How to Remove Sticky-Gooey-Icky Adhesive Labels

Updated on March 1, 2018
Blond Logic profile image

Living on a farm in Brazil, I've gained local in-depth knowledge of food, plants, and traditions, which I share through my articles.

Reusable jar with  label
Reusable jar with label | Source

Sticky Labels and How to Remove Them

We all have struggled with it, that horrible gooey residue that is left when you try to remove a label. I recently installed a new sink and have never seen so many labels, they were stuck everywhere. I want to pass on some of the methods I used to rid the glue that is left behind when you remove an adhesive label be from glass or ceramic.

Some methods you may have used before, and others may be new to you. What works well for one item may not be suited to another. Experiment with what you already have at home before going out to purchase an over-priced cleaner.

Always check for a change of color to your jar, or other glass items by applying a small amount of the remover to a hidden spot, before using where it will show. If you are using the method below demonstrated in the video, check that your item can withstand boiling water. If you aren't sure, opted for a different method.

Removing a label from a jar or bottle to reuse the bottle, is a great idea. These are perfect for giving gifts, or for making your own pickles, chutneys, or jams.

Use water to soak
Use water to soak | Source

Removing Adhesive From Glass

Perhaps you've bought a vase or pitcher and there are sticky labels on it. These obviously need to be removed before you can use it. For this type of item, try soaking it in warm water to start with. This will loosen the glue and the paper. Don't be too quick to take it out and start scraping with your fingernail. Let the warmth and the water work. If you're lucky, the label will float off. If this is the case, you will be left with very little residue on your glass item.

Sometimes it isn't possible to soak an object in a sink or bucket of water. For example, a window or large mirror, these will need to have water sponged onto them. You'll want to use a blotting technique and not scrub, this will just roll the wet paper off and leave you with glue smeared everywhere.

If the label is on a jar which came with a vacuum style lid, you can pour boiling water into the jar. The glue will melt as the glass heats up. The label will then easily come off.

Using Baby Oil to Remove Glue

If you have baby oil, this will work wonders. In fact, many of the items I am listing today are oiled based. I prefer to use a cotton ball to apply it. I find it is still better to remove most of the label with warm water first, then go in with the baby oil on a cotton ball to remove the glue. The oil will loosen the glue and it will simply come away. It may be helpful to dab the oil on, leave for a few minutes and then return and wipe.

Often we can get overly aggressive when trying to remove a label. Remember, some glass is thin and as such you don't want to be exerting undue pressure.

For the baby oil and other oil-based items, I am suggesting, be careful when you pick up your newly cleaned object because the oil will have made it slippery. Wash in warm soapy water.

Use Mayonnaise to Remove Labels

Mayonnaise isn't just for your tuna sandwich! It is great for removing labels as well. As before, soaking the label before will aid in the removal. If you don't have time, or the inclination to soak it, apply a generous dollop of mayo. If the article is vertical this could prove difficult. If it is not possible to lay the item down, use the mayo sparingly, you don't want to be cleaning mayo stains from your carpet. Gently dab on with a paper towel and leave for 5-10 minutes. If you've ever made your own mayonnaise, you will know it is mostly oil, and this is why it works.

WD40 Lubricant Spray

Who doesn't have a can of this in their house? Okay perhaps the skinny straw has gone missing but that doesn't matter. If you have a can of WD-40 you can solve so many problems. I was once told,

"There are only two things you need in life! A can of WD-40 and duct tape. If it moves and it shouldn't use the duct tape, if it should move and doesn't use WD-40"

Spray the WD-40 on the label and leave for the required time, 10 minutes or so. Then continue as with the other methods of gently wiping away the glue residue.

Using Vinegar on Sticky Labels

This is different than the above products that are oil based. Vinegar, as you may remember from your high school chemistry class is an acid. This will burn the adhesive away. The smell isn't pleasant but it will do the trick. Again, I would use either a paper towel or cotton ball to apply. Use only clear vinegar, red wine vinegar could leave a mark.

Rubbing Alcohol, Isopropyl Alcohol, Surgical Spirit

This will melt the adhesive and with a bit of elbow grease you will roll that adhesive into little patches and can easily pick them off. This is easy to use on a cotton ball or a cotton pad. It does evaporate quickly so you may find you need to keep reapplying.

This can be purchased in a drug store. In the UK surgical spirit can be used. It may also be called isopropyl alcohol.

