rag and fold it until it’s small enough to fit in the palm on your hand. Doing so will make the fabric easier to control and work with. If you’re fresh out of rags, you can use thick ply paper towels instead.
  2. Splash the alcohol directly in the middle of the cloth to ensure it spreads out evenly. If you’re using this method to clean your remote or other surfaces with crevices or compartments, make sure the fabric isn’t drenched in the liquid. 
  3. It’s also a good idea to remove the batteries from the remote’s battery compartment to keep them safe and avoid corrosion. If you don’t have isopropyl alcohol on hand, try using rubbing alcohol (another solvent) instead. 
  4. Use smooth and firm strokes to clean the surface of the remote with the cloth. It’s best to use your free hand to hold whatever object you’re tending to make sure you don’t miss any spots.
  5. If you run into a particularly stubborn sticky area, apply slight pressure and use circular motions to allow the solvent to eliminate the residue. 

Note: Keep in mind that isopropyl or rubbing alcohol can remove the colour from certain types of plastic products. To avoid any such concerns, use the alcohol-soaked cloth on a small area of the object to see if the colour bleeds. 

Clean sticky plastic with soap and water

If you’re worried that using alcohol to clean your remote will affect its colour or the markings on it – the soap and water method is perfect for you.

  1. Take a medium-sized glass bowl and fill it up with warm water
  2. Next, add around 15ml of liquid dish soap (mild) to the bowl and mix with a whisk or spoon until the soap is completely dissolved in the water. 
  3. Take a clean, soft cleaning or microfiber cloth and use your index finger to dip the material into the soapy solution. Ensure the cloth doesn’t soak up too much water. 
  4. Hold the item whose rubber surface you want to clean in your free hand, and use the damp cloth to clean its surface in circular motions. If you feel the cloth is too dry, feel free to dip it in the water solution again. 
  5. Wipe down the object until you’re sure you’ve cleared up all the muck and grime
  6. Use a dry, soft cloth to dry down the remote when you’re done cleaning. Make sure you dry up any moisture that seeped down to any crevices or cracks

Clean sticky plastic with baking soda

This cleaning technique is ideal for sticky stuff like remotes, kitchen utensils, plastic containers, toys, etc. 

Baking soda with sponge and towel on wooden table


  1. Take a small-sized glass bowl and mix equal parts of water and baking soda to form a paste. Make sure you have enough of the cleaning paste to cover the surface of any object you have in mind. If you’re using baking soda to clean your remote – ensure you’ve removed the batteries first. 
  2. Use your fingers to scoop out some paste and scrub it over the item you’re cleaning in circular motions. It’s best to start with a little bit of paste and add more if required to avoid making a mess. 
  3. Don’t try to use anything like a toothbrush to apply the paste to the product you’re cleaning. Doing so can scratch the surface.
  4. Fill a small bowl with hot water and dip a corner of a clean cloth to wet it. Use the damp cloth to gently wipe the surface of the item to clear away the dried paste. Dip the cloth in water to clean it whenever necessary. 
  5. Make sure you’ve wiped down the entire surface, and there’s no leftover paste in any areas with indents or crevices. You can employ a Q-tip or cotton swab to clean the area around the buttons to get rid of any built-up dust or muck.
  6. Allow the item to air dry in a well-ventilated location before using it again. 

Tips for keeping your remote control clean

Once you’ve cleaned your remote and it’s back to looking all shiny again, you’ll need to ensure you take proper care of it to stop it from reverting to its sticky status. Here are some tips you can employ to keep your plastic objects gloop-free for longer. 

  1. If you’re looking for a quick fix to removing adhesive residue from stickers on plastic objects, search for Goo Gone Wipes. These clean-up wipes are excellent at removing adhesive residue from all types of surfaces and are pretty handy with crayon drawings on walls too. 
  2. Avoid using acetone (or any nail polish remover) to clean hard plastic objects. If the item you’re trying to clean with acetone has even a little bit of acetate in it – you can end up dissolving the plastic, which is a big no-no. 
  3. Some sources might suggest using talcum powder as a DIY solution to sticky rubber problems. However, be advised that using powder to scrape away the sticky coating may make the problem worse and end up damaging the surface of the item you’re trying to save. 
  4. Invest in shrink wrap bags or clear disposable bags with adhesive closures to keep your remote protected from spills, adhesives, and dust. This will help keep your plastic products cleaner for longer. 

hand holding a remote control with a tv on grey background

Removing the gooey film off your plastic products may not be as difficult as you think – as long as you know what you’re doing. Make sure to follow one of the cleaning methods mentioned above and you can’t go wrong. After all, you might already have the items needed right into your home. Don’t waste any more time! Go out there and do some cleaning!

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