Removeth thy label
January 10, 2007 12:40 PM   Subscribe

What's the easiest way to quickly remove labels from bottles?

I have some St. Peter's Creamy Stout bottles that I want to use as vases for dinner tonight. The labels are stickier than your average beer bottle label. I've had them soaking in water for an hour, but is there anything I could add to the water to quicken their ease of removal?
posted by strangeleftydoublethink to Home & Garden (40 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know about that, but I've found REALLY hot water works better than soaking in hot water for a long time.
posted by Amizu at 12:43 PM on January 10, 2007

some labels are just sticky like that. i've found that ice cold water works in some situations where hot hot hot water doesn't, but i've never found an additive that magically removes label crud.
posted by sonofslim at 12:45 PM on January 10, 2007

Nothing works better than Goo Gone. I love that stuff.
posted by frosty_hut at 12:47 PM on January 10, 2007

Goof Off + ventilation.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:48 PM on January 10, 2007

frosty_hut beat me to it, Goo Gone works the best/fastest. Should be available at your local pharmacy-store.
posted by sarahmelah at 12:50 PM on January 10, 2007

Regular lighter fluid is a cheap replacement for Goof Off and works just as well. It may take a few applications but try squirting some on the glue and then using a scrubbing pad (or your fingernails) to scratch it off.
posted by mezzanayne at 12:51 PM on January 10, 2007

Nail polish remover might work. It removes stuff beautifully, but I don't know how well it'd work diluted.

Dish soap sometimes seems to speed up the process; also helps get gunky residue off.

For the sake of trivia, really: azulene oil also gets gunk off. Sold, understandably, in drugstores next to the waxing kits.
posted by kmennie at 12:52 PM on January 10, 2007

You need a solvent to get rid of sticky residue (applied directly to the bottle, not in water). Rubbing alcohol is not too bad, but some sort of citrus solvent would probably be best (there are products made especially for this task, e.g. Goo Gone).
posted by ssg at 12:52 PM on January 10, 2007

The solvent that works best will depend on the type of glue used. Maybe this will help.
posted by IronLizard at 12:58 PM on January 10, 2007

Good choice in beer; I like the medicine/snake oil look of the bottle as well.

I've used hot water and WD-40 to good effect.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 12:58 PM on January 10, 2007

A green nylon scrubby (like on the backs of some kitchen sponges) works pretty well helping remove label residue. I've even taken one to intact labels, after they've soaked in hot detergent water.
posted by exogenous at 1:00 PM on January 10, 2007

My brewing buddies and I keep a list of bottles we like to use.
St. Peter's have a great shape, but the labels are som eof the worst European labels. (Most slide off in a short soak)

For St. Pete's we soak for an hour or two, scrape off with knife, scrub with a green scrubby and soap and then finish with some mineral spirits (though other solvents work too).

We've tried many things on thses bottles and there is nothing easy. Haven't tried the citrus solvents.
posted by Seamus at 1:01 PM on January 10, 2007

WD-40 then wire wool.
posted by roofus at 1:07 PM on January 10, 2007

A brass brush makes quick work of most labels, and you don't need to worry about solvent fumes. The brush gets less gunky if you scrape what you can with a knife first.
posted by yohko at 1:15 PM on January 10, 2007

I do some homebrewing as well. Nothing works better than ammonia and water for the money.

Just soak in ammonia + water for a few hours, most labels slip off. some require a little scrubbing. If there is residue left, goo gone works well.

I don't use a set ratio, I just kind of eyeball it. Basically I add water until the water doesn't reek of ammonia.
posted by Telf at 1:23 PM on January 10, 2007

Get as much of the paper off as you easily can, pat them dry with a paper towel (they don't have to be absolutely dry) then rub the sticky residue off with a paper towel or a scrubby saturated with mayonnaise.
posted by jamjam at 1:27 PM on January 10, 2007

Re Goo-Gone or Goo-Off: main ingredient is Naptha. Can be found around the house as lighter fluid or white gas (Coleman fuel). Works for gummy label removal, but be careful of this stuff.
posted by artdrectr at 1:36 PM on January 10, 2007

Goo-Gone will probably be fine on glass, but it will take the finish or patina off of a lot of things, so use it judiciously.
posted by staggernation at 1:55 PM on January 10, 2007

First boil the bottle (or at least put in a pot of hot water) until the label lifts itself off in one easy piece. Or just soak the bottle in water overnight. Adding some vinegar or a little ammonia might help in the lifting process, but don't use ammonia in the boiling water trick.

Now that the paper is gone, remove the residual goo (much less left now) with the appropriate solvent. I prefer to use less-toxic things like citrus solvents or rubbing alcohol, but sometimes you need to bust out the harsh stuff like acetone (in nail polish remover, but use pure acetone to skip the dyes, fragrances, and nail thickening agents that gum things up) or *gasp* xylene (paint thinner). Be careful with the carcinogens, though. Nasty stuff.
posted by bigtex at 2:23 PM on January 10, 2007

Oh, and I should add that boiling beer bottles *should* be safe because the glass used *should* be able to handle it, since commercial breweries are *supposed to* sterilize all of their bottles in similar fashion before filling with beer (just took a brewery tour last week).
posted by bigtex at 2:25 PM on January 10, 2007

To try in order, but not in combination:

1. Acetone (nail polish remover)
2. Lighter fluid
3. Gasoline
4. Blowtorch (kidding)
posted by Ynoxas at 2:31 PM on January 10, 2007

