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 ...
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 ...
I get a similar issue with the bucket I use for bottling (I use a glass carboy for fermenting). I am still using the bucket with the usual cleaning straight after use and sanitizing prior to use with no adverse issue to my batches so far. I'm not sure smell is something you necessarily need to worry about if your bucket is visibly clean (no visible deposits, ...
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, ...
Its ok. If you keep making beer in it the slight smell won't make your next beer smell any more of less beery than the last one. Its plastic and it absorbs odors. Perfectly normal. There is no reason to think you need to get all that smell out of there. Brew beer and if you start getting contamination due to microbial issues then you've got something to ...
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.
PBW is completely safe. I used it for years before switching to Craftmeister cleaners, which are much more effective. PBW works a little better than Oxi, and Craftmeister works significantly better than PBW. But all 3 are safe and effective.
There are 2 reasons Oxyclean is not a good sanitizer option. We need to look at ingredients before I discuss these.
Sodium Carbonate - good cleaner, zero sanitizer,
Sodium Bicarbonate - good for baking (Baking Soda),
Sodium Percarbonate - good cleaner, fair sanitizer
Oxyclean contains both Sodium Carbonate and Sodium Percarbonate. The main difference ...
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 ...
Have you ever tried a heat gun? The heat softens the glue and it does get hotter than a blow dryer. They use them to remove labels in some factories. Just be careful not to singe and use something besides your hands to peel it off (maybe a putty knife)