Removing Bottle Labels without Chemicals

I love glass bottles and store everything in them from frozen foods to dry beans.  Luckily we have a plentiful supply of them.  However, there is one thing I don’t like about my glass bottles.  The paper label.  Parts of the label come off in my dishwasher and get stuck on dried dishes.  Or  their partial on and off paper label look. Ugly and pathetic.  And who knows when Martha could waltz into my kitchen?  (It’s like wearing tattered underwear and you could wind up in the hospital.)  So, off with the paper label.  But can I remove them without chemicals?

I am up for the experiment.  Are you?

Why the brain storm all of the sudden, Anna? (Or the insanity. Your choice.)  I wanted to give my homemade holiday gifts in my excess glass jars.   There is no way I was giving the teachers jars with torn labels on them. (Remember the underwear story above.)

The Internet Was No Help.

Like everyone else, I turn to those troopers before me who hopefully figured it out.

  • The website Instructables says to soak them in dish washing soap.  Did that and my labels must just be indestructible.
  • Someone on my Facebook Page suggested coconut oil.  It didn’t work for me.
  • Some suggested Goo Gone but I wanted to be a purist because I am a glutton for punishment and seek days of exile in my kitchen.

Idea #1.  Use Bottled Oil

Creative Jewish Mom suggested using oil. She let her bottle sit in oil.  Alternatively, being impatient, I tried the clean and oil scrub method.   However, note, we are talking about major elbow grease here.   See the video below.

I used my handy stainless steel scrubber (which by the way is a life saver) and scrubbed off the paper.  Whatever  paper was left, I would rub olive oil over a portion of the bottle and then scrub some more.  With over 100 bottles to do, this just seemed so tedious although it did work.

Word to the wise:  Don’t use expensive olive oil for this purpose or you will have your husband yelling at you.

Also, have a few stainless steel scrubbers around. The paper takes its toll on them and you will have to switch to a new one if you have many glass bottles to do.

(And yes, my husband was yelling at me but then he finally gave up.  He saw the fixated look in my eyes.  Then, there is no turning back.)

#Idea 2.  Use Spray Oil:

Don’t ask me why but this method seem to make it easier to scrub.  I actually had spray oil leftover from Passover.  (I didn’t try PAM now that I am thinking about it.)

Idea #3.  Boiling Water.

Seriously.  When we built the house years ago, I had a hot water tap installed so  it would be easy to make tea or obtain boiling water instantly. (Mine is an InSinkErator Wave Hot Water Dispenser.)  I love this creature comfort.  (Anna, you are such a princess.  Really? You are just figuring that out now?)

Well, the faucet looked at me and I looked at it and said why the h*ll not? (I was getting a little bit desperate with 1000s of bottles to go. I tend to exaggerate by the way. Plus, I can whine alot too.)

So I gingerly held the top of the bottle and ran steaming hot water over a portion and scrubbed immediately with my dollar scrubber.  You would have thought a lightening bolt hit me.  IT WORKS.  No lie.

But here is the irony.  You can’t kept tapping on the tap.  It runs out of hot water in about 15-20 minutes.  So be judicious.  Luckily, I was already towards the end of my bottle debacle.

Idea #4-Razor Blade:

This would have been the easiest alternative except

  1. I would have cut myself.
  2. I would have cut myself again.
  3. At a certain point I might have thrown the razors.  Not a good idea.

Some bottle were just so tough that I had to time them out since I started to get angry at them.  I had to employ BOTH boiling water and olive oil to get the label off.  (I told you I got fixated on those bottles.)

So Why Are Labels So Tough To Get Off?

Why do companies cement their labels on bottles?  Honestly, I just don’t get it.  If you can shed some factoids on this issue, I would be grateful.

Finally hours later, I had about a 100 gleaming “labeless” bottles.  Now, I take the labels off the bottles when I first wash them rather then let them pile up.

Don’t say it. I know what you are thinking…

Join the Conversation:

  • Do you remove your jar labels?
  • How do you remove your jar labels.


