Removing Sticky Labels

I’m big on re-using bottles and all varieties of packages. I go through lots of bottles of essential oils, and then I like to re-use them. But the problem is they always come with super sticky labels that leave an incredibly tacky residue. As I’ve discovered, no amount of soap, scrubbing, or soaking will get it off. But you know what will? Cooking oil.

All you’ll need is a bit of cheap vegetable oil (I’ve used canola in the past—coconut is also a good choice since it’s semi-solid to start with) on a coarse scrubby pad. Scrub off the sticker residue; it’ll be a cinch. If it’s a stubborn label, soak leave the oil on it to soak for a while before scrubbing. You’ll need to follow up with soap to get the oil off, but after that, your bottle will be like brand new. I’ve used this trick to get decade-old masking tape adhesive off doors, and it also works wonders on oil bottles that have gotten all sticky on the outside.

Looking for something with even more oomph? Try my label blasting goo!

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52 Responses to Removing Sticky Labels

  1. ichiko says:

    I have tried your method to the whiskey bottle and it worked!
    I could remove the front label within 10 seconds. Very fast! But took time little longer to remove the back label. About 3 minutes. It was a stubborn label haha..

    Anyway I enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing your method!

    • Marie says:

      I’m glad it worked for you! I find the label that gets the most wear always comes of easier, but with a bit of soaking the oil will get them all off!

      • Tammy says:

        Rather than using oil and scrubbing, I soak the bottle/jar in hot water. Depending on the bottle/jar type and size of the label, it can take a few minutes, few hours or over night. Then simply rub off with your fingers!
        If the bottle is a light one, such as pill bottles, you can fill the bottle with hot water while soaking in water, so it doesn’t float.

        • Marie says:

          I find that a good soaking does wonders for the labels, but it usually leaves the sticky, gooey adhesive behind on the jar, which makes it rather unpleasant to use (though that does, of course, depend on the strength of the glue they use!).

  2. Can’t wait to give this a go. Fed up having to recycle jam (jelly) jars because the labels won’t peel off easily. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Jessie Matthews says:

    This is probably the only way I’d ever use Canola or Vegetable (soy) oil! Great tip! Thanks for sharing!!

    • Marie says:

      Thanks for reading, Jessie! What’s your objection to canola oil? I can understand not being overly keen on too much soy, but have you ever tried a nice, cold-pressed virgin canola oil? They’re really quite lovely.

      • Thierry says:

        Marie, over 90% of canola crops are genetically modified to be pesticide resistant in the US and Canada… And these stats are years old! I would NOT put this oil in my body if it was the only oil available… Especially considering how many good oils are out there.
        Thanks for the great tip, though :)

        • Marie says:

          I’m with you—GMO crops are super sketchy. We really don’t know enough about them, and if it does turn out something is very wrong with them, it will likely be far too late to do anything about it.

          In Canada approximately 80% of canola is GM (source). Still, I prefer butter and olive oil.

          It’s also worth noting that 1) I am not recommending you eat canola oil, I am suggesting it as a cleaning product, and 2) the part of the canola plant that is modified is a protein, and no proteins are present in oils, so you don’t have any contact with the GM aspect of the plant (it’s still sketchy and likely causes heavier pesticide and herbicide use, just an interesting fact).

      • salma says:

        canola is genetically modified mostly.. 98% of it is. read about this, genetically modified could mean genes of human fetuses, or microbal or viral or animal genes are inserted in the crop to make for example corn produce its own insecticide from the inside of the grain. see the experiment they made on rats fed GM corn.

        • Marie says:

          In Canada approximately 80% of canola is GM (source). Pardon my french, but there is no way in hell that any crops are being modified with genes from human fetuses. Scientists can barely get approval for stem cell research that could cure chronic illnesses and paraplegics—do you honestly think they are getting approval to splice human genes into crops?! Be realistic. I am in no way advocating for, supporting, or endorsing GM crops. They are sketchy, unnatural, and very under researched. Like many people I fear we will discover the consequences of them far too late. However, you are being rather sensationalistic and undermining the cause by doing so.

          It is also worth noting that 1) I am not recommending you eat canola oil, I am suggesting it as a cleaning product, and 2) the part of the canola plant that is modified is a protein, and no proteins are present in oils, so you don’t have any contact with the GM aspect of the plant (it’s still sketchy and likely causes heavier pesticide and herbicide use, just an interesting fact).

  4. Christina says:

    I would like to subscribe to your blog/page but it will never let me…I also can’t put it in my favorites.

  5. chelle says:

    much less natural (as well as less ‘labor intensive’), is to soak the bottle in a warm bath of oxyclean overnight. label falls off in the morning.

