Almost everyone has experienced the frustration of not being able to get stubborn stickiness off of something. Maybe you want to remove a label from a beautiful glass jar so that you can reuse it. Or perhaps your kid left a sticker on their shirt and then it was put through the washing machine so now there’s residue on the fabric.

In these instances, products like Goo Gone can really come in handy! But like so many other household products, many consumers are left wondering about the ingredients in Goo Gone’s products. Can Goo Gone make you sick? Is it toxic to babies or pets?

We’re going to investigate the Original Goo Gone ingredients and then give you some alternative solutions. Let’s get to it.

What is Goo Gone?

Goo Gone is an adhesive remover that works to get rid of things like leftover sticker goo, gum, crayon, glue, ink, grease, wallpaper, and other similar substances from surfaces.

What sort of surfaces can you use Goo Gone on? Materials you generally CAN use Goo Gone on include: finished wood, carpet, glass, (some) fabrics, (some) plastics, stainless steel, ceramic, and sealed stone.

Materials you generally CANNOT use Goo Gone on include: silk, leather, suede, rubber, other porous materials (like plywood or cork), skin, or hair.

These days, the Goo Gone line has expanded quite a bit; they now have a variety of products for your home, car, arts & crafts, and more. For the purposes of this post, we will just be focusing on the Original Goo Gone adhesive remover.

What Are the Ingredients in Goo Gone?

Unfortunately, Goo Gone withholds its exact formulation due to it being “confidential business information” (CBI). For some of the ingredients, they list a chemical group rather than an exact ingredient. They also don’t tell us the amounts of each of these ingredients.

However, even with this lack of information, we can still get a good idea of how potentially toxic Goo Gone is based on the information that’s publicly available.

The ingredients listed in the Original Goo Gone are:

  • Petroleum distillates
  • d-Limonene
  • Aliphatic ether alcohol
  • Orange sweet extract
  • Glycol ether
  • Solvent orange 60
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Is Goo Gone Toxic?

Let’s investigate each of the ingredients one by one to get a better idea of just how safe or unsafe Goo Gone is:

Petroleum distillates

Petroleum distillates are a group of substances that are extracted from crude oil. Examples include mineral oil, naphtha, heavy fuel oil, petroleum ether, and benzene. They’re used as solvents in industrial settings. (Four out of the six Goo Gone ingredients listed function as solvents. A solvent is just something that is used to dissolve something else.)

Petroleum distillates are known toxins according to, well, pretty much everyone: the CDC, OSHA, the EU Globally Harmonized System (GHS), the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)… you get the point.

Potential health risks include:

  • genetic defects
  • cancer
  • respiratory problems
  • central nervous system (CNS) impairment
  • organ damage
  • damage to a fetus or unborn child
  • drowsiness or dizziness
  • skin irritation and allergy
  • death (if ingested)
  • danger to aquatic life
  • also flammable

In other words: there is plenty of irrefutable evidence that the first listed ingredient in Goo Gone is extremely toxic.

d-Limonene

d-Limonene comes with some problems, but the health concerns are nowhere near those of petroleum distillates. This ingredient is often used in a wide variety of products to add fragrance and/or taste, but in Goo Gone, d-Limonene is actually listed as a solvent. This is because its acidic nature helps to break down sticky substances. Limonene can be naturally occurring from plants (like citrus) or it can be made synthetically.

Part of the problem with limonene is that when it’s listed on an ingredient label, it’s almost impossible to tell how it was sourced and processed and whether or not it’s natural or synthetic.

But even in its natural, plant-based version, limonene can be very irritating for some people. Therefore, those with sensitive skin or other vulnerabilities may want to consider avoiding it altogether.

So, d-Limonene exists in a sort of grey area when it comes to toxicity.

Aliphatic ether alcohol

Like petroleum distillates, “aliphatic ether alcohol” is not one specific substance, but rather a group of chemicals. In general, aliphatic alcohols are used as solvents (as is the case with Goo Gone), disinfectants, sanitizers, sterilants, virucides, fungicides, and/or mildewcides.

The toxicity of aliphatic and ether alcohols can range widely, especially when it comes to concentration and exposure levels. Unfortunately, it’s unclear what chemical is actually used by Goo Gone, and therefore difficult to determine how toxic it may or may not be for consumers.

Orange sweet extract

This is the only ingredient that’s listed by Goo Gone as a “cleaning agent.” Like limonene, it’s also used in other types of products for fragrance and/or flavor.

Also like limonene, how potentially harmful or beneficial orange extract may depend on how it’s sourced and processed. Extracts that are sourced straight from plants and minimally processed don’t post much risk, while synthetics may be contaminated with other chemicals that are worse.

It’s also worth noting that orange extract can also act as an “absorption enhancer.” That means that even if the ingredient itself is safe, it can potentially increase absorption of other worse ingredients if it gets on the skin.

Like limonene, orange sweet extract is relatively safe but does come with a few mild risks.

Glycol ether

Once again, this is not one specific ingredient but rather a category. Glycol ethers are commonly used as solvents in things like paint, cleaners, varnishes, dyes, inks, and even perfumes and cosmetics.

