The No Sweat, Chemical-Free way to Remove Labels and Glue Residue from Your Jars

The easy way to get your jars sparkling clean and ready to re-use without using any harsh chemicals!

Jars are so popular right now aren’t they? I’m talking about standard Mason jars, of course, but also jars of all shapes and sizes. People are re-using them for crafts, storage, and pretty much anything you can imagine.

I always save my jars, but never end up using them because I always dread having to get all the little pieces of labels and glue off of them, so they just sit in my cupboard. This last weekend though, I needed some for a little craft we were doing at Kennedy’s Halloween party, so I needed to suck it up and get the job done.

I’ve read that a lot of people swear by using nail polish remover, but since I had quite a few jars to do, and since I’m really paranoid about inhaling chemicals for any length of time, I thought it would be a good opportunity to find a better way.

And I did! Yay!

Here’s how it goes:

I started with an assortment of different jars. (Side note: Is it totally weird for people from the US to see that one side of our labels is in French here in Canada? It seems like that would be weird if you weren’t used to it.)

I dropped them into a sink of hot soapy water to get them extra clean and to help remove the paper part of the labels.

You can see that on some jars, this pretty much took off all of the label and glue, and on others…not so much.

Here’s what finally did the trick for me: I made a paste of equal parts baking soda and oil. I used olive oil just because that’s what was sitting out on my counter, but I’m sure any oil would do.

I rubbed the paste all over the jars and left it on for a few minutes. I think I went and folded half a load of laundry or something. You can see I wasn’t careful to keep the counter clean during this process… at all.

I took  a clean cloth and started wiping the paste away, along with the glue underneath it. The oil softened the glue up and the baking soda added a little bit of abrasiveness. This was one of the tougher gluey jars and it just came right off.

Because there are so many different types of glues on jars, it’s hard to find something that will work on absolutely everything all the time. If you need a little extra oomph, don’t reach for a stronger chemical! Grab one of these little green scrubbies instead! Because it’s just olive oil and baking soda, you can feel free to use your regular everyday dish scrubbie and just rinse it out afterwards.  You can see mine is very well-used around here.

The result was this: perfectly clean jars, all ready for crafting! And I got to spend the rest of the afternoon not worrying about if I had poisoned myself and whether I should open a few more windows.

It’s pretty neat! Give it a try!

 

 

Comments

  1. says

    Wonderful! I have the same fears with harsh chemicals. I’m saving jars for wedding decor and needed to find a way to get those labels off. Thank you for sharing. I’m pinning it.

  2. Anonymous says

    This is awesome! I wish someone had told me this before our wedding last December- we had so many labels to remove from jars we were using for our candy centerpieces.
    As for the side note on the labels, I wouldn’t have noticed if you didn’t say something.

  3. Wendy says

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have been struggling with this lately and loved hearing how you got the glue off with safe “foodstuffs”. I can’t wait to try this on some great Mason jars waiting around with sticky glue on them.

  4. speck says

    AND…. i put the green srubbers in a place in the yard to recycle for next spring…i use them instead of weed spray. add to top of dirt, under mulch, and no weeds…ever. and the bio-degrade on their own. nice touch for gardeners. holds more moisture in also. and strawberries dont get the ”dirt mold” on the fruit

  5. javajulz says

    well, thank you Miss Genius! perfect timing for me since my husband just said the jar collection was going in the recycling next week if I didn’t do something with them. just saw another post where she spray painted all her jar tops so they looked like a set. perfect! sometimes I feel kinda un-smart. Good thing there’s pinterest and blogs!!

  6. Anonymous says

    I use a razor blade and they scrape right off. Just like the mechanic uses to change the stickers in your windshield for oil changes.
    You can buy “widgets” at walmart for about a dollar. Cute little plastic holder that holds a blade to help you grip it. very handy.

  7. Gab says

    Presumably, this would work with just about any vegetable-based oil, right?

    Because I wouldn’t waste olive oil on jars, but I would gladly use the “vegetable” (read: soybean) oil that I still have a jug of and don’t want to eat. :)

  8. says

    What a great tip. I have a couple of jars sitting on my counter waiting for a treatment. BTW, I found your website via Pinterest and when I looked at your farm house photo, I thought “that place looks familiar”. It’s not that I know the house but I grew up in Port Lambton, on a farm and sure enough you’re a SW Ontario gal! Love the blog!

  9. Anonymous says

    if you can find it, Eucalyptus oil gets the goop off with just a wipe… you can even add it to the warm water when soaking the jars and they’ll need even less attention afterwards.

  10. Anonymous says

    Another way to get rid of labels and glue is to use a hairdryer. Blowing hot air on the jar quickly melts the glue and it is easily removed. No mess, no fuss.

  11. Anonymous says

    Some of the glues do have different chemical makeup and are harder to get off. I use this all the time but one some glues it takes a little longer for this solution to work. I usually leave it on overnight. It does work great on glass but some of the jar lids are harder to get off the label but leaving it on overnight should release just about any glue on the metal lids.

  12. Anonymous says

    In the spirit of economical I use oil that is going rancid instead of using good oil. You are just re-purposing the oil instead of throwing it out. It is not like you will be consuming it and you will be washing the container when the glue is removed anyway and non-toxic. It might not smell the best but still effective.

  13. says

    What about removing adhesive (sticky) from metal ~ say from gold silverware?
    I tried Goop off – Googone, fumes are a no no for me ~ Help!

