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how to get the labels off glass jars?

 
pollinator
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Today I was in a rush and just used washing soda with a scrubber sponge, and it worked so quickly, much quicker than with the fat. Not much water, just what was on rung out sponge. I also put hot water with washing soda inside the bottle to get rid of the oily stuff inside as it held cod liver oil. I shook the bottle for a few times and it worked for that also.
 
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I worked in the used book business for a long time. One of the things which bedeviled dealers was stickers which were put on paperback covers. Citrasolve worked, so did lavender oil. If you've got a coated paper label that's particularly tenacious, we used to lightly score the label with a razor to get the solvent to the glue. Then cover the scratches with the solvent until the label just slips off.

I like the idea of removing labels from glass a lot more than removing them from lacquered paper, seems like it should be much easier!
 
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A big caution on Goo-Gone: it can disolve some plastics!

I was cleaning a display case that had a textured surface like wallet/purse leather that was black.  Using Goo-Gone, it started melting the peaks into the valleys of the textured surface and add a grey/white petina  that could not be removed.  If using on plastic, then test in an inconspicuous area first.
 
pollinator
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I'm going to try that outdoor ecosystem method. Recently I was gifted four boxes of old style mason jars. I am really fond of the old jars and use them for storing dry goods such as herbs and seeds. These new acquisitions were pretty filthy and I still have a few that I am rotating between soapy water and vinegar soaks and scrubs in an attempt to move crusted dirt. Also my daughter found a bottle dump in a pit at our new place. There was a long vanished farmhouse and the only remains we have found are some stone walls, an orchard and these bottles. Some interesting old bottles that we want to keep as relics of the original farm but also pretty full of dirt so they can go in an outdoor soak system too.
 
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Mike Barkley wrote:goo gone  The pros use this.

simple green I prefer this because I believe it's more environmentally friendly.



I read through this thread to see if anyone mentioned Simple Green. I have found it to clean difficult label glues far above what I would have expected it to do, being one of the safer cleaners. I usually use the long soak method on glued-on labels, if the label disintegrates and the glue is unfazed, I break out the Simple Green. I have found the simple heat method to work on labels that are stickers. Simple Green is different. I don't know what it is, but sometimes it seems to just work on certain things that even powerful, nasty cleaners don't. It's one I always keep on hand, just in case. In most average cleaning tasks, I don't see anything special about it, but I find it worth it every once in a while.
 
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HI ALL:  Well, the easiest way I found to remove labels from my pint jars was to hire a lady to come in and do that!    :-)
I did help with this but the lady did the majority of the cleaning. She had both sinks filled with very warm water and dish soap.
Leaving the jars soak until the Staples 2" X 4" labels were soaked through she used a stainless steel scrubber to get the label and glue scrubbed off.
It worked! I have around 150 wide mouth jars cleaned from when I went crazy canning in 2012 that we dumped with a rough rinse before cleaning.
Now to find space for storage of those jars.

And, I learned the lesson of canning less of each variety over the intervening years.
But, I had just a few 2013 labeled items mixed in with those jars and some were a corn relish. When I opened and dumped those the looked and smelled like I had just canned those during the past week - so I've improved on cleanliness and quality both.
 
Jordan Holland
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This may be a bit off-topic, but something I learned (the hard way😀)to keep in mind about taking labels off glass containers, is make sure they are worth the effort for the intended purpose. Many glass containers are built to the bare minimum standards for shipping the product to you, to keep costs down. Sometimes things like pressure canning, beer making, or just handling can break them far easier than heavier built containers sold for the purpose of  home use. I hate cleaning up broken glass with food all over. And if you are frugal enough to be scraping labels off used glass like me, the loss of the food (or beer!) is a truly heartbreaking experience.😂
 
pollinator
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So grateful for this thread! I had been very frustrated by the glues that won't dissolve in water.  Just last night we had that problem with a new steel griddle--a big label smack in the middle and the glue would not come off with soaking.

Thanks to the posts here I realized it was oil-based glue. I smeared on stone olive oil, let it sit 10 minutes,  then sprinkled kn salt and rubbed it off with a cloth. No scrubbing or "elbow grease" needed, just came right off! And using totally non-toxic kitchen staples.
 
Gordon Chinnick
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Mix some baking soda with the oil in a thick paste.  Apply to the label/glue and let oil soak in for a period of time.  The soda keeps the oil from flowing away during the sitting time and then gives grit when you add a little elbow grease.
 
pollinator
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I like the gummed paper labels the best, they soak off in water and the residue scrubs away easily.

The rubber/petroleum glued labels are trickier... some peel away more cleanly when cold, others when warm, if the label is paper it is usually best to keep it dry. Sometimes peeling very slowly helps to leave less residue.
One trick for removing this glue residue is to "stick and peel" the label again (and again...) the residue usually sticks to the glue on the label and releases from the jar.
Another version of this is to make a loop of masking tape, duct tape or packing tape (sticky side out) and use this to "stick and peel" away the residue. This reduces the risk of damage from using solvents on something plastic or painted.
 
