How to remove stickers from wood

Q. What is the best way to remove a sticker that has been on a very old wooden frame for a very long time?

I inherited a charming framed mirror from my grandmother. Unfortunately, long ago she put stickers on some of her more interesting possessions to key them to descriptive lists. Although the history of the mirror is not described on any of the lists we found, the sticker persists and refuses to succumb to the methods of removal I have tried. Regrettably, I already have somewhat damaged the finish of the wood in my efforts.

I am tempted to color the sticker in with a dark brown permanent marker. But before resorting to that, what advice to do you have?

Washington

Reader photo of the framed mirror with a sticker that wont budge. (Anne Scanley /Anne Scanley )

A. A product called Un-Do Adhesive Remover should be able to loosen whatever adhesive is on the back of the sticker, with a couple of caveats. It won’t budge actual glue, nor will it remove water-based adhesives. So if your grandmother used stickers that she had to lick before they would stick, this product won’t work, but water should.

Mark Foley, president of Un-Do Products(888-929-9301), says the trick with using Un-Do is to apply a drop or two of the remover (it comes with an eyedropper-type tip) and then immediately loosen the sticker with the scraper tool that comes with it. “If you put Un-Do on a sticker and walk away, the sticker will stick again because Un-Do evaporates so quickly,” he said.

Un-Do will leave a slight stain on unfinished wood, just as water might, but it isn’t greasy or oily, so you could touch it up without any problem.

When we purchased our 1911 Mission-style foursquare, we studied up on the existing steam system, which was fired by oil after being converted from coal. A company that specializes in steam systems correctly diagnosed why it wasn’t operating properly: Pipes from the new boiler were too small, creating a steam traffic jam at the headers above the unit. So heat was slow getting to radiators. Now that this steam company has our system fully up to speed, heat time — and oil use — are down about 40 percent. However, I am having trouble getting correctly sized insulation for the pipes. The straight runs and “L” joints are okay, but beyond that there is no flexibility, not like there was with the old asbestos insulation methods. The present stuff consists of a plastic shell with fuzzy insulation inside. Any suggestions for a cherry on top of my new sundae?

Martinsburg, W.Va.

State Supply (800-772-2099) specializes in parts for steam systems, including insulation for the pipes, which are much hotter than typical plumbing pipes. In the maintenance section of this company’s Web site, there’s a section devoted to pipe insulation, and if you download the “order guide” you will see illustrations showing how to insulate odd-shaped joints using fiberglass insulation, plastic (PVC) covers and fiberglass insulation tape. If you don’t want to do the work yourself, a heating contractor should be able to figure it out — maybe even the company that solved your earlier problem.

Send questions to localliving@washpost.com . Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.

The Checklist Read Jeanne Huber’s roundup of home-improvement tasks you should tackle in January.

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