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  1. 1


    UGH! I feel your pain Anna. Some labels come off soooo easily. While others could last a lifetime! I don’t have a foolproof method. I think it depends on the glue that is used. Some labels just require a little hot water and they will peel right off. To much hot water and you are doomed to be picking bits of paper and scraping glue off that bottle for a long time! I’ve also tried a combination of coconut oil and baking soda for the glue and it works – better sometimes than others. Keep up with those jars!
    Kristina (The Greening Of Westford)´s last blog post ..Fantastic Falafel

  2. 5


    Get label wet with hot water and remove top layer by scraping. Then apply lemon essential oil to remove sticky stuff. TADA! I order my essential oils through doTerra but you can pick up essential oils at many health stores or Amazon.

  3. 6

    janis says

    I use either hot water or De-Solv-It. It’s one of those orange (and green) products, which will remove anything FROM anything. Spray it on and it dissolves the glue. It’s also great for taking those colored marks off the inside of the freezer/refrigerator and getting marks off plastic wastebaskets. Just one swipe does it on those.

      • 8

        Janis says

        It’s a VERY safe orange product. I think you could even drink it… not really but it wouldn’t poison you. Nope.. no gloves. Contains citrus oils, aloe vera and lanolin. We use it for EVERYTHING. Check out the link I included in my first post. Once you try it you’ll find a million uses for it.

      • 9

        Janis says

        Another way to remove labels is with a hair dryer. Once you heat the glue a little many labels will lift right off without leaving any residue. It works especially well on shiny surfaces like cookbooks.

  4. 14

    Mary says

    I soak the glass jars in hot water for 30mins roughly. Then peel off the label. If it does not come off, then I scrap it off with a knife or scrapper. If there are traces of glue then I use Eucalyptus oil (after I dried the glass) and it will take off any sticky residue. The oil always works for me!

  5. 16


    I always soak bottles and jars before I try to take their labels off. Some fall off easier than others, of course :) When I have a tough case, I rub with baking soda and a stainless steel scrubber and that usually does the job.

  6. 18

    Elaine says

    Hi Anna,
    Eucalyptus oil is one of my essential cleaning products. It’s not expensive and can be purchased at the supermarket, usually in the medicine isle. After soaking and scrubbing the label, dry the jar then scrunch up a piece of ‘kitchen paper’, hold it over the Eucalyptus bottle and tip to wet the paper. Not only is it quick and easy, it leaves a lovely eucalyptus smell in the room. There are a lot of health benefits of Eucalyptus Oil.

  7. 19

    Linda Johnston says

    I come from the old school of hard knocks so first we’d let the jar soak in cold water in the sink with the label side down. Once it was beginning to “dissolved” we’d turn it over til the entire label was “dissolved”. After that a good wash in hot soapy water and it should be fine. If there was some persistent glue left then we’d apply a knife or some other scrapping device for the glue. Didn’t grow up with a dishwasher. Good luck.

  8. 21

    david says

    I have never had a problem removing labels using coconut oil. I apply a drop or two of oil over the label and set aside. You need to allow the oil to soak through (It will take some time, depending on the strength of the glue – sometimes an hour or two, but for stubborn labels it might be the better part of a day). The oil dissolves the glue and the label will peel off in one piece, taking the layer of adhesive with it.

  9. 23


    Worse than labels on bottles you want to reuse are the indestructable price tags on glass items you buy to use or give as gifts. I would be afraid that steel pads would scratch the glass. What would Martha think? It’s been a while since I bought anything like that, but I just soaked stuff in water as long as it took for it to come clean. Never thought of oil or any of the other things that have been mentioned. Fascinating thread.
    David Guion´s last blog post ..When green and sustainable are not the same

    • 24


      David, I am always worried what Martha would think. Surprisingly the steel scrubbers don’t scratch the glass. (Or I can’t see it.) I am going to try the coconut idea and let it sit to see if it is easier. It beats scrubbing! Anna


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