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how to get the labels off glass jars?

 
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I want to re-use my glass jars, but those pesky labels are impossible to get off.

Anyone know how to remove labels from glass jars?  
 
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Pour very hot water inside the jar.  Allow a few seconds for the heat to soften the glue holding the label. Peel off the label and scrub off the residue left on the jar.  Best to do this before any other cleaning steps, if the label is wet or damaged it will take more scrubbing.

Edit: Peeling of the label may require using a knife to scrap it off, but an undamaged and dry label usually comes off in one piece.
 
Casie Becker
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If you ever see 4 lb jars of honey (those shaped loke on old fashioned hive) they actually fit regular ball canning lids.  I save all mine to store dry goods in the pantry.  They hold more than most canisters.
 
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i soak them until the label is soft. To get rid of glue hot water helps and you can use some veggie oil and a knife and/or steel-wool-sponge
 
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We just put a wet cloth on them for a couple of hours and then the labels come off pretty quickly. Sometimes it needs a bit of a scrub but nothing like it would be normally.
 
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Different glues come off with different methods, as well.  After you've done the hot water thing and removed the paper part of the label, check if the remaining glue will just wash off with water and soap.  A lot of them will.  Some come off best with acetone, some with Goo Gone, whatever that consists of.  My husband gets pretty obsessive about getting labels off jars and has different products he uses.  I've started just ignoring the labels and glue.  They'll either come off with washing eventually or not and that's good enough for me.
 
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Vegetable oil.
Seems to work every time for me.
Stainless steel scrubbie to finish the job.
 
pollinator
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Baby oil works well too!
 
Casie Becker
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I think goo gone is actually orange oil, so it looks like any oil will help.  It probably works the same way the peanut butter did when my mother would get chewing gum out of my hair.
 
r ranson
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I tried the hot water method where I keep the label dry and just fill the jar from the kettle.  Worked like a charm.  Going to try it for the others.

Thanks, everyone.  Keep the ideas coming.  If you want to show off pictures of your reclaimed jars, please do.  
 
Casie Becker
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Just a safety notice, if it's really hot water drop a metal butter knife in the jar before pouring water.  My mother swears this will keep the temperature shock from shattering glass.  Possibly its superstition but my family's had no unpleasant accidents following this precaution.
 
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There's a spiffy portion in Erica Stauss's hands-on-home that discusses which natural cleaners get rid of which gunk. From what I recall, the sticky-petrolum-based glue they use on labels is taken off by Alcohol and a citrus-based chemical. I can't remember what it's called, but I'm pretty sure it's not citric acid. Basically, if you soak orange peals in vodka, you make a great goo-be-gone type cleaner.

Once I put the baby down, I'll try to find the page and exact details!
 
Nicole Alderman
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Ah-ha! She divides the cleaning solvents into three categories: organic grime, inorganic grime, petroleum grime (p 49). Usually the gunky glue is the third: petroleum grime. (she calls them "soil" instead of "grime")

For the petroleum grim, you want Isopropyl alcohol (which is bad to breath and is a pollutant), vodka (great if no one in your house is an alcoholic), and d-limonene. The d-limonene is a "volatile essential oil extracted from citrus." (p55) She suggests adding sweet orange essential oil or soaking citrus peels in vinegar (p 362).

I'm thinking that if you had some vodka and put the orange essential oil in it, or soaks citrus peels in it, you'd made a fantastic, all natural, non-toxic grease cutter. We don't fight against goo that often, so I usually use Isopropyl alcohol, because having vodka in my house might be a bad idea. The Isopropyl works great. Dribble some on, let it sit for a minute, and then wipe the label off. But, I wish I could get something less toxic that wasn't also drinkable...

(and, because I know someone's probably curious what the organic and inorganic grimes are and what to do about them, here's a quick summary: Organic grime is the stuff that was once alive or from alive stuff, like food, cooking oil, dust, etc. For these, you use alkaline cleaners--think baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, etc. The inorganic grime is the stuff that's mineral based, like rust mineral deposits around a bathroom sink, hard water build up, etc. For these, you want acidic cleaners--think vinegar, citric acid, etc. The more extreme the alkaline or acidic cleaner is, the more effective it will be...and the more dangerous.)

Erica's book is FANTASTIC. I really recommend it. There's a lot more detailed recipes and graphs and information about all these cleaners, as well as all sorts of other cooking and cleaning and homesteading-type stuff.

