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How to Remove Sticky-Gooey-Icky Adhesive Labels

Mary has many hobbies and shares her ideas and passion in an easy to read user-friendly way.

How to get the label adhesive off of glass, metal, ceramic, etc.

How to get the label adhesive off of glass, metal, ceramic, etc.

Sticky Labels: How to Get Them Off

I recently installed a new sink and have never seen so many labels on a single product—they were stuck everywhere. We all have struggled with it, that horrible gooey residue that is left when you try to remove a label. But reusing jars and bottles is a great idea (perfect for giving gifts or for making your own pickles, chutneys, or jams) so it's worth it to try to get that label off.

Here are the best methods I have used to get rid of the glue that is left behind when you remove an adhesive label from glass, plastic, or ceramic (or any hard surface). Before we begin, there are two things to consider:

  • Experiment with what you already have at home before going out to purchase an over-priced cleaner.
  • Combine methods. A method that works well on one item may not work so well on another, so if one of the methods below does not work, try another one of the suggestions.
  • Test. Always test first to see if the removal method will change the color of the object by applying a small amount of the remover to a hidden spot.

Adhesive Removers

  • Hot, soapy water: soaking or sponging-and-blotting.
  • Something oily: baby oil (mineral oil), WD-40, olive or coconut oil, mayonnaise (full fat; any brand), or any other type of oil.
  • Something acidic, like white vinegar.
  • Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl) or nail polish remover (acetone).
  • Friction: no matter which method you try, scrubbing with a non-abrasive material will likely be required to remove the sticker's adhesive. A wooden spatula works nicely.

(Each of these ingredients and methods is explored fully below.)

How to Remove Label 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.

  • Water. For this type of item, try simply filling the jar with water to start with. This will loosen the glue. If that doesn't work, submerge the object in the water to soften the paper. Don't be too quick to start scraping with your fingernail. Let the warmth and the water work, and if you're lucky, the label will float off.
  • Use Boiling Water. If the label is on a heat-resistant jar (that came with a vacuum-style lid that pops up when you first open it), you can soak the jar in boiling water. The glue will melt as the glass heats up and the label will then easily come off.
  • Sponge and Blot. 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 instead. You'll also want to use a blotting technique rather than scrubbing (as this will just roll the wet paper off and leave you with glue smeared everywhere, which is counterproductive).

If the label doesn't come off, or if you still have adhesive, then try one of the methods below (oil, mayo, WD-40, vinegar, rubbing alcohol, or acetone) to remove it completely.

Use Baby Oil to Remove Label Glue

If you have baby oil, this can work wonders. 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 adhesive, and it will come away. It may help 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, so you don't want to exert too much pressure. A trip to the emergency room is not on today's to-do list. Use common sense and rub lightly.

Note: Be careful when you pick up your newly cleaned object because the oil will have made it slippery. Wash in warm soapy water to remove any remaining oil residue. If the item is too big to wash in a sink, use a bucket of soapy water and a sponge.

How to Use Mayonnaise to Remove Labels

Mayonnaise isn't just for your tuna sandwich! It is great for removing labels as well. If you've ever made your own mayonnaise, you will know it is mostly oil, and this is why it works.

  1. As before, soaking the label before will aid in the removal.
  2. Apply a generous dollop of mayo. 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.
  3. Gently dab on with a paper towel and leave for 5-10 minutes.

WD-40 Lubricant Spray

Who doesn't have a can of this in their house? If you have a can of WD-40, you can solve so many problems. Someone once said, "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."

If you have some, spray the WD-40 on the label (after soaking) and leave for 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.

After soaking, apply the vinegar, Again, I would use either a paper towel or cotton ball to apply.

Use only clear vinegar as red wine vinegar could leave a mark.

Rubbing Alcohol, Isopropyl Alcohol, Surgical Spirit

I have used this method successfully to remove the energy consumption label from my washing machine. The rubbing alcohol will melt the adhesive and, with a bit of elbow grease, you will be able to roll that adhesive off in little bits and easily pick them off.

Rubbing alcohol can be purchased in a drug store. It might also be called surgical spirit or isopropyl alcohol.

Apply it with a cotton ball or pad. It evaporates quickly, so you may need to keep reapplying.

Use a Combo of Baking Soda and Oil

Nail Polish Remover (Acetone) to Melt Glue

Acetone is used to remove fingernail polish. It also melts glue, and it can do the same to the adhesive used on your labels.

Like rubbing alcohol, this is quick to evaporate, and you may require more than you think. It's best applied with a cotton ball or cotton pad.

