StickerYou Blog

How to Remove Labels From Jars: Most Effective Methods

January 29, 2024  |  
Guides/Tutorials
Four glass jars full of kale with the same green label added on all of them.

When you finish a jar of your favorite jam, you may want to wash that container and repurpose it as a decorative vase, a container for your little trinkets, or a mason jar for your morning coffee.

In fact, you might already have plenty of empty jars in your cupboard that have been washed and are waiting to be put to good use. Only something’s holding you back — the custom printed sticker labels that are getting in the way of your aesthetic vision. 

You might have tried plenty of methods to remove those labels from your recycled jars, but to no avail. Not to worry — in this article, we list all the most effective solutions that will get labels off jars cleanly. 

Why Should I Remove Labels and Reuse Jars?

Reusing old, empty jars is a great way to help reduce waste. Instead of tossing them in the trash, you can give new life to an old jar by repurposing it as household decor, a vase for your flowers and plants, a container for organizing your pantry, or a zero-waste container for your homemade soups and condiments. 

When the product label is removed cleanly, old jars can be recycled, making a useful and beautiful addition to your pantry, kitchen, and home. 

Precautions When Removing Labels From Jars

Before we reveal the most effective methods to remove labels from glass jars, there are some things you need to know first to yield the best outcomes.

The most difficult part of this project is going to be removing the adhesive. Especially if the adhesive is strong, you’re going to need a bit of elbow grease to get it to come off. In some cases, however, removing the label itself might also be problematic.

While you won’t run into any issues with labels made of plain, uncoated paper (which can easily be dissolved with water), additional steps are needed when working with coated labels.

If the jar’s label is coated with a water-repellent finish, begin by scoring the surface. Grab a scoring tool or safety box cutter and proceed to cut small slits on the label. Do this gently so you don’t end up damaging the glass surface. Once you’ve scored the label, you can proceed with the removal method of your choice.

Keep in mind that these methods work best with glass or metal jars with custom paper labels. They won’t suffice for etched or screen-printed labels. 

The best advice we can give you is to be patient. Most, if not all of these methods will require your time and effort to work. Just trust the process, and those sticky labels and their adhesive residue will come off just as you expected. 

Equipment and Materials Needed

Now, you’re ready to start gathering your tools and materials. Here are the things you’ll need for the top removal methods we’re listing below: 

Equipment

  • Scoring tool or safety box cutter 
  • Plastic scraper or stiff card
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Hair dryer 

Materials 

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Paper towels
  • Plastic wrap
  • Cooking oil 

How to Remove Labels From Jars: Top 3 Methods

Here are the top three methods for removing labels from jars. You can opt to do any method you think is best depending on the type of label you’re working with, the stubbornness of the adhesive, and of course, your access to the materials needed for each method. 

How to Remove Labels with Rubbing Alchohol

Step 1: Peel Off as Much as Possible First

Before soaking the label with rubbing alcohol, try to peel off as much of the sticker as you can. This will make it thin enough for the alcohol to penetrate the label and saturate the adhesive. 

Step 2: Soak the Label with Rubbing Alcohol

When there’s nothing more to peel, and you’re left with sticky remains and adhesive residue, grab a bottle of alcohol and a paper towel. Saturate the paper towel with alcohol and place it over the label. Alternatively, you can pour rubbing alcohol directly onto the sticker. 

Step 3: Let It Sit

Let the alcohol sit for 10 to 20 minutes. To prevent the alcohol from evaporating too quickly, we recommend covering the label with plastic wrap after soaking it. 

Step 4: Peel Off the Label

After letting the alcohol sit for some time, remove the plastic wrap and paper towel. Grab a plastic scraper or stiff card and begin to gently scrape off the label. 

Step 5: Remove Adhesive Residue

If you encounter stubborn adhesive residue that’s difficult to peel or scrape off, saturate it with rubbing alcohol once again. Use a paper towel or microfiber cloth to wipe the residue off the surface. 

How to Remove Labels with Heat

Step 1: Peel Off as Much as Possible

Start by peeling off as much of the label as you can. The heat method works best with labels that have been stripped of their protective coating. This crucial step will allow your hair dryer to heat up and melt the adhesive residue more quickly. 

Step 2: Warm Up the Label

Set your hair dryer to its medium heat setting and begin warming up the label. Keep the dryer a couple of inches away from the label and hold it there for a few seconds. 

Step 3: Test the Label

Every few seconds, turn off your hair dryer and use your plastic scraper to see if the adhesive has melted and can be peeled off easily. If you still encounter resistance, keep blowing hot air onto the label. 

Step 4: Peel Off the Label

When the adhesive has melted, peel the label off with your scraper or stiff card. Apply more heat as necessary to fully remove the sticker. 