More about her awesome book, here: https://permies.com/t/50759/Hands-Home-Erica-Strauss


 
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Don't know where I read this first, but I tried PEANUT BUTTER, AND IT WORKED!  maybe it's the oil in it - but because it's PB, it's easier to smear on and leave on for awhile.  I have an old jar of PB under the kitchen sink that tasted awful so I kept it for mouse bait (I hate throwing anything 'away' - the IS no 'away')  Now I use it for removing label glue too, it works most of the time.  Washing it off the "next" time I'm doing dishes is usually all that's needed.  Sometimes, an extra scraping (an old credit card is a great scraper - strong enough but still flexible...) is the next step.  
 
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Methyl alcohol usually dissolves glues, like labels and tape residue.
 
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Use a piece of tape. either the sticky paper/plastic you already pulled off or some other light weight tape (packing, masking). Stick the tape to a small  part of the label, leave some tape to grab onto  and pull off the tape rapidly. The sticky label residue will stick to the tape and jar is clean. You can also tap goo off by tapping the label goo with the tape and pulling it away quickly.

This is a slow process small piece by small piece but satisfying.

This works on hard surfaces that can't be wet. I just used this process to remove stickers from a used laptop I just got. It looks beautiful now.
 
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Soak jars in hot water with a few drops of dish soap and some washing soda. The labels will slide right off after about 30 minutes soak. I use 1/4C washing soda in a rubbermaid tub sink liner kinda thingie.

You can make an acidic citrus cleaner by soaking orange and other citrus peels in white vinegar. I haven't tried it for removing labels, but it works well for cleaning other generic gunk.
 
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I use linseed oil soap and steel wool. I cannot remember a label that did not come off with that soap.

The soap I use is Allback Organic linseed soap.


source
 
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Depending on the type of glue involved, and if the label is paper and not some kind of foil, snails will eat it off the jar!  I kid you not!   My neighbor gives me bottles of wine with his labels on them, he never wanted the bottles back because he couldn't get the labels off without a lot of work, until I left them out and overnight the snails would clean off all the labels.   Most of this happens at night when they come out from wherever they are hiding during the day.  I have some shevles on the shady side of a shed, and that's where they came to the bottles.  I've also caught them eating 3x5 cards.  Banana slugs will eat paper, too.
 
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If you have the patience, I have found the best way to get clean bottles and jars is just plain, unadulterated, room temperature water.  I let mine soak for up to a week, and then the labels usually slip right off without leaving any residue to scrub.  It's that simple.
 
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goo gone  The pros use this.

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

 
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From what I understand there are two types of glues used for the labels-water soluble and oil soluble. Water ones are easy -just soak. But moist need oil, any oil or fat. I use bacon fat - put some on and leave it for a while. Then scrub with paper towel with more fat, and some powder -like borax and baking soda. I feel, that powder helps to take it off easier, but it works with just oil as well. It can take 5-10minutes, so I gather a few, and then scrub them as I watch youtube videos about homesteading.
 
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Getting oil-based labels off jars is a great way to use veggie oil that has gone out of date.  I have linseed oil that I bought in bulk a couple of years ago that I am still using for this purpose.  The bulk buy did not turn out to be economical because I did not use it fast enough and it goes rancid really quickly - I won't do that again.

When I was a child and lived by the sea we used to use mayonnaise to get beach tar off our feet.  I bet that would work too.    
 
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Nicole Alderman wrote:But, I wish I could get something less toxic that wasn't also drinkable...



Hardware stores have "denatured alcohol", which is almost-pure ethanol, with just tiny amounts of additives to make it undrinkable. That also allows it to be sold without drinking-alcohol taxes and therefore MUCH cheaper.
 
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I soak them in hot water and then scrub using a fine steel wool.
 
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It depends on the glue, but many labels will peel off after being heated with a hair dryer on hot heat for several minutes.
 
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Here is a much too simple fix for remedying this problem. Perhaps we should start lobbying the manufacturers to stop using labels which are impossible or very difficult to remove? It is pertinent to note that a lot of these labels are plastic based. Why do the labels need to be plastic which requires an adhesive which is probably petroleum based? Having to shred these labels to remove them must be contributing to plastic contamination of the water used in the process. Let alone the use of alcoholic solvents to deal with the adhesive residues. Much better to use a paper label with an appropriate adhesive which allows easy removal by the hot water soaking method. Am I being too simplistic?
 
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I soak it in dawn soap and water, then use a kitchen steel wool scrubber to remove any stubborn glue. The scrubber is faster/easier than hunting around for and using solvents.

My favorite are instant coffee jars, very heavy glass with big sturdy screw on tops. If you know someone that drinks it might want to ask them to save the jars for you, they are great for all sorts of things.
 
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raven ranson wrote:I want to re-use my glass jars, but those pesky labels are impossible to get off.

