The Laziest Way to Get a Sticker Off a Jar Is Also the Most Effective

A true effort-hater's guide to label removal.

February 24, 2017

Removing a sticker from a surface. How can such a small, menial task be so thoroughly aggravating? So guaranteed to put you in a bad mood? It is such a nuisance of a chore that helpful suggestions abound on the internet: Use peanut butter, or olive oil, or vinegar, or mayonnaise, or eucalyptus oil, they say. We've written about these very methods. Approved of more than a few. Lots of things "work."

But here's the truth: I'm a lazy-bones. I do not wish to use an already-filmsy nail to pick off the paper layer for the first step. I do not not wish to scrub a caper jar with any sort of effort, or for any long period of time. I do not wish to repeat the oil-then-scrub system more than once, to get off all the sticker "residue." I do not wish to buy a particular fancy ingredient or product to put towards the purpose of sticker removal.

Photo by James Ransom

My tendency towards laze, which a friend once kindly referred to as an "appreciation of leisure," is combined with a lifelong disdain for time wasted doing things I do not like doing.

I'm very fun to be around, did I mention?

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Instead of oil, and waiting overnight then scrubbing. I have an even easier way. 1st buy or get if you have on hand. A can of regular lighter fluid. Be careful with this stuff - it is very flammable. 1. Get an old rag or a paper towel, pour a small amount of lighter fluid on the rag or paper towel. Next dab the rag/paper towel on the sticker. Let it sit for a short time 1 to2 minutes. The sticker will be easily removed now. Use gloves or wash your hands throughly. Then properly dispose of the rag or paper towel. Steve”
— cook34q

Hence my chief complaint of most sticker-removal methods: Soaking alone doesn't get the sticky part off, and oil—without quite a lot of time to set in or multiple applications—won't take off that deep, under-layer of sticky label scuzz (the kind that you realize is still there even after all your dutiful scrubbing). No matter the wonder ingredient, it is a process that never seems to end.

So I took it upon myself to devise a more efficient, adaptable, muscle-free method for removing labels from glasses. You will need water, oil, a scouring sponge, and time for a "let soak overnight" step. Here is how