I second the lighter fluid, the kind used in Zippos. It has never failed me. You can find it at many cornershops and grocery stores that sell tobacco.
posted by mds35 at 2:35 PM on January 10, 2007

Actually vegetable oil can work well to remove label gunk. It helps to fill the bottle with really hot water first.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 2:44 PM on January 10, 2007

When harvesting beer bottles for homebrewing people often use trisodium phosphate (TSP) to remove the old labels. Just soak the bottles in a warm solution of it, but wear gloves as it is hell on skin. You can find in at the hardware store; it's used to prepare walls for papering.
posted by caddis at 2:58 PM on January 10, 2007

If soaking gets most of the paper label off, but leaves goo behind, you can remove that goo with peanut butter. Really, anything oily would probably work, but since you can smear peanut butter on and leave it to work without fear of it running off, it's the best thing. It can't cut through paper, though, so you need to get rid of most of that first.
posted by donnagirl at 3:07 PM on January 10, 2007

Do you know anyone who works in a lab at all? Because pyroneg (alkaline detergent used in most laboratories) is awesome at this. Soak for about fifteen seconds, scrub off with bottle brush. Repeat to get off stickyness. Gets rid of permanent marker too. If you were somewhere round here I'd happily sneak you a small handful of the pink powder.

A quick google search says it can apparently also be found in hospitals and maybe restaraunts. You'd want to wear gloves and make it fairly weak (a tablespoon full in a sink of water is about what I use).
posted by shelleycat at 3:08 PM on January 10, 2007

Trisodium phosphate is also an alkaline salt (pyroneg is apparently made of 'alkaline salts') so would probably have a similar action. So personally I'd try that if pyroneg wasn't available. Read the hazard warnings and useage instructions.
posted by shelleycat at 3:11 PM on January 10, 2007

sometimes olive or vegetable oil on a cotton ball or paper towel works.
follow up with something that cuts grease, like dish soap.
posted by twistofrhyme at 3:13 PM on January 10, 2007

3rding Lighter fluid. It cuts adhesive far better than goof gone or whathaveyou in my experience. Of course, it also catches on fire. But you won't let that happen, will you?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:23 PM on January 10, 2007

Pop it into the oven at 150f for 90 minutes, it'll come clean off, I do this everyday with bottles.
posted by Cosine at 3:32 PM on January 10, 2007

I've used a razor scraper to great affect on all sorts of labels. Do be careful , wet bottles and sharp blades can be dangerous.
posted by glip at 3:39 PM on January 10, 2007

Seconding a plastic, spherical pot scourer like exogenous suggested, under a stream of really hot water.
posted by misterbrandt at 4:00 PM on January 10, 2007

Just a note: Goo-gone is mostly heptane (n-C7). It's closer to gasoline than naptha or kerocene. WD-40 should work at least as well.
posted by bonehead at 4:03 PM on January 10, 2007

If you're not interested in peeling the label off intact, and you don't have time to go to a store and get a remover, try using hand creme (cheap drug store kind) to rub the residual goo off. Apply and leave it on for a while before rubbing. The alcohol found in most cheapo cremes (here in Japan anyway) weakens the glue and makes it easier to remove.

Or you can use a hair dryer or warm iron and warm the label up a bit, which sometimes helps take it off. I guess this is similar to Cosine's suggestion, just done differently.

If all else fails, the only way is to scrape it off with a razor or something.
posted by misozaki at 4:25 PM on January 10, 2007

This is too late for strangeleftydoublethink's dinner tonight, but maybe it'll be of interest to future readers of this thread: For stubborn labels and other adhesive residue (like getting gum off the bottom of a shoe), I've had good luck with De-Solv-It [US website -- don't let the quality of the site turn you off of the product -- and UK website]. It's a citrus-based solution and claims to be biodegradable, organic and safe (but "safe" is always relative to the situation -- always be careful with any cleaning agent). I've seen it in trial-sized bottles at supermarkets and also larger versions elsewhere. I've used it for household tasks for many years and it works pretty well (and no, I am not affiliated with the company). (I didn't realize this until answering this question, but apparently a now-discontinued compound of De-Solv-It was one of the agents used at boat cleaning stations after the Exxon-Valdez oil spill in Alaska.)
posted by macguffin at 6:56 PM on January 10, 2007

Also for reference, citrus-based cleaners really aren't great for the environment. Their active ingredient is d-limonene, which is a great degreasing agent, but will degrease living tissue just as easily as any oil spot. It's death on most aquatic life (we've tested it, really nasty stuff if you're a water flea, fish or aquatic bacterium). A good cleaning product, but please don't wash it down the sink. Way worse than most detergents.
posted by bonehead at 7:04 PM on January 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

The vast majority of adhesives are oil soluable. An oil or anything containing oil or other non-polar or mono-polar solvent will loosen adhesives used to attach labels. The lower the viscosity the quicker it will penetrate into the adhesive. Vegetable oils are slower acting but have fewer drawbacks and problems than petroleum based oils. Goo Gone, Goof Off and the the commercially available solvents work fine to remove labels. Use whatever oil that's at hand to soften the adhesive, peel off the label, wipe off with a paper towel and then use soap and water to clean up afterward.
posted by X4ster at 9:20 PM on January 10, 2007

Zippo fluid's what I use when I need to get sticker residue off of stuff.
posted by chundo at 9:41 PM on January 10, 2007

I soak mine in HOT water with a cap full of bleach overnight. They come right off.
posted by smallerdemon at 9:59 PM on January 11, 2007

WD-40, most definitely. Works like a charm.
posted by Finder at 4:17 AM on January 12, 2007

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