  14. says

    Those glues they use are one of my biggest pet peeves! I’m gonna try this next time I want a naked jar!

    Now, what can we do about all those jars with odd shapes & corners that are impossible to get all the nut butter/jam/honey/ other sticky stuff out of?

  15. says

    I’m so glad I found this. I’ve been scrubbing glue for hours and have many more to go to get ready for a wedding. This will make my life so much easier. Thank you thank you thank you.

  16. Anonymous says

    I have used peanut butter. It worked on some, the last time I tried it, not so good. Must have been the jar or the glue being different. {Also, my husband was a TV tech, (1980′s) We reconditioned TV’s & sold them. If there was any kind of glue from a sticker on the screen, he used WD-40. (also, contact paper to cover scratched top & side. or shoe polish.. just a little note thrown in.)} Thanks, I love your great tips.

  17. Anonymous says

    I’ve done this, but without the soda. Great idea! By the way, we have a lot of Spanish labeling here in Washington State, as I’m sure others do as well.

  18. Anonymous says

    I’ve done this, but without the soda. Great idea! By the way, we have a lot of Spanish labeling here in Washington State, as I’m sure others do as well.

  19. says

    Great tip…I use WD-40 on jars that aren’t going to hold food. And the oil with salt but I bet baking soda will work better! I have also used two sponges one with baking soda on the jar topped with a sponge soaked in vinegar and that works for quite a few glues but not all.
    I tend to peel off the paper then microwave the jar untill the glue is softened it’s a quick fix when you need a jar and can’t soak overnight. I do put hot water in the jar before putting it in the microwave.

  20. Anonymous says

    I use so many jars to store dehydrated food in so I’m constantly removing labels, and I will certainly try this method. I keep a dishpan handy for soaking in hot soapy water, but often have had to go to acetone for some things, so I want to try this instead. And no, a dual-language label isn’t weird to Americans at all. Our labels are all English/Spanish.

  21. Anonymous says

    has anyone tried Eucalyptus oil? I have used it since forever & not only does it remove glue it’s also great for getting gum out of hair

  22. Anonymous says

    Once the paper is off I use Sweet Almond Oil it is kinda expensive but it doesn’t take much just put a light coat on the jar where the sticker was and let it sit overnight and it comes off easily. The jar of Sweet Almond Oil was around $7.00 for a 4oz. jar but it has lasted me for years and I still have a half a jar left.

  23. Donna says

    Wow. I must have invented the oil technique in my teens. As for the food…. Soak em overnight and save your old toothbrushes for those pesky little jobs

  24. says

    U use boinling water and ladel it onto the jar. Using my pan scraper, I simply scrape of the paper and it comes off like magic. For the glue residue, I use creamy peanut butter. I rub a little on and use a paper towel to rub the residue off. Finally I wipe it down with rubbing alcohol. It literally takes 5 minutes (after the water boils)

  25. Anonymous says

    Eucalyptus oil – keep a bottle in your cupboard. Fantastic for getting off sticky labels, soap scum in your shower etc and smells great. I use it for heaps of things around the house.

  26. says

    Been using olive oil for years. I usually just rub in on the label, and let it sit for several hours to a day. It soaks through everything, and a lot of times the label will just slide right off.

  27. Anonymous says

    There’s an even easier way….just heat the label with a blow dryer….the heat makes it easy to “peel” the label off! some stubborn labels take longer than others but it works…good for any glass surface like those annoying labels on picture frames!

  28. Li says

    I’ll have to try this! And to answer your question about the languages on the labels, in Texas (where I’m from) there are quite a few labels that have one side in English and the other in Spanish. And even if it doesn’t have a whole label dedicated to Spanish, it will have directions and/or ingredients in Spanish. If it also has directions/ingredients in French then you know its the fancy stuff lol. I’m not sure how extensive the dual labels are but I imagine they show up in other border states, if nowhere else.

  29. says

    I did the same thing except at the end, instead of baking soda and oil I used a little spray of WD40 on my green scrubbie, comes off easy peasy.
    Thank you for sharing!!!
    “Happy Crafting”

  30. says

    Thanks for the tip to remove the glue and labels from old food jars. I’m trying to reuse jars to store toys for my son. I’m wondering if anyone knows how to remove the smell or stains on the lids?

  31. sarah says

    thank you! this is so great! i repurpose vitamin bottles for some spices because the dark tinted glass makes the spices keep their flavor better and the labels are such a little b to get rid of.

  32. says

    Thank you! I just bought some new glasses and I can’t get the price tags off of the bottom. Going to try this right away. And my husband is Canadian and we lived there for 5 years, so the French labels–not weird. :)

  33. Mari says

    I usually just use a hair dryer to “heat” the labels right off! If I encounter a really stubborn one I’ll give this a try!

  34. Rebekah says

    I save those thin plastic containers from the grocery store that hold muffins, cupcakes, cookies, and even the cake ones! I use them to send treats to school with the kids. ( I would never get my good Tupperware back!) Do you think that this would work for getting the bakery stickers off as well?

  35. says

    GENIUS! I’VE BEEN TRYING FOR AGES TO GET THE LABELS OFF MY STARBUCKS BOTTLES SO I COULD USE THEM AS DRINKING JARS, AND NOW i CAN FINALLY DO IT!! PINNED. THANKS SO MUCH.

  36. says

    Thank you so much for posting this! My daughter has asthma and I don’t want to use any smelly chemicals on anything if I can avoid it.

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