Use outside or in a room that is well ventilated. It's also a good idea to protect the surrounding area to prevent damage.

FAQ

Can you use a heat gun?

Some say that hovering a heat gun over the label in a back-and-forth motion will soften the adhesive enough to enable the label to be pulled off.

(This method is not recommended if you don't know how to use a heat gun. Use caution and common sense.)

How do I get a sticky label off of clothes or fabric?

That really depends on what material the clothes are made of. Read How to Remove Sticker Residue From a T Shirt for in-depth information.

How can I remove a plastic sticker from a wall or window?

First try soapy water, then use WD-40 or nail polish remover (but test it first). Read How to Remove Vinyl Wall Stickers and Decals for more information.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: How do I remove the label from a new wash basin?

Answer: The easiest way will depend on a few factors. If this is this a glass type basin, try filling the basin with warm water. This will help loosen the glue. I wouldn't add boiling water to any type of basin. If the label is on the outside, and the basin is installed, a warm damp cloth will also help to remove the paper label.

The remaining glue can be removed with an oil-based product such as baby oil, or mayonnaise. Check that there will be no color change by experimenting with a small amount in a hidden area.

Question: Have you tried a heat gun? Typical adhesives used for labels have a melt point between +165F to +200F. Hovering a heat gun over the label with back and forth motion will soften the adhesive. Once soft you can typically slowly pull the label off the surface. If residue is left then use rubbing alcohol to remove it.

Answer: Thank you for your suggestion. I have personally not tried it, but it is useful to have another way. Obviously for others reading your advice, we must note that the surface must be able to withstand this type of heat. Use caution and common sense.

Disclaimer: If in doubt, contact the manufacturer of the product before using this or any of the aforementioned methods.

© 2012 Mary Wickison

Comments

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on August 21, 2020:

Hi Becky,

Clothing presents another problem because you can't use anything that is going to be oil based as it will leave a stain. Perhaps you could try putting it in the freezer.

My thinking is that when you have something like gum on fabric, putting it in the freezer hardens it and allows it to be peeled off when frozen.

Jack on August 21, 2020:

Lighter fluid on a paper towel wirks very well and leaves no residue.

Tifscott on August 20, 2020:

Windex/window cleaner works perfectly. Especially for price stickers saturate the sticker and let sit for a minute. It should slide right off. Great for larger items that won't fit in the sink. Might be the ammonia in it. Hot water is excellent for soaking jars and such. But i love the windex!!!

Becky on August 13, 2020:

How about paper tags on clothing that have sale labels stuck on them? If I am gifting the item, I want the tags still attached but not sticky sale labels

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on August 09, 2020:

Hi GM,

Yes, I can see that would work as well. The same as oil based products. Thanks for highlighting another idea for the readers.

GM on August 08, 2020:

Spray on Pledge and let it soak.

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on July 28, 2020:

Hi Jim,

Yes, you're right. Thankfully it is something most people have in their home.

Jiim on July 28, 2020:

WD-40 removes adhisive

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on July 31, 2018:

Thank you Jackie, I think a bit of levity makes articles such as this more enjoyable.

Jackie on July 27, 2018:

I enjoyed reading all of your suggestions‼️

You are funny

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on December 23, 2017:

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

Colleen Kolumber on December 23, 2017:

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.

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on January 07, 2014:

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.

Peg Cole from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on January 07, 2014:

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.

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on January 11, 2013:

Hello Letmetellyou,

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

Thanks

letmetellyou from everywhere on January 11, 2013:

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 (http://www.squidoo.com/kitchen-labels) over at squidoo or my 'jar label' blog.

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on November 07, 2012:

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 from Ontario, Canada on November 06, 2012:

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

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on November 05, 2012:

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.

Nancy Yager from Hamburg, New York on November 05, 2012:

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

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on November 05, 2012:

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.

Dianna Mendez on November 05, 2012:

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!

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on November 05, 2012:

Hello Btrbell,

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

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on November 05, 2012:

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.

Randi Benlulu from Mesa, AZ on November 05, 2012:

great and useful tips! Thank you! up+

Tiffany Delite from Wichita, KS on November 04, 2012:

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!

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on November 04, 2012:

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 from Southwest England on November 04, 2012:

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.

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on November 03, 2012:

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.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on November 03, 2012:

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.

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on November 03, 2012:

Hello flashmakeit,

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

Always a pleasure to hear from you.

flashmakeit from usa on November 03, 2012:

Useful and unusual tips for removing adhesive.