  6. pat says:

    Sometimes a long soak in soapy water helps before the oil trick works. Yesterday I came upon a jar which held Vegannaise- a challenge I hope doesn’t occur again. The label was coated on with a plastic label over it. I got the first layer off after a 30 minute soak, soaked it more after scoring the surface with my fingernail. I was growing impatient so I got to work scraping it with a razor blade device most would use when removing paint. That worked except for the really tough goo. I then used a Vileda scouring pad for glass and ceramic cook top. That worked. I had to use a little oil at the end but I was most impreseed. Oil has been replaced with peanut butter, crunchy Kraft full of sugar worked well, and mayonnaise too. Hope this helps for those really aggravating jobs. Don’t you wish they would just package with recycling and reusing in mind rather than advertising?

    • Marie says:

      Ugh, I just hate it when jars make it practically impossible to re-use one! I recently had a similar experience where I had to resort to using a paring knife to scrape a very stubborn label off a bottle. Ugh. How annoying!

  7. rob says:

    Rubbing Alcohol works also…

  8. Lynn MK says:

    I soak bottles with labels that I want to remove in hot soapy water until the paper comes off easily. Then I dry the bottle. Once dry, I spray the sticky area with Pam or any cooking oil spray. I let the bottle sit about 3 to 5 minutes then use a paper towel to wipe off the sticky adhesive. If there is any tackiness left then spray the cooking oil to that area again and rub the area with a paper towel to remove the last trace of the adhesive. Wash the bottle in hot soapy water to complete the job. This is the same principle as the oil but I find this method easier.

    • Marie says:

      This is basically the same method I use as well, Lynn—I really just use the oil to get rid of the remaining stickiness (unless the bottle was full of oil and the label was conveniently saturated in oil from common use/run off). It’s too big of a pain in the arse to do otherwise. I am so glad I have a dishwasher for that final wash, those essential oils can be really stubborn!

  9. ruthanne says:

    Hi, I have a decal on the side of my truck i am trying to remove without any luck .. do you know how to do that .
    Thank you , ruthanne

    • Marie says:

      Hi Ruthanne! What is the decal made from? Do you know what kind of a sticker it is? Has it faded at all or started to come off from natural causes?

  10. Patty says:

    Do you specifically have to use Canola oil? Will any veg oil do the job? Suppose I should try and then post whether it worked or not.

  11. KRISTINE says:

    Hi…thank you for the great information on label removal. I try to reuse all the bottle I get for some purpose or another. I noticed on your post that you use New Directions Aromatics….I have a huge order with them I just have not pushed the “buy” button yet. I are looking for a company that is fast, reliable and has an excellent product. Any feedback you may have would go a long way to helping me stick with them or move on to another brand. Thank you so much in advance.

    • chelle says:

      just to put in my two cents (unsolicited), i personally pretty much exclusively get all my supplies from NDA. sometimes, ill get something off amazon, since i can get free shipping….thats the only drawback to NDA. the product selection is awesome, quality is good, prices are awesome….shipping kicks my ass. after so long of being a prime member on amazon, its hard to pay for shipping by the pound again…oh well, i just place a large order to make sure its worth it 😀

      • Marie says:

        I’m with you on everything, including their shipping—ouch :( What do you buy on Amazon? I would likely consider buying a few things from there if the price difference wasn’t too large—just throw in a couple books and I’ve got free shipping!

    • Marie says:

      Hi, Kristine! Thanks for reading :) I am definitely a self-admitted NDA addict. I love their product and their prices. They aren’t as fast as they could be (it generally takes around a week for an order to ship from their Canadian warehouse, which is a pain, but not the end of the world), but you can’t argue with their prices, selection, and quality. They’ve always been very reliable, and I have only nice things to say about them. Give them a try, you won’t be disappointed! (And no, they are not paying me to say any of this!).

  12. Cindy says:

    Blow dryer works too.

  13. Jill says:

    I have done this for long time, using almost any vegetable oil… usually I use coconut oil. Coconut oil also removes black magic marker from a lot of stuff (not *everything* though). :)

  14. Ande B. says:

    Hi Marie,

    What a great way to start a wonderful weekend!

    I’ve been using nail polish remover (ick) for years with results that are nothing like your oil and scrubbing technique. THANK YOU! I re-use a lot of containers too. :-)

    What do you do with your leftover essential oil bottles?

  15. Nell says:

    I use peanut butter to remove the adhesive after peeling off the paper labels. It works most of the time but I’ll try oil on stubborn labels the next time. Thanks

    • Marie says:

      Great trick, Neil! It’s basically the same principle as the oil thing since peanut butter has so much fat in it, so I can’t promise it will give different results. Liquid oil may soak in more than the peanut butter, though :) Thanks for reading!

  16. Debra says:

    I’ve used baking soda and water to remove stickers and it works great also.

  17. Tracy says:

    I would never use canola oil either – it is either extracted using nasty chemicals, GMO or heavily perfumed to cover up the smell since it goes rancid so quickly. Yuck!

