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?
OxiClean. The stuff works wonders. Fill a bucket with a scoop of OxiClean 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Stainless Steel Scrubbers
These make quick work of a labels and adhesives.
Soaking the bottles does make it a lot easier, but these scrubbers work even without soaking.
Warm water with a little detergent (oxyclean) or even Dish soap if your doing a beer clean wash later.
Painted labels. Soak in starsan then use scrubber.
What makes these work so well, is it's like having a lot of razor blade edges on the bottle surface. So they cut the paper, foil, glue, paint right off.
They are easily degunked. Most pad scrubbers fill up with goo and you basically toss and get a new one. These are easily cleaned.
They don't scratch glass or stainless steel. Unlike some scrubbing pads that use abrasives.
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.
My process involves soaking the bottles in a bucket of Napisan or similar for a day or so, then using a butter knife, whittle off the soggy labels.
For any remaining glue, grab a Magic Eraser and give them a scrub. The micro abrasion of the Magic Eraser works a treat.
This method allows me to de-label up to 100 bottles in under an hour.
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.
Mineral Terpentine ("terps") is magic for those labels with really tough adhesive. Peel / scrape the label off as best you can. Then just a small amount on a rag works wonders. Rub on gently, then after a couple of seconds as the solvent action kicks in rub a bit harder. Then wash off well in soapy water.
I had several Epic empties. Some of their labels use insanely powerful adhesive. Soaking in hot water, stainless steel scourer, boiling in a pot, knife blade... all I was doing was pushing the adhesive around.
My girlfriend, seeing my mounting exasperation, calmly suggested I try using the terps from her oil paint set. Took about a minute per bottle:
Note that "Terpentinersatz" is German for "Terpentine Substitute" which is another name for mineral turpentine. You can get it from any hardware or art supply store.
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.
With a really sticky label I scraped off as much as I could and tried both ammonia and nail polish remover, not at the same time! My vote goes to the nail polish remover. it seemed to work more effectively. Dab it on and let it sit for a minute to dissolve the adhesive. It's a elbow grease project in any case.