Step 5: Gently Rub and Remove the Residue

If you’re left with adhesive residue, use a paper towel or microfiber cloth to rub it off the surface gently. You can also soak the residue with warm, soapy water to help the adhesive loosen up and make it easier to remove. 

A black and orange hair dryer left on top of a wooden table right next to an orange notebook and a black comb.

How to Remove Labels with Oil or Cooking Spray

Step 1: Apply Cooking Oil

Apply cooking oil directly onto the label, allowing the oil to soak the surface fully. If the label has a glossy finish, score it with a scoring tool or safety box cutter before saturating it with cooking oil. 

Step 2: Let It Sit

Let the oil sit on the label for at least 30 minutes. To prevent the oil from dripping off the surface of the label, cover it with plastic wrap. 

Step 3: Attempt to Peel Off the Label

After 30 minutes, remove the plastic wrap. Take your plastic scraper or stiff card and attempt to peel off the label. If the sticker is still difficult to scrape off, soak it with cooking oil for a little longer. 

Step 4: Remove the Residue

Remove sticky residue by rubbing the surface with a clean microfiber cloth. When there is no residue left, wash the jar in hot, soapy water. 

A bowl full of olive oil left on top of a granite countertop with a few olives and kitchen tools right next to it.

Additional Methods For Removing Labels From Jars

If the top three methods don’t work for you, you can try using these other recommended solutions to remove the label from your old jar: 

Commercial Adhesive Removers

Commercial adhesive removers were made specifically to remove stickers and loosen sticky adhesives. You’ll find these in your local hardware stores sold under brand names like Goo Gone, Goof Off, or Un-Du, among others. 

Removing labels with commercial adhesive remover can be as easy as soaking the sticker with the solution. But make sure to follow the instructions on the product label for the best results. 

Baking Soda Paste

Common household items like baking soda and dish soap can also be valuable for removing labels from jars. Create a baking soda paste with one part dish soap and one part baking soda and cover the label with the mixture. Let it sit for a couple of minutes before peeling the sticker off with a plastic scraper. 

Baking soda paste is also the safest and most eco-friendly method for getting rid of stickers and adhesives. 

Goo Gone or WD-40

Goo Gone and WD-40 are the most popular commercial solvents used to remove labels and sticky residue from a range of surfaces. They are known to work well with glass or metal jars, helping loosen up glue and make stickers easier to peel off. 

Spray the solution over the label generously and let it sit for at least 20 minutes. After such time, peel the label off with your plastic scraper. When the label is fully removed, wash the jar with warm soapy water. 

Vinegar Soak

Vinegar is a superstar ingredient that serves a range of purposes, from cleaning homes and, you guessed it, removing labels from jars. It’s a powerful and accessible solvent that’s effective at lifting stubborn adhesive. 

To make the most out of this method, you’ll want to soak your label in a mixture of 1 cup of white vinegar and 1-2 tablespoons of dish soap. Let the solution sit for 20-30 minutes before peeling the sticker off with a scraping tool. Rub the adhesive residue off with a microfiber cloth. 

Soaking in Warm Water

Most of the time, you don’t need harsh solutions or commercial adhesive removers to remove labels from jars. Warm water may be able to do the trick! 

For this method, you simply need to submerge the jar in warm water for 5 to 10 minutes. After such time, peel the label off with a scraper and use a microfiber cloth to wipe away sticky residue. 

Conclusion

Removing stickers from jars is easy with the top tried-and-tested methods we revealed in this article. Which one you should use will depend on your preference and the tools and materials you have access to. Try any one of these methods and make your jar clean, beautiful, and ready to repurpose.

How to Remove Labels From Jars: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the easiest way to remove labels from jars?

The easiest way to remove labels from jars is by using cooking oil. The oil will soften the sticker and lift the adhesive from the surface, making it easy for you to rub the label off. The other top methods, i.e. using rubbing alcohol or applying heat, also work quite well. 

How do you remove labels from jars without stickiness?

Regardless of which method you use to remove labels from jars, you’re likely going to end up with adhesive residue because product labels use strong adhesive backing to make sure the label stays in place. However, the adhesive residue can be rubbed off easily with the top methods we listed in this article. 

How do you remove labels quickly?

Using warm, soapy water to remove labels from jars is the quickest way to finish the task. This method only requires you to soak the label for 5 to 10 minutes. However, it’s not the most effective. The longer you soak the label in water or your chosen solvent, the easier it will be to peel the sticker off. 

Does removing labels with dish soap and vinegar method damage jars?

Dish soap and vinegar are safe to use on jars. They are mild formulas that won’t damage the surface and are also non-toxic, making them the best solutions if you’re looking to use your old jars for food storage. Just be careful when scraping the label off to avoid scratching the surface.