How to Remove Sticky Labels from Glass Bottles & Jars


Do you want to master some sure-fire ways to remove those annoying sticky labels off all those cute jars once and for all?  You know, methods that will let you keep your prized jar collection – and your nails, tooI Because who’s got time for all that scraping and peeling? I know I don’t – and I’m sure neither do you.

As someone who has made a career out of collecting all kinds of unique or aesthetically appealing bottles and jars, I swear there are more to repurpose than you can shake a stick at! I use them for candles, trinket compartments, small vases for plant propagation, the list goes on. So I’ve seen a LOT of stickers in my time. 

I’ll show you how I give them the boot without stress, and without chemicals if you are the sensitive type, too.And best of all, some of these products may be right under your nose. Ok, let’s dig in!

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removing sticky labels


First off, not all labels are bad! If you have something like vintage wine you may view the labels on them as special. That’s totally fine too. One of my weaknesses is the old-school Coke bottles like the one I used for this project here (I kept the label on for that one because it was a limited edition and wanted to preserve that) 

Some labels are only loosely attached and I can just cut it with scissors and peel it off and I only have to use a little elbow grease on the seam where the label was attached -that’s not so bad. And some come off cleanly…but that’s the exception. Most labels are on there good – unfortunately.

First things first: DON’T put your jars in the dishwasher – this is a common mistake. Yes, it will remove the label, but all those label paper bits may clog up the drain.

Chemical Solutions for Sticky Label Residue

There are two products I love for this and can always depend on to remove sticky label residue from jars like gangbusters. They are WD-40 and the other is Goo Gone. Never let me down and never not been under my sink cabinet ?? I spray on a film over the label and then I leave it alone for at least 10 minutes so the product can soak in.

I always make sure to let the jar rest on a paper plate so I don’t have a mess to clean up later or drippys on the counter.

I use a plastic knife so I won’t scratch the glass and I can just toss it when I’m done. I go over the soaked label and just start easing it up. It really comes off just like that -in big pieces too. I scrape it off with the knife and then I get a clean paper towel and go over it again to remove what’s left of it.

I wash the jar again with some mild detergent soap and rinse and then – bada bing! I am done.

These two products are solvent based, which means they are flammable and all that jazz. I just use common sense, wear gloves, crack a window, etc. I realize though, that some people are sensitive to chemicals, and I respect that so I’m going to show you a few other products you may be familiar with.

Remove Label Residue Without Chemicals

OK, here is a field guide to what I do! First, I wash it out good  I rinse it out and then under warm water I go over the label which helps loosen it a little. I can then peel off the outer part where all the product writing is.

Then that bugaboo is revealed, all of that awful white fibrous stuff. Sometimes it’s actually clear gummy crapola which is just as bad! This is what usually involves some kind of substance as hot water isn’t enough.

Using Cooking Spray

OK, I remember from my experience in this post that cooking spray could be a lifesaver! Now would lightening strike twice in this matter? So here I go. I applied a film of nonstick cooking spray to the remaining label residue on this bottle here.

Rubbing it in with fingers (which you can do safely with products like this) I set the timer for 10 minutes. And then….

cooking spray remove label

Houston we have liftoff! OK…almost. Some of it still remained.Now sometimes this stuff doesn’t always work in one fell swoop… I decided to give it another treatment with another product…

Using Cooking Oil

Next most similar product…I smeared on some cooking oil. I timed it, again, for 10 minutes.It was just OK. Being a little bit denser than the spray, more of the paper residue got picked up, just not by a long shot.

I then used hot water and a little dish soap to finish it off. Result? Much better. I mean, you can still see some faint residue, but it looks much better!

cooking oil removing sticky labels


Using Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is tops for removing residue from hard surfaces, it is not that different chemically speaking from  acetone (nail polish remover’s main ingredient.) Dab some of it on the label…I’m applying it to the label on the back this time of the same bottle….But this time do not let it set…Alcohol dries quickly so grab your tool  and get busy lifting.

rubbing alcohol label off

Then proceed back to hot water and soap. This bottle was a toughie….Most labels I’ve dealt with are a little easier, and don’t leave as many ridges behind.

Can Vinegar Get Rid of Sticky Label Residue?

I didn’t know this at the time, but I found out that white vinegar is also good for getting those pesky labels off jars. I was recently contacted by the editor at Tipsbulletin who has an excellent and comprehensive post about vinegar’s many surprising uses. The list mentions vinegar for removing labels….so I took it upon myself to try it out! The article mentioned to apply it full strength and let it set a few minutes on the intended label….

So here I go. Vinegar can do some amazing things, like repelling insect pests, cleaning patio furniture and acting as a natural weed killer.

can vinegar get rid of sticky label residue

When I returned (about 10 minutes later) I got my plastic knife and proceeded to start on one corner – It did work to get the bulk of the label off without strain – I DID need to do a re-application to remove the rest of the white residue. As you can see in application#2, it looks much better.

It does seem like there will always be those stubborn labels that take more than one application of something – they key is to pick something that has been proven to work so you aren’t endlessly peeling and scraping! So I encourage you to try some white vinegar if you haven’t already.

Vinegar is a great great product and can clean almost anything…I tried it on some older paintbrushes I’d had a slight lapse in cleaning and they turned out great!

Tips for Success…

Just a mention...Older labels tend to peel off more easily in my experience. If you’ve had some jars in storage for awhile, try peeling the labels off and see for yourself. It must be the combination of humidity, time, and the change in paper’s acidity that cause this.

  • Wash the jar well and go over the label with hot water which helps loosen it a little.
  • Start at the corner of the label – it’s easier than the sides
  • Use a plastic knife to lift the label
  • Sometimes it may take two applications – it happens.

Whew…so if you’ve made it this far…I salute you. You now have the knowledge to de-label your glass collection easily, so you can now get on with the fun of perhaps painting and decorating them, or using them as a keeper for seedlings, whatever your goals are.

So I hope this will be a big help to you? Try these suggestions and let me know how it goes for you. Good luck and may your crafting days be long, but cleaning days short ??


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