a step-by-step guide for removing old labels

a step-by-step guide for removing old labels

Estimated Reading Time - 3mins

So, you’ve been an eco-warrior, collecting old peanut butter jars and other glass vessels that used to house your pickled gherkins and stuffed olives – but now you can’t get those pesky labels off, or there’s some glue left behind that sticks to you every time you pick it up. Annoying!

Don’t worry. We’ve been there, we’ve done the research, and we’ve decided to share the steps that have worked best for us. It’s a touch laborious, so we recommend cleaning your vessels in batches of half a dozen or more at once.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2-3 Lemons
  • Baking Soda
  • Copper Cloth
  • Bottle Brush 
  • 3 Teatowels
  • Kitchen Gloves
  • Your glass jars and bottle – pull as much of the existing plastic or paper label off first

Then follow these steps:

  1. Fill your kitchen sink with hot water, at least one pot of boiling water from the kettle, and the rest from the tap.
  2. Cut your lemons in half, and squeeze the juice into the sink.
  3. Pop a heaped tablespoon of baking soda into the water too.
  4. Pop on your gloves and give the water a stir with your hands so the lemon juice and baking soda mixes in, you’ll need gloves to protect your hands from the hot water. If you're looking from some eco-friendly kitchen gloves, then we recommend these ones as they are made from FSC Certified and ethically sourced latex with a natural cotton lining.
  5. Submerge each of the jars or bottles in the sink, without their lids. Hold them down until the air leaves them and they’re sitting on the bottom of the sink – fit as many as you can in the sink, then leave them to sit for 20-30 minutes.
  6. Lay a teatowel out on the draining board or your bench to create a non-slip absorbent surface to rest the jars on when they’re ready to dry
  7. Fold another teatowel up and use it to rest each vessel on as you remove it from the sink – that way they won’t go sliding when you’re scrubbing them!
  8. One by one, take the vessels out and scrub them up and down with the bottle brush – we like this one for the stiff bristles as they get most of the glue off. When you’ve cleaned most of it, pop it back into the sink and grab the next one.
  9. Once you’re through all your vessels, grab the first one out of the sink again and clean off the last few bits of residue with the copper cloth. If you don’t already have a copper cloth, try this one – we like them as they’re effective without scratching the glass.
  10. When all of your jars and bottles are finished, give them a rinse in the sink then stand them upside down on the teatowel you laid out earlier – they dry much better with an absorbent surface to sit on, and you’ll be left with less condensation.

 If you have any of your own tips, please share them below so other readers can see them too.


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1 comment
  • Thanks for the tips! I‘ll try it.
    What I‘ve learned from cooling beer in a bucket of ice-water is that some labels will remove themselves with almost no remaining glue when you just soak the vessel in cold water for a very long time. Like over night. So, that‘s what I do. Sometimes that‘s almost all that‘s nevessary. When the label is not 100% absorbent I have to scratch it away with a knife. For the remaining glue I use baking soda and a brush or wire wool.
    Basically very similar to your technique!

    Melissa on

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