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Some labels can be a pain to remove. I've tried soaking bottles in water with a little bit of dish soap but it doesn't really do much to break down the adhesive. What methods do you have for easily removing labels?

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16 Answers 16

up vote 25 down vote accepted

OxyClean. The stuff works wonders. Fill a bucket with a scoop of OxyClean and hot water and let the bottles soak for about an hour. Most labels will simply slide right off; some will even float right off the bottles to the surface. The ones that don't will be easy to remove with a rag or sponge.

You also generally never want to use dish soap or detergent on anything that will come in contact with your beer. Detergents often leave behind a residue or coating that can kill head retention.

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OxyClean is also great for removing dried gunk from the inside of bottles if you forget to rinse them out right after drinking. –  bengineerd Nov 9 '10 at 6:07
    
And if the OxyClean still leaves sticky residue, just get a sacrificial steel scrub pad from the dollar store (and yes, it will probably be unusable afterwards if you use the steel pad on a lot of bottles). –  Room3 Nov 9 '10 at 21:10
    
Do you mean extra glue residue from the bottles? I usually use the rough side of a dish sponge or a rag to remove that. The OxyClean itself doesn't leave anything after rinsing. –  Jeff L Nov 9 '10 at 21:39
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OxyClean is also known in brew stores as B-Brite. It is the same chemical sodium percarbonate. I use it for cleaning all non-steel items, works great on plastic hosing and glass. Soak it for a little while in the stuff and most labels come off pretty easily. –  Mike Miller Nov 10 '10 at 1:16
    
I've had great luck with Oxy Clean as well. The ones that are particularly stubborn, I just let sit longer. –  Ell Jan 17 '11 at 1:05

cotton wool and benzene. just remember that benzene is highly flammable, so be careful. I have a bottle of benzene in the house, in the caravan and at work. even clean whiteboard!

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I hope you mean "benzine", a common solvent also known as "petroleum ether". Benzene with an "e" is a dangerous carcinogen. I wouldn't want to use it anywhere near beverage containers. –  Simon Aug 13 at 17:19

Commercial breweries use two main types of labels: Glue labels, and Sticker-type labels.

Glue labels are easy to remove by soaking in percarbonate based cleansers (OxyClean, Easy Clean, B-Brite, One Step, PBW, and others). You can also use water plus Ammonia, or just plain hot water. Some scraping may be required for complete removal. Glue labels are most often used by larger breweries because they can be applied at high speed, and the labels themselves are inexpensive.

Smaller Breweries tend to use Sticker-type lables because the labeling equipment is less expensive to purchase and maintain. Unfortunately for homebrewers, these labels are nearly impossible to get off without petroleum-based solvents (like WD-40, mineral spirits, etc) or citrus degreasers.

Try soaking the bottles, and if the label comes off, great. You're done. If there's a gummy residue left behind, try using a citrus-based degreaser.

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Getting the Labels Off

I'm only adding a little bit here. I only use OxyClean, like many others, but what I do is put the bottles standing up in a cooler, then fill them with hot tap water. Dump a bit of oxyclean in the cooler, and fill it with hot water.

It holds the temp for quite a long while, after a couple of hours the labels are floating off, or they come off with just a slight pull.

Sometimes there's a bit of label residue that hangs around on some bottles, that comes off with a quick scrub sponge.

Putting Labels on

When I did label my bottles, I used standard printer paper, cut it up with scissors, and then used some milk on a paint brush, just on the edges of the label, to get it to stick. You have to hold it there for about 3 seconds and then set it to the side to dry. Those labels come off extremely easy.

What I do now

These days I've become lazy, I just use the little Avery round labels and place them on the bottle caps after bottling. Much easier.

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After trying everything I found on the internet and having terrible results, I found the thing that works the best, by far, is the scrape it off while dry with a sharp knife. Scrape until just about everything is gone. Then wet it a little and use one of those green scrub pads (or anything that wont scratch glass) to get the last little bit.

Warning, sharp knives are ... sharp, and therefore dangerous

One thing I did learn is that some chemical solvants can actually embed in the glass and cause your wine to go bad forever more. For example, an old trick used to be to put a coke in a can of gasoline overnight. The next day it would look fine, it would still have carbination, but it tasted terrible! And yes, this is a glass coke bottle, so why wouldn't it affect your wine/beer. Not to mention, when soaking, those chemicals are usually going into the inside of the bottle. Not good.

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For an instant result without waiting, soak the label with white spirit on a cloth.

You can use it on just about any surface except some transparent plastics (e.g. CD cases) which would turn dull. In that event, use dry cleaning petroleum which only requires a bit more rubbing.

Both white spirit and dry cleaning petroleum will mostly evaporate at room temperature with some smell. Anyhow, I recommend removing any residual solvent with ordinary washing up liquid before using the container for food or drink storage.

