How to remove Sticky Labels from Bottles and Jars

Julie on February 11, 2011

Kilner jars

As part of my preparation for wine, jam and chutney making later this year, I’ve started saving empty jars and bottles.  The trouble is that I seem to spend ages trying to remove some of the labels.

I’ve just had a fight with the stickiest of sticky labels.  The mother of all sticky labels.  It put up a tremendous fight but I was determined to win.  I nearly gave up but I beat the label on my last attempt.

Some labels can be removed with just detergent and hot water.  Some need attacking layer by layer (top layer of shiny paper, bottom layer of white sticky paper and then the glue left stuck to the bottle).  I’m determined not to buy special sticky label removing products.  I’ve checked the suggestions on the internet and after trying some (which included vinegar, window cleaner, mayonnaise, baby oil) of these I decided that this is the best plan of attack.

You need:

  • Elbow grease (lots of it).  If you haven’t come across this term it means you need to get ready to expend some energy by scrubbing away at the glue.
  • An old blunt knife
  • Detergent (washing up liquid)
  • Hot water
  • Brillo pad (steel wool with soap impregnated – used for cleaning tough burnt on stains from dishes etc – just get the alternative available in your part of the works)
  • Window and glass cleaner (the spray on kind – I used Power Force)

Removing the Label:

Top Layer

You may be able to peel this off straight away (just pick at the edges and pull the paper off).

If it wont come off like this then soak the bottle in hot water and detergent for 5 or ten minutes and have another go.

Second Layer

Soak in the hot water again.   Remove the bottle from the water, lie it down on a cloth and start scraping the label and glue off with the knife.  Try top down, bottom up and in from the edges.  Get as much of this off as you can.  Don’t leave any bits of paper in the water or you’ll block the sink.

Third Layer

This is where I had the problem.  Place the bottle back in the hot, soapy water for a few minutes.  Remove it from the water and wipe the water off the sticky stuff.  Spray on some of the window cleaner and rub in circular movements with the Brillo pad.  Keep wiping with the cloth and repeating the process until the gunge is removed.

Don’t forget to give the bottle a good wash in soapy water and rinse with clean water to remove all the soap etc.

Even though it doesn’t seem as though all the effort is worth it at the time, keep going.  Just keep thinking about the home made elderberry wine, the homemade strawberry jam, the caramelised red onion chutney…….

Creative Commons License photo credit: cookipediachef

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Round Labels April 1, 2011 at 5:01 am

This one really works, I tried this method myself and amazed to see the results, but off course it requires a little patience. Thanks Julie


Julie April 2, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Hi Julia, I’m really glad that you found this useful. I know it’s one of the annoying jobs that takes time, but when you actually get around to filling that jar with your home made produce it all seems worth it. Thank you for dropping by, please join us again some time soon.


Lisa March 17, 2012 at 3:15 am

Hi Julie! Label-scrubbing is one of the most mind-numbingly boring autumn chores in my household. I use a similar method but I start out by filling the bottles and jars with very hot water and the sink with cold water and giving them a good soak. This causes condensation under the label that sometimes lifts them right off. Sometimes. Thanks for a great blog! / Lisa in Lappland


Julie April 11, 2012 at 11:03 am


Thanks so much for visiting our site! We do also appreciate offering your method as well. That is what this site is all about…helping each other become more efficient in life in every way.

Though we haven’t added much content as of late, we plan add much more information in all categories in the future, hoping it can add some value to peoples’ lives…just as you did for us here.

All the Best,



Reina Laris April 27, 2012 at 9:44 pm

Very informative point of view.


M garg May 8, 2012 at 1:50 pm

One should try out WD 40 it is a wonder spray and worked very well for me to remove the label from bottle


edward June 15, 2012 at 11:40 am

i used to struggle endlesly with labels then i found that if you wet some loo roll with vodka and leave it to soak for 5 min it eats away the glue and is easy as pie to remove (the 150 proof from my home still does a better job than the store bought stuff)
good luck


Ricky July 31, 2012 at 11:15 am


So very interesting! I’ll bet this method could be a bit enhanced 8-)…Thanks for sharing


david February 24, 2013 at 4:14 am

The easiest method for removing stubborn labels from jars is to apply a drop or two of oil (the most effective I’ve found is coconut oil). Rub all over the label and set aside. After the oil has soaked through, it will dissolve the glue and the label will peel off in one piece, taking the layer of adhesive with it.


Ricky April 18, 2013 at 9:02 am

David…Awesome input! I like the fact the glue comes off with the sticky labels. Also, did you know how healthy coconut oil is for you as well? Huge health benefits for the body…I should do a post on this in the future.


David April 22, 2013 at 6:38 am

Thanks Ricky. Yes I have read about the good health benefits of coconut oil and I cook with it all the time. Looking forward to reading your post on coconut oil.


jason gallegos April 17, 2013 at 6:11 pm

No patience required .use charcoal lighter fluid .strips away the glue very little effort wear rubber gloves and do it outside due to the vapors.far superior to alcohol.happy day


Ricky April 18, 2013 at 9:06 am

Jason…never tried this one. I will the next time I remove sticky labels from my bottles and jars. Does it take the adhesive off as well? I guess I’ll find out..Happy day to you as well! I love that saying; used to have an older gentleman say, “Have a happy day” when you left his register at the grocery store…used to make my day, no matter the day I was having…peace!


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