Nail Polish Remover to Melt Glue

If there are women in your house, it's likely you have a bottle of nail polish remover somewhere. This is so strong it is used to remove artificial nails. It literally melts them, and it can do the same for your sticky troublesome labels as well.

Like rubbing alcohol, this is quick to evaporate so you may use more than you think. Best applied with a cotton ball or cotton pad. Some are quite pungent and are best used in a room which is well ventilated or outside. It's also a good idea to protect the surrounding area.

Nail polish remover
Nail polish remover | Source

© 2012 Mary Wickison


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    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 3 months ago from Brazil

      Thank you Colleen, that recipe will be beneficial to many. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    • profile image

      Colleen Kolumber 3 months ago

      I recently found a recipe to remove the sticky glue from all types of items. Mix 2 tablespoons of cooking oil with 3 tablespoons of baking soda until a taste forms. Spread it on the sticky area and let it sit for a few minutes. Then rub it with a cloth (I just use my fingers) and wipe away! Works great and no stinky chemical smell.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 4 years ago from Brazil

      I couldn't agree more. I sat on my bathroom floor with products all around me trying to remove labels from a bathroom sink we were installing. I wonder if those that produce the adhesives realize the problems they make for the end user?

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Great ideas for removing that troublesome residue from labels on jars. I often reuse jars for storing small items. You're right about trying different methods on different types of labels. Sometimes it is a combination that gets the glue off.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Letmetellyou,

      I too write on Squidoo and would always appreciate a mention and a backlink.


    • letmetellyou profile image

      letmetellyou 5 years ago from everywhere

      The choices you have listed here for removing labels from a jar will surely be helpful to many but my favorite is the nail polish remover. Somehow oil is just too oily, lol, i have enough of that in my kitchen. Thanks for sharing this, I may consider adding it to my kitchen labels lens ( over at squidoo or my 'jar label' blog.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

      Hello kitkat1141,

      Glad to know it was useful. I am sure glue technology has improved over the years. Or it could be my patience is less. :)

      Thank you for taking the time to comment.

      Have a great day.

    • kitkat1141 profile image

      kitkat1141 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Some great advice. Will definitely keep this info handy. Thanks!

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Lipnancy,

      If only I had known this all those years ago. The worn thumbnails are testimony to too much scraping.

      Great to hear from you.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 5 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      Thanks, I never knew that there was any way to remove labels.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Teaches12345,

      A can of WD-40 has so many uses. Especially in humid areas such as Florida in the summer. They should change the name to "Miracle in a Spray" or "Can-do".

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, have a great day.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      I have all of these at home and will have to keep this in mind the next time I struggle with a sticky label. I do use WD40 for many household squeaks, but haven't thought of using it for this purpose. Thanks!

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Btrbell,

      I am pleased you found the ideas helpful. Always a pleasure to hear from you.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Tiffany,

      Yes, we all have done just that. Inspiration came to me when I was sitting on the bathroom floor with my rubbing alcohol and cotton balls. I thought, "I have to write a hub about this!"

      Thanks for stopping by.

    • btrbell profile image

      Randi Benlulu 5 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      great and useful tips! Thank you! up+

    • tiffany delite profile image

      tiffany delite 5 years ago from united states

      thanks for this hub! i have tried to remove labels before, and i usually just end up soaking the hell out of them and then using an abrasive sponge to get the rest off. i may have to try one of these methods and see if it is any easier! blessings!

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Imogen,

      That is a great tip. If you have written hubs for your jams and pickles, I would love to read them. Here in Brazil, those are two of the things I miss. Also pork pies, Branston, and Marmite!

    • Imogen French profile image

      Imogen French 5 years ago from Southwest England

      Some good tips here, this is something I have struggled with many a time when recycling jars for home made jams and pickles. One thing I have found that works is white spirit (the stuff you clean your paint brushes with), although it does smell rather strong, so the jars need a very good wash with hot soapy water afterwards.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Bill,

      Yes, good 'ol WD-40. You know I can even buy it here in Brazil.

      Glad you found the hub useful.

      Have a great evening.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I should have known that WD40 would work! LOL It does everything else we need it to do. Great information my friend; I learned quite a bit in this hub.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

      Hello flashmakeit,

      I am pleased to know that it will come in useful for you.

      Always a pleasure to hear from you.

    • flashmakeit profile image

      flashmakeit 5 years ago from usa

      Useful and unusual tips for removing adhesive.