According to the EPA, “Acute (short-term) exposure to high levels of the glycol ethers in humans results in narcosis, pulmonary edema, and severe liver and kidney damage. Chronic (long-term) exposure to the glycol ethers in humans may result in neurological and blood effects, including fatigue, nausea, tremor, and anemia.”

Although glycol ethers are not known carcinogens, they can easily be contaminated with carcinogenic chemicals as a result of processing. Most glycol ethers also go through a process that uses two chemicals called ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. Ethylene oxide is an irritant that’s known to cause multiple types of cancer and infertility. 1,4-dioxane is also a known carcinogen.

As you can see, glycol ethers don’t make the cut when it comes to safety.

Solvent orange 60

This is the only ingredient listed by Goo Gone as a colorant. In other words, it’s a dye. There is a good amount of evidence indicating that solvent orange 60 is a “contact sensitizer,” which essentially just means that many people will develop an allergic reaction after exposure to the chemical. This can lead to things like rashes and itching on the skin.

Goo Gone’s Safety Data Sheet

There are also quite a few warnings on the safety data sheet (SDS) provided by the company itself. It states:

“Hazard Statement(s): Combustible liquid. May cause an allergic skin reaction. May be fatal if swallowed and enters airways.

Precautionary Statement(s): Keep away from flames and hot surfaces. No smoking. Avoid breathing fume/mist/vapors/spray. Contaminated work clothing must not be allowed out of the workplace. Wear protective gloves/eye protection/face protection. If swallowed: Immediately call a poison center/doctor. Do NOT induce vomiting. If on skin: Wash with plenty of water. Wash contaminated clothing before reuse. If skin irritation or rash occurs: Get medical advice/attention. Store in a well-ventilated place. Keep cool. Store locked up. Dispose of contents and container in accordance with all local, regional, national and international regulations.”

The SDS continues with four more pages of precautions and directions to take, first aid measures, fire fighting measures, and more.

TL;DR: Although the precise ingredients used in Goo Gone are not disclosed, we do have enough information to know that it is potentially toxic.

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Is Goo Gone Toxic to Dogs & Cats? What About Babies & Kids?

Considering that Goo Gone does contain several toxic ingredients, it cannot be considered safe for pets and small humans.

If you believe any of your pets, babies, or kids have swallowed Goo Gone, you should call poison control immediately.

Is It Harmful to Skin?

Yes, Goo Gone can cause skin irritation. Their own website states that Goo Gone is a skin irritant and therefore should not be used on skin or hair.

Is Goo Gone Toxic to Breathe?

Yes, some of the ingredients used in Goo Gone are toxic to inhale. Of course, it’s going to depend on the amount inhaled, and you’re likely to only breathe in small amounts when using Goo Gone properly. But if you’re going to use Goo Gone, make sure you use it as directed and in a well-ventilated area.

Is Goo Gone Flammable?

Yes.

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What Can You Use Instead of Goo Gone?

So, what can you use if you don’t have any Goo Gone or would prefer to use something safer? Several things will work instead of traditional Goo Gone to remove sticky residues more naturally.

How To Make Homemade Goo Gone

It’s actually pretty easy to make your own Goo Gone at home—only a few ingredients are needed. And it will work just as well as conventional Goo Gone for pretty much all circumstances! Here’s an easy, natural adhesive remover recipe:

  • 2 parts baking soda
  • 1 part oil (we recommend refined coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil, but you could get away with using almost any kind of plant-based or cooking oil)
  • 5 drops of citrus essential oil (such as lemon or orange)

Directions:

  • To start, remove as much of the sticker or adhesive residue as you can. It may help to let your product soak in warm water for an hour or so.
  • Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir (or mash, in the case of coconut oil) together.
  • Apply your DIY adhesive remover with an old cloth rag (not a paper towel). Depending on the material and what exactly you’re trying to remove, you may want to let the solution sit for a few minutes to let it begin working.
  • Rub the solution until the goo is gone.
  • Rinse with warm water.
  • And that’s it!

Other Goo Gone Substitutes That Work

What are some other effective substitutes for Goo Gone? If you don’t have the above ingredients laying around the house, you may also consider using:

  • rubbing alcohol
  • nail polish remover
  • dish soap
  • vinegar
  • lemon juice
  • peanut butter (this one won’t work for everything, but it’s a great safe solution for getting gum out of hair!)
  • hydrogen peroxide (used in small amounts)
  • WD-40 (This is also toxic, so we don’t recommend it as a non-toxic alternative. You can read more about that here.)
  • You could also try using the above DIY ingredients alone. So if you only have baking soda OR cooking oil OR citrus essential oil, you may be able to make some progress with just one or two of those ingredients.

Conclusion

Goo Gone is a popular choice for removing sticky stuff from surfaces, but it’s not exactly a safe bet. The next time you need to get some sticky residue off a glass jar or t-shirt, try out the homemade gunk remover recipe above!



Image credits: Diego Botero, Crema Joe, kazuend, Andrew Seaman