Both solvents are sold much cheaper than those specifically marketed as label removing liquids.

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For removing your own labels that you apply to your bottles, use a label with a hot-soak water soluable adhesive. When you're ready to reuse your bottles, a soak in hot soapy water is all that's needed to slide the labels off.

Removing labels from store-bought beverage bottles can be hit or miss because each bottler can use different label materials and different adhesives. By random sampling I've found some labels slide off in hot water, some will peel off after applying solvent, and others just never let go of the glass.

I do have a cure-all that removes every label from every bottle: 500 degrees F in a ceramic kiln for about a hour will incinerate every organic compound in the label and adhesive. Some adhesives will etch the surface of the glass so a shadow may remain, but there's no label! Don't go much higher than 500F though or the bottle may start to soften and deform.

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That's hardcore –  Joe Philllips Nov 9 '10 at 22:57
    
I wouldn't buy a kiln just to remove bottle labels, but if you have a kiln anyway.... ;> –  dthorpe Nov 10 '10 at 21:18
    
Wow. That's a new one. –  D J Nov 18 '10 at 16:58
    
A trip to the kiln is also handy for getting rid of unknown bio gunk growing inside the bottle, esp the caked on stuff that the bottle brush can't quite scrub hard enough. After kiln cooldown, just rinse the ash out of the bottle! (I picked up a hoard of 22oz home brew bottles via Freecycle. They had been left outside for months and were really, really nasty. The kiln treatment burns away all sins. ;> –  dthorpe Nov 19 '10 at 0:15
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I've used hot-soak removable labels sold under the "4th and Vine" brand. For water to remove the label, the water has to be HOT and soapy. Cold water has no effect on the adhesive (the "ice bucket test"). I bought a pack of these labels at our local brewer supply, Seven Bridges Cooperative in Santa Cruz: breworganic.com/peelandstickprinterlabels48ct.aspx. Here's more info: midwestsupplies.com/wine-label-removing.html –  dthorpe Jul 17 '13 at 6:01

I like De-Solv-It. You can usually find it at Ace Hardware.

Just spray to saturate label or residue, wait 10-20 min, and it should rub right off. It's made of citrus oils and other organic ingredients so it should be safe. It smells like oranges and has a slightly greasy feel but that washes off easily with soap and water.

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Careful there. "Organic" does not mean safe or harmless. Hemlock is all-natural, and can be labeled USDA organic if no pesticides or synthetic fertilizers were used in its production. Any acid in sufficient concentration can be lethal or burn your face off - including citric acid and acetic acid (vinegar). Citrus oil is available in many household cleaners nowadays, but it's also available in concentrated form for use as a low-VOC paint stripper. It takes skin and hair right off as easily as old paint. –  dthorpe Jul 17 '13 at 6:18

For stubborn labels, try an organic solvent like acetone. It should remove most any common label and won't leave any residue. Rubbing alcohol may also work.

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Acetone will turn many plastic surfaces (both transparent and none transparent) dull. –  user3639 Jul 20 '13 at 21:58

Just soak in hot water most come off easily. Recycle the ones that dont.

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I find myself still scraping them off –  Joe Philllips Nov 17 '10 at 18:43
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Yeah some do take a bit more work than others, depends in the brand and how much glue they use. I just recycled the tougher ones. I drink enough to spare those ones :P –  CaveMan Nov 17 '10 at 18:46

get a pair of these gloves boil water in your brewpot and put in as many bottles as you can fit and boil them for a few minutes, put the gloves on and squeeze the bottles in one hand and spin them, the labels will come right off. You can get through 48 in no time.

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If you can afford it, its really nice to buy new glass. If not, you can get some labels off easier than others. You might have to experiment to see which ones are the easiest to remove.

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You know you're a homebrewer when how easy the labels come off is a factor in your beer selection :-) Seriously though, many of the 22oz bottles from smaller craft breweries use an adhesive that allows you to just peel the labels off, no soaking required. I think these are done on a portable bottling line. –  steveax Oct 7 '11 at 4:19

I've used a big tub of water with some baking soda in it. I just tossed rinsed bottles in there as I accumulated them. Not sure how long it really took, since I didn't try and remove the labels for a while, but they came off really easily. As far as the amount of baking soda, maybe a teaspoon per 2 or 3 gallons? Not that much.

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I've tried a couple of solutions, but the one that works best for me is an overnight soak in a big tub of water with a half-gallon of ammonia. The labels just slide right off.

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And inexpensive as well! –  Carling Nov 16 '10 at 20:15
    
We didn't even need to let them sit over night except for the occasional super label. –  AllenSanborn Nov 19 '10 at 5:14

I usually find soaking them in my sterilising solution does an excellent job.

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Soak with bleach for 1+ hours in initially hot water. Then scrap them off with a butter-knife like whittling a log- works great.

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