Anyone know how to remove labels from glass jars?  




We always keep unperformed baby wipes in the home as they're great with cleaning certain things and I just rub these on glass labels until they're wet and just get them off :)
 
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I use the pour hot water into jar method.  Most of the time that works, but sometimes there is residue left.  I use whatever used cooking oil or grease I have around to rub on it then, then I wash with dish soap.  I've tried soaking before, but depending on what type of label or adhesion, it usually just makes a paper label a gummy mess or plain doesn't work on a metallic printed plastic label like on most Kombucha bottles.
 
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Nick Mason wrote:Here is a much too simple fix for remedying this problem. Perhaps we should start lobbying the manufacturers to stop using labels which are impossible or very difficult to remove? It is pertinent to note that a lot of these labels are plastic based. Why do the labels need to be plastic which requires an adhesive which is probably petroleum based? Having to shred these labels to remove them must be contributing to plastic contamination of the water used in the process. Let alone the use of alcoholic solvents to deal with the adhesive residues. Much better to use a paper label with an appropriate adhesive which allows easy removal by the hot water soaking method. Am I being too simplistic?


You are right Nick! I’m not much of an activist so I’d would love a step by step explanation of how we would go about this. It may be small beans in the scheme of things but look at the list of chemicals people have posted for removing these labels. So not only is there the toxic gick put into making the ‘fancy’ hard to remove labels, but then there is more used to remove them later on. I’m sure if enough of us put some effort in we could get some more consciously minded companies to change this.
 
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Jan White wrote:Different glues come off with different methods, as well.  After you've done the hot water thing and removed the paper part of the label, check if the remaining glue will just wash off with water and soap.  A lot of them will.  Some come off best with acetone, some with Goo Gone, whatever that consists of.  My husband gets pretty obsessive about getting labels off jars and has different products he uses.  I've started just ignoring the labels and glue.  They'll either come off with washing eventually or not and that's good enough for me.



I have a degree in chemistry, have worked in labs, and taught chemistry for 20 years.
Jan is absolutely right.
Different adhesives need different solvents.
Some come off with water, some need acetone, some come off with "rubbing" alcohol.
Just keep trying different things until you find one that works for that particular glue.
 
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Hello Permie Folks,

Lemon essential oil works absolute WONDERS for removing labels and all of the gooey residue that they tend to leave behind. Just put a few drops on and leave it a minute to let it work its magic, and wipe it away. Hooray! Hope you're all having a beautiful day
 
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I find that bread soda on a luffa works a treat for stubborn glue - after soaking first overnight. :-)
 
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I just leave them until they give up the ghost. Yes, I am that lazy. S'why I do no dig.
 
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Lavender oil works best for me. Its expensive though so I'm looking at other options
 
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I'm the one at the municipal recycling center pulling nicely shaped bottles and gallon jugs out of the glass bin.  I make and gift blackberry cordial each year to many people; but my sister is the only one who returns the empties.

Hot water soak, sometimes a knife and a steel wool scrubby are my standard method.  But I will surely try oil on the stubborner ones.  Great discussion.
 
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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!
 
Matthew Nistico
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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!



Wow, now that is a different approach than anything discussed so far!  I award an apple for shear novelty and for thinking about the problem from a different angle.  I can totally believe that your system would work flawlessly, assuming one has the patience to let nature work at its own pace.  I can also see how it would be best suited to processing scores and scores of jars at once.  I am curious: for what purposes do you need so many old jars turned reusable again?
 
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Jan White wrote:Different glues come off with different methods, as well.  After you've done the hot water thing and removed the paper part of the label, check if the remaining glue will just wash off with water and soap.  A lot of them will.  Some come off best with acetone, some with Goo Gone, whatever that consists of.  My husband gets pretty obsessive about getting labels off jars and has different products he uses.  I've started just ignoring the labels and glue.  They'll either come off with washing eventually or not and that's good enough for me.



Yep, how do you know what glue they used?
1st water and see.
Scratching is very much spoiling sponges so I do not like this. We would need a curved knife!
Acetone or oils work. I agree very much with the idea of using rancid oil, as I hate to spoil food for non alimentary uses...

Why would you waste pricey essential oils for this???
As I have them, I Will try to brush a lemon skin on some glue left-overs though…

Ignore labels? Well you risk MOLDS! I am shocked to see how many people have marmelade with old moldy stickers!

I also agree that snails eat paper etc... They devore letters if I do not pick them from my mailbox!

Then I second the idea of TIME. I stock glass outside, as this is the only thing I have that can handle sun and rain. (no freeze here though....).
 
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