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A topic near and dear to my heart! I use rehabilitated jars from the store to do the majority of my preserving (a necessity when new bottling jars are priced at $2-6 each!), and have developed a process for removing labels:

1) Attempt to remove the label by peeling up one corner. If it doesn't come away cleanly--stop immediately
2) Pour HOT water inside the jar, being very careful to not let any water touch the label. Let stand for 30s or so, and gently lift a corner of the label--you'll need to remove the label slowly to avoid bars of glue stuck to the glass. This works for certain kinds of petrochemical glues--and labels that come off easily this way are the very devil to remove with scrubbing and solvents if you make the mistake of getting the label wet! If this doesn't work:
3) Soak the jar in warm water. The label may pop off if you're lucky, if not, use the backside of a butter knife to scrape away as much of the paper as possible, returning to the soak as needed
4) Use a citrus-based solvent. Nicole Alderman mentioned that she'd read about this option on the first page. Because a small bottle of citrus solvent can run >$30 (and they aren't required to say what other than citrus oil is contained therin!), I have started making my own. There is an abundance of local citrus in the winter and spring, and I zest any I have prior to use to save up for making my own (food safe!) goo remover. Thoroughly zesting citrus also means that I can compost the rind, as the very chemical you are removing from the peel (principally D-Limonine) is the one that is harmful to worms and other good bugs in the compost heap

Making your own citrus solvent:
  • Zest your citrus thuroughly (preferably with a zester, but you can cut the outer bit off of the pith with a knife as well)--store in freezer until you can complete the next step; this process doesn't work well with dried peels
  • Soak the zest in high-proof alcohol. Denatured alcohol may be an option for you, depending on what is used to do the denaturing. Locally, it is denatured with denatonium benzoate (most bitter compound known to science) and coloured with methyl purple to mark it as denatured alcohol. Unfortunately, methyl purple is a suspected carcinogen, so this option is out for me. Alcohol denatured with just the bitter compound or methanol would be safer to work with. As many people distill their own alcohol here (perfectly legal in New Zealand), it is possible to get heads and tails on the odd occasion for this purpose
  • Shake the mixture every day or so for a week or two
  • Strain out the peels (I like to then put them in vinegar to make a shower cleaner out of the not-quite-spent material; there's a lot of stuff hanging on between the peelings that is not possible to press out)
  • The liquid is useful as-is in a spray bottle, but will work better if distilled in a pot still


  • The above may seem like a lot of work, but ~300 mL of ethanol and ~500mL of citrus zest made around 270mL of usable solvent (some of the alcohol was lost amongst the zest). The original 300mL bottle was able to remove difficult labels from over 150 jars and jar lids, so it's definitely worthwhile! Especially since it makes citrus peels compost much more readily and do much less harm to the fauna in the compost pile.


    Alder Burns wrote:I have rehabilitated hundreds of jars, many scrounged from dumpsters and recycling centers, which had not only labels but often foul and dried food residue inside. I put them into what I called the "long soak" by filling a tub or barrel with water and sinking them down in there till there were jars sunken every which way most of the way to the top.  Then start an ecosystem in the water with water plants and add some mosquito fish.  Frogs and toads and such will find their way in too.  Have the thing in at least part sun so that algae will grow nicely.  Leave them there for a year.  All the microbes and so on in the water will treat the gunk and the glue as food.  When I finally fish them all out, mostly they will wipe and rinse sparkly clean!



    I have done a more basic version of this with some jars and an old Pyrex dish--just leaving things out in the rain for 3-6 months is enough to do a serious number on stuck-on grit and grime (completely removed all the baked-on gunk from my lovely patterned Pyrex!) There are some types of labels I have found are harder to remove as they age in this way, though--but I wasn't paying enough attention to what they were like beforehand to get a good handle on what was going on exactly. Jars I've found in ponds etc are nearly impossible to clean out again, but this is likely because the local waterways run through a lot of limestone, and getting calcium scale off of anything is a challenge! I'll have to try this--I regularly have big buckets with drowning weeds (the naughty ones, like Convolvulus, Tradescantia, Oxalis, Agapanthus, and Cala lily which come up all over if I chuck them in the regular compost), and I could try dropping some jars in the bottom and see what happens--I'll report back!
     
    master steward
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    For some jars, I take the label off if they come off easily with hot water.

    Otherwise, I leave the label on the jar and use them as a label for the contents, like "dog food".  Then when I reuse the jar I put "dog food" in it. If I forget and use it for "people food" I might forget and the dog gets extra special food.

     
    pollinator
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    I find that soaking the glass in warm water for a bit helps to soften the glue. Then I use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to remove the sticky residue. This works without toxic "gick."
     
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    I use an orange oil product available in Australia. It is fabulous for getting off anything sticky.
     
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    WD-40. Enough to saturate, and a clean cotton cloth. Spray to coat, let sit for a few, rub off. I’ve also had good luck applying the WD-40 directly to the agitating cloth. Wash with soap and water for foodgrade reuse. Works on glass and most metals. Think windshield sap, but not on the paint job. I’ve used it to clean thrift store sticker residue off of anything they can be stuck to. Plastic toys, non-cloth book covers. You can always test an inconspicuous spot if you’re unsure. Be Well
     
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    Lemon oil has worked very well for me.
     
    pioneer
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    Get a labelnator! It is one of the tools I use to get labels off of bottles and it works. Here is a link: http://www.labelnator.com/
     
    gardener
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    T Blankinship wrote:Get a labelnator! It is one of the tools I use to get labels off of bottles and it works. Here is a link: http://www.labelnator.com/


    Interesting, never heard of that tool before.
    I used to use the blade thing that is meant for glass-ceramic oven tops - until husband switched on the wrong nob and it melted.
    Now I use anything I get my hand on, liquid dish soap, oil, the paper/foil where butter is packaged in; should try WD 40. For the mechanical scraping I use the copper scrub thingie (name?). I haven't found a label yet that I couldn't get off, although some are quite a pain to deal with.

    The tip in this thread on warming the jar and not getting the label wet was a new one which worked for me.
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