Make reusing old jars a cinch, with this guide on how to remove labels from glass jars. Here are eleven easy ways to easily remove sticky labels, without fuss.
Some people have a weakness for shoes or bags. My weakness? Jars and bottles. It’s hard for me to pass by a nice jar or bottle and not think of a way that it could be repurposed. From holding cleaning products, to storing food, to using a jar in place of plastic Tupperware, to storing health and beauty products, to housing homemade preserves, and more, there are endless uses for glass jars.
Nothing beats the high that is when the label on the jar or bottle peels off in one go. On the flip side, there’s nothing quite like that low that sets in when you have a jar where the label just does not budge. I’ve been obsessed with bottles and jars for years now, so when this happens I have some tricks up my sleeve.
How To Remove Sticky Labels From Glass Jars and Bottles
Whilst glass is endlessly recyclable, ultimately it’s better to reuse than recycle. If you have a glass jar or bottle that you want to reuse but the label won’t come off, then here are my top techniques to remove the labels, adhesives and glues that are getting between you and your storage dreams:
1. Sodium Percarbonate and Hot Water
If you have some sodium percarbonate (aka laundry bleach) to hand, then this makes for an excellent technique to remove sticky labels. If you don’t have any sodium percarbonate, then do rush to buy it, because it’s actually magic.
To remove labels, simply fill your sink with hot water, and add a generous scoop of sodium percarbonate to the water. Give it a good stir to help the sodium percarbonate dissolve, and then place your jars in the water. Make sure to fill the jars with water so that they sit under the water, rather than floating on top. Then leave your jars to soak for about an hour.
After an hour, you should find that as if by magic your labels should be floating on the water. No residue should remain on your jars, but if it does, rub the glue with a cloth and it should rub right off.
2. The Hot Water Technique
If you don’t have any sodium percarbonate to hand, then another really easy way to remove sticky labels from glass jars and bottles is to fill the empty vessels with hot water. Simply pop your jars in your sink, and fill them with hot water. The hot water helps to melt the glue/adhesive. After one hour, you should be able to peel off your labels in quite a satisfying manner.
3. Remove Labels From Jars With The Soapy Water Method
If the previous two techniques haven’t done the trick, then the soapy water method is the next one to try in your arsenal of techniques. We won’t be beaten by a pesky label!
Fill your sink with warm soapy water. Whilst the sink is filling, use a sharp knife, and carefully score the label in one or two places. Don’t score too many times, as the label will frustratingly peel off in tiny sections. This is something you do not want!
Once you’re done scoring, pop your jars in to soak in their lovely bubble bath. Leave them for at least an hour, and then try peeling the labels off.
If after an hour the label doesn’t peel off easily, you’ll need to bring out the big guns. In this case, a scourer, a scrubbing brush, or a cloth. Scrub the jars or bottles vigorously with your scrubbing tool of choice, to remove as much of the label and/or glue as possible.
4. Pop Your Jar In The Freezer
Another technique to remove stubborn labels from glass jars and bottles is to turn to your freezer. Dampening the offending label with some water, and then popping your jar or bottle in your freezer, without the lid on them, for at least three hours can work wonders in removing a persistent label.
Once the time has passed, simply carefully remove the bottle or jar from the freezer and place it on a tea towel. Don’t place it directly onto your worktop, in case it cracks. Leave your jar to sit for around 45 minutes, to warm up a little, and then the label should peel off.
5. The Olive Oil and Bicarbonate of Soda Method
I tend to turn to the olive oil and bicarbonate of soda (aka baking soda) method if all my other efforts at label removal have failed. This is because it does tend to leave your jar or bottle feeling oily, and it can take a good few washes to fully remove this oiliness.
If you need to resort to this method, simply rub a mixture of equal amounts of bicarbonate of soda and olive oil (or whatever type of cooking oil you have to hand) over the label or glue.
I find I can just rub the mixture in with a dry cloth for a few minutes before it lifts off the sticky adhesive. However, if the residue is particularly sticky, then try leaving it for around half an hour, before trying to scrub it off.
6. Peanut Butter
Not just for spreading on bread, peanut butter can work wonders at removing labels and price tags from glass. It’s both the fat content and oil in peanut butter that works wonders in dissolving label adhesive.
For maximum effectiveness, try to remove as much of the label as possible, and then smear a thick layer of peanut butter over what is left on the jar. Let it sit for around 10 minutes, and then scrub it off with a cloth or scrubbing brush. Finally, wash your jar.
Similar to the bicarbonate of soda and olive oil method, it can leave your jar feeling a little oily for a few washes.
7. Eucalyptus Essential Oil
It’s a little known fact that eucalyptus oil works wonders in removing stains from clothing, and removing labels from glass. Simply add three drops of eucalyptus essential oil onto a cloth, and rub the label or adhesive. The essential oil should dissolve the label and/or the glue.
8. Remove Labels From Glass Jars With White Vinegar
As well as being an amazing natural cleaning, white vinegar is also a solvent. This means it is capable of dissolving other chemicals, including adhesives and greases. This is good news when it comes to removing labels from glass. Simply soak a cloth in some vinegar, and then get rubbing. This should hopefully shift even the most stubborn of adhesives.
9. Bust Out The Nail Polish Remover
Nail polish remover works similarly to vinegar. Beautify your jars by popping some nail polish remover onto a cloth, and then rubbing vigorously until the sticky goo shifts. This isn’t my favourite technique, as I’m not the biggest fan of nail polish remover, and I don’t find it as effective as some of the other techniques. However, if you have some to hand, and the other techniques have failed you, then it is always worth a try.
10. Use The Oven To Remove Labels From Glass
You can use an oven to help shift labels from glass jars and bottles. From an energy-saving perspective, if you have one jar then it’s pretty energy-intensive to heat up your oven to remove one label. Save this technique if you have a LOT of jars, or your oven is already on for something else.
If you do choose to use this method, then here’s the full how-to. To help shift stubborn labels, place your glass jar or bottle in a 180°C / 350°F oven for five minutes. Whatever you do, do not leave the jar or bottle in the oven for any longer than five minutes – no matter how stubborn the label has been. And do keep an ear out for the sound of cracking. If you hear this terrible sound, then switch off the oven. Using an oven glove, carefully remove the bottle or glass, and place it on a tea towel. Do not place it straight onto a cold surface otherwise, it could shatter.
If all is well, after five minutes, carefully remove your jar and bottle, and with a cloth try rubbing the residue. Hopefully, the heat from the oven should have sufficiently melted the glue, making it easy to remove.
11. A Razor
Finally, if the jar company has used some kind of super-strength adhesive that feels like only some sort of radioactive substance could remove it, then all is not lost. Whilst you might have tried all of the above methods, I do have one last final trick up my sleeve. You can use a razor to scrape that pesky glue right off.
Taking a razor blade or utility knife, take great care to use a smooth motion to scrape the residue off of your jar. Take great care not to slice the glass or your hand!
Which technique have you had the most success with?
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