9 Different Ways To Get Sticky Labels Off Glass Jars

Reusable Nation - reuse glass jars.jpg

You’ve collected a whole lot of glass jars to reuse, but you’re having a whole lot of trouble getting the labels off. We share 9 ways to get sticky labels and glue residue off glass jars, as well as how to get lingering smells out.

The feeling when a label peels straight off without any ripping or sticky residue left behind is unlike any other, but for all the other times when it just won’t come off and your nails are ruined from scratching at it and your arms are sore from scrubbing, use one of these nine sticky label removing strategies.

Scroll down to the last section for some solutions to getting rid of lingering smells that won’t leave your jars.

1. Just leave the label on

The perfect solution for the lazy or time-poor and for those who are not bothered if their pantry looks Insta-worthy or not, just leave the labels on. Over time, they will come off in the dishwasher or when being washed by hand.

This can, however, still present the problem of the leftover sticky residue when the label does come off because hand washing, the dishwasher or elbow grease don’t always get it off (I’m looking at you Vegemite and Moccona jars!). I find it easier to do a whole batch of jars at once then having to deal with this as it happens.

I also prefer to take them off because it is easier for me to see what is in the jar and to find what I’m looking for.

2. Hot soapy water, baking soda and cooking oil

Soak the jars in warm, soapy water and then peel the labels off. You can also try pouring hot water into the jar to heat the glue and make it easier to remove the label.

Scrub the jars with a scourer to remove as much of whatever is left over as possible. This might be enough to get everything off some jars and labels.

If there is any sticky residue left over on any of the jars, rub a mixture of equal amounts of baking soda and any cooking oil over the sticky part. Some say it is better to leave this mixture on for 30 minutes before scrubbing it off and rinsing the jars, but others say you can just run the oil mixture over the sticky residue with your fingers for a few minutes and then wipe it off with a soft napkin or towel.

We’ve tried this method and it definitely works, however the jars are oily afterwards and it can be a pain getting rid of this oiliness.

3. Essential oils

After you have the label off, essential oils like eucalyptus essential oil, lemon essential oil, orange essential oil, and tea tree oil can be used to remove the sticky residue.

No soaking is needed most of the time. It should work straight away. Rub the essential oil on it with a rag and it should dissolve. The jar can then be rinsed, dried and used or stored.

A note on essential oils: they are generally not environmentally friendly to produce and some (tea tree oil and lavender oil) have been found to be endocrine disruptors and certain ones are toxic to dogs and cats, so we don’t recommend using these carelessly. Waste-Free PhD has a great article on this. Read it for more info as well as a list of which ones are dangerous for pets. It might be better to use a different method if possible.

4. Alcohol

Anything with a high percentage of alcohol, such as methylated spirits, isopropanol, and nail polish remover, will also work well when it comes to removing any stickiness left over by labels and stickers. Put some on a rag or soak a rag in one of the above and rub the sticky spot until it is gone.

5. Citrus-based cleaners

Citrus-based cleaners are another liquid substance that is good for getting glue off glass. Spray it on the glass jar and let it sit for a bit or soak the jar in a citrus cleaner and then scrub the parts of the jar that need some elbow grease to remove any leftover label or glue.

6. White vinegar

Another use for white vinegar, which is a staple cleaner in most zero waste households! It is said that white vinegar on a cloth gets adhesive stuck to glass jars off easily. If you’ve made a citrus peel vinegar cleaner, you will get the combined power of white vinegar and citrus.

7. Heat in an oven or microwave or using a hairdryer

Putting jars in an oven for 10 minutes, in a microwave for a few minutes, or blowing them with hot air from a hairdryer heats and melts the glue used to stick labels to glass jars, making it easier to remove the paper label and the glue.

8. A razor blade

You can shave leftover adhesive off using an old razor, a safety razor or a razor blade. Carefully scrape off any remaining stubborn bits after removing the label.

9. Freezer or ice water

Not only heating jars helps, it seems that freezing them works too! Apparently if you put a jar in a freezer with the lid off for the few hours, the label will come off easily. You could also try soaking it in ice water overnight, which is meant to remove the adhesive and label.

Getting strong smells out

Some jars have stubborn smells it is hard to get rid of, especially pickle jars and ones that have held curry paste! Dishwashing and hand washing just aren’t enough to banish them! There are a few other things you can try to dispel the smell:

  • use the power of the sun: leave it in direct sunlight on a windowsill or outside with the lid off for a day or two,

  • put a bit of water and baking soda in the jar, put the lid on and shake it vigorously - the smell should be quelled pretty quickly as baking soda absorbs odours,

  • use a lemon: wipe the jar with a cloth and lemon juice,

  • sterilise them in the oven: wash them and then place them face up on a tray in the oven for a few minutes, or

  • boil the jar in hot water with white vinegar.

Happy jar cleaning! Keep saving and reusing them over and over again! If you end up with too many, see if someone else wants them - family and friends or give them away for free online - or if your local bulk food store will take them for customers to use. Try to only recycle them if there really is nowhere else for them to go or no other use for them.

What method have you found works best for you? Let us know below!