Why Does Rubber Get Sticky? Fixes & Prevention Tips

Published February 23, 2021
Kitchen bowl and dough scraper on table

Why does rubber get sticky? It has to do with the composition of rubber and the process it goes through to become vulcanized. Learn how to fix sticky rubber around your home and prevent it. Get tips and tricks for removing sticky residue from rubber.

Why Does Rubber Get Sticky?

There are two reasons your rubber can get sticky. Either you have spilled something on it, or the rubber itself is breaking down. Sticky substances spilled on rubber are relatively easy to clean off. However, deteriorating rubber is a different beast to tame. When rubber deteriorates, it's typically knows as sticky rubber syndrome.

Sticky Rubber Syndrome

The rubber on a brand new product is vulcanized to make it stretchy and help with grip, but it goes back to its non-vulcanized sticky state as it starts to deteriorate. Once the rubber on your beloved controller or camera starts to get sticky, there is nothing you can do to salvage it. Instead, you can use chemicals to remove the old deteriorating rubber to reach a fresh layer of vulcanized rubber underneath. Eventually, all the rubber will need to be removed as it continues to break down.

How to Fix Sticky Rubber

Since household items are subject to sticky rubber, you can use some basic household items to remove the rubber from the plastic.

How to Remove Sticky Rubber With Windex or Rubbing Alcohol

One of the easiest ways to get rid of the sticky rubber on your controllers or binoculars is to use Windex or rubbing alcohol. The ammonia in the Windex works to break down the rubberized coating, removing it. Just be careful using any liquids with electronics like laptops.

  1. Add a Windex or rubbing alcohol to a cloth or cotton ball.

  2. Wipe away the gumminess on the surface of your item.

  3. Use a toothbrush to get into those hard to reach crevices.

  4. Repeat until the sticky rubber is completely gone.

    Young woman cleaning and disinfecting technology at home

How to Remove Sticky Rubber With Magic Eraser

For laptops or other electronics, you might try using a magic eraser pad to get the stickiness off your items.

  1. Wipe the magic eraser over the stickiness.

  2. Keep moving it over the sticky rubber until it is completely gone.

Scrape Away Rubber

If all else fails to remove the gummy rubber from your item, you can use a spoon to scrape it off. Since the rubber is degrading, it comes off surprisingly easily.

  1. Dip a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and rub it over the rubber.

  2. Use a spoon to scrape away any remaining rubber to leave the clean plastic.

How to Prevent Rubber From Getting Sticky

Since degradation of rubber happens due to aging and environmental factors, you can try a few things to keep your rubber from succumbing to the dreaded sticky rubber syndrome.

  • Store rubberized equipment in a controlled environment with a humidifier.

  • Add a coating of polyurethane to new rubberized tools or items without electronics to add an extra layer of protection for the rubber.

  • Keep rubberized equipment out of direct exposure to UV rays.

    Kitchen utensils in an open drawer

How to Remove Sticky Residue From Rubber

Sticky rubber syndrome is only one reason that rubber can get sticky. Rubber spatulas, purses, and floormats get sticky from food or dirt left behind on them. In these cases, you want to use mild cleansers to clean the rubber to avoid causing discoloration and degradation. To remove sticky residue from rubber, you need:

Clean Sticky Residue From Rubber

When it comes to cleaning rubber, you want to start small and work your way up. Therefore, start with a simple washing with water and detergent, then try baking soda if the stickiness is stubborn.

  1. Wet a cloth with warm water and add a drop of dish soap and work it through the cloth.

  2. Work the cloth over the rubber to remove the stickiness.

  3. Rinse with water and check.

  4. If the stickiness lingers, create a paste of baking soda and water.

  5. Add the paste over the sticky area.

  6. Allow it to sit for a few minutes.

  7. Use the cloth to work the paste around.

  8. Rinse and repeat as needed.

A magic eraser and rubbing alcohol can also work to remove stubborn stickiness from your rubber.

Dealing With Sticky Rubber

Having sticky rubber can be frustrating. However, there are multiple ways for you to deal with this problem. Give one of these solutions a try to make your rubber spatula or spoons as good as new. Next, get tips on how to clean sticky wooden kitchen cabinets.

Why Does Rubber Get Sticky? Fixes & Prevention Tips