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A once expensive 3D controller before (left) and after treatment



Manufacturers have invented many different names for the coating of plastic parts: sometimes it is called soft touch, sometimes soft varnish, sometimes anti-slip. However, the effect is always the same: at the beginning, the coating makes the objects soft and pleasant to the touch. In addition, the coating disguises some unclean injection molds or uneven gaps between housing parts. However, after a while, the layer begins to stick uncomfortably.

In my case, it was a 3D mouse from the company 3Dconnexion: It lay in the drawer for some time, in which the once velvety soft surface coating had turned into a disgusting, sticky mass that ruined the fun of the expensive input device. Since the controller was not usable in this way, I dared to get to grips with it with orange oil cleaner and published a video on the YouTube channel of »Make«.

That I am not alone with this problem has been shown by more than a quarter of a million views. In addition, more than 500 comments and e-mails have arrived in the »Make« editorial team, with numerous tips on which other remedies can help against stickiness. So we set to work with a box full of sticky objects – razor, camcorder, soap dish, sunglasses and mouse – and tried out the most common tips. Here are our experiences.

What to consider before cleaning

First of all, you have to make sure that it is actually a coating. On older devices, the grip area is often not painted, but provided with an attached piece of rubber. These can also become sticky over time. Unfortunately, however, they cannot be cleaned with our tips, because no varnish can be removed there.

In order to use as few expensive and, if necessary, environmentally harmful cleaners as possible, you should first remove the surface coating mechanically as much as possible. For example, a wooden spatula, as you know it from the dentist, is suitable for this purpose. Carefully push the coating together into a heap and remove the resulting booby (unfortunately I couldn't think of a more pleasant, but equally appropriate term) with a handkerchief. What remains is a thin, sticky film. Since manufacturers use different compositions for their coatings, different agents can be used for cleaning. In the end, all of the remedies mentioned below can help, but not with every item – the only thing that helps is to try it out.

Baby powder

A short-term remedy is actually baby powder: although it is not able to remove the coating, it sticks to the coating and thus prevents you from coming into contact with the stickiness when you touch it. However, this treatment is not permanent. The baby powder rubs off quickly, the effect is gone after just a few steps.


If the item to be cleaned is not sensitive to water or heat, the dishwasher is worth a try: just let the object go for a ride. In fact, some coatings can be sufficiently impressed by the dishwashing liquid and disappear with the dirty water in the sewer system. Whether that's a good thing is another question.

Orange Oil Cleaner

Orange Oil Cleaner is a natural solvent whose orange peel terpenes are able to remove varnishes, adhesives, greases and resins. At the same time, orange oil cleaner is comparatively gentle on the underlying plastic layers if it is not left on for too long. Orange Oil Cleaner can be easily applied with a brush due to its honey-like consistency and removed with a damp paper towel.


Isopropanol (also isopropyl alcohol) is used to disinfect and dissolve paints, greases and resins. Many soft lacquer coatings can be removed with isopropanol. However, some plastics and paints are sensitive to contact with isopropanol, so you should do a test on an inconspicuous area and start with short exposure times. By the way, you can also use isopropanol to clean circuit boards, so it is safe for electrical appliances. However, it should be completely removed or dissipated before the cleaned device is restarted.


Acetone dissolves soft lacquer coatings like no other agent on this list. However, acetone also dissolves many commonly used plastics, so only use acetone if you are sure that the object to be cleaned will not be affected by it. Many disposable gloves are also damaged by acetone.


The universal oil Ballistol is skin-friendly and food-safe. In fact, like many other oils and greases, it is capable of removing adhesives and soft-touch coatings. Unfortunately, not all coatings react equally to the remedy. In our tests, about half of the test candidates to be cleaned were just as sticky after treatment as before.

Oven Cleaner

Oven and grill cleaner also removes many surface coatings. As a rule, several cleaning cycles, each with an exposure time of 15 minutes, are necessary. Some plastics discolour as a result of the cleaner and form white streaks on the surface, which can be reduced somewhat with the aforementioned universal oil. Therefore, do not leave the foam on for 24 hours, as described on the can.

To each little animal its little place

Which cleaner works best depends on the composition of the coating. Isopropanol has proven to be universally useful. Oven cleaner is also at the forefront, but is a bit more time-consuming to use. We tried other remedies: silicone removers, baby wipes and dirt erasers, but had little success, at least with our test candidates.