    • Louise says:

      I just don’t get it. Are you guys just not aware of what Canola oil is? How harmful it is? How the FDA is in league with Monsanto and passes anything on. 3 months it was tested on groups of mixed rats. If they tested in larger groups the anomalies were larger, if they tested it on separate sexes anomalies started showing. Organ damage and Tumours on rats tested longer than 3 months. You should test on other animals too. Cows are a good test for fertility…they are going sterile….Pigs for the stomach and intestines….they are getting holes in their intestines. Wake up to this danger please. Bt toxin round up ready corn fructose is in so many processed foods and canned drinks.

      • Marie says:

        Louise, you sound a bit like somebody who had a bad experience with a pit bull, and now thinks all pit bulls are viscous killers. There is nothing inherently wrong with canola as an organic, non-GMO crop. I wouldn’t drink a glass of it with my breakfast, but I wouldn’t do that with olive oil, either. In Europe and the UK you can get beautiful bottles of organic, extra-virgin rapeseed (canola) oil, and it is a really nice oil, in the same league as grapeseed.

        That said, GMO crops are sketchy, and Monsanto is evil as hell. We should definitely have labeling laws for food products containing GM ingredients. If you browse my blog you’ll see that I spend most of my free time making all my food and body products from scratch—I work hard to avoid processed foods and the myriad of mysterious ingredients that compose them. I am very thankful that I do not live in the USA, where it is rather clear that powerful food lobby groups and companies like Monsanto have pretty much pocketed the FDA. Our regulating body is somewhat more judicious—we refused Monsanto’s rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) flat out from day one, whereas the USA only pulled it from their food supply a couple years ago.

        Here in Canada approximately 80% of our canola is genetically modified (source). It’s also worth noting that 1) I am not recommending you eat canola oil, I am suggesting it as a cleaning product, and 2) the part of the canola plant that is modified is a protein, and no proteins are present in oils, so you don’t have any contact with the GM aspect of the plant (it’s still sketchy and likely causes heavier pesticide and herbicide use, just an interesting fact).

    • Marie says:

      Food grade canola oil is made by lightly heating the seed and crushing it, only the crude oil is extracted using water and chemicals (source).

      ~80% of canola grown in Canada is GMO (source), and I will agree wholeheartedly that GM crops are sketchy as hell. They are overused, under researched, and by the time we figure out if anything’s wrong with them, it will be entirely too late to do anything about—all scary stuff worth keeping in mind.

      Canola oil is as shelf stable as any average vegetable oil, like safflower or grapeseed. Oils that go rancid rapidly, like flaxeed, do so because they contain large amounts of volatile compounds (minerals, vitamins, etc.) like omega 3’s and 6’s. Canola oil isn’t nearly nutritionally impressive enough to spoil rapidly (source).

      It’s also worth noting that 1) I am not recommending you eat canola oil, I am suggesting it as a cleaning product, and 2) the part of the canola plant that is modified is a protein, and no proteins are present in oils, so you don’t have any contact with the GM aspect of the plant (it’s still sketchy and likely causes heavier pesticide and herbicide use, just an interesting fact).

  18. Patty says:

    I typically fill the container with water & put it in the microwave..nuke until hot. Carefully remove and then peeeeeel the label off. It works more often than it doesn’t. IF that doesn’t work, I would try Coconut Oil . I KNOW for a fact it takes paint off of skin…. I gave our picnic table a face lift using a nice cabernet color, but the overspray got on my hands and feet (sandals, yeah, that was cute!). I mixed a little coconut oil with some salt – I used pink salt just for the ‘scrub’ effect… any salt will do. I rubbed it on my skin and wiped with a dry paper towel….. Worked like a charm! I did it several times, until the paper towel showed no more pink residue! My new all natural, skin nourishing paint remover!

    • Marie says:

      Cool! I wonder what it is about your microwave method that works… hmm. The heat, the moisture, perhaps some steam? Either way, it sounds like a quick and east way to remove labels :) And yes, coconut oil would work just the same as canola or whatever oil you have a surplus of—I just recommended canola because it is cheap and easily available, and I wouldn’t want to waste a nice coconut or olive oil on label removal 😛 And I just love your skin paint stripper, lol—isn’t it amazing what a nice oil can do for our skin? I’ve found a bit of natural oil will get tree sap off your skin in a jiffy as well :)

  19. salma says:

    it is the only use for Canola oil since it is unfortunately GMO almost always

    • Marie says:

      Don’t forget that this very much depends on where you live—in Canada is is about 80%, but in Europe it would be 0% because GMOs are forbidden there.

  20. Andrea G. says:

    After an epic fail with fingernail polish remover on getting years of old tape and stickies off of my plastic student mailboxes (I’m a teacher), I tried your method. While I ended up needing to scrub it with a metal brillo pad (I wasn’t worried about scratches, spray painting it after getting all the gunk off), first applying and doing a quick scrub with the oil did help it come off quicker. I then did a thorough wipe with a cloth loaded with 409, and it looks a thousand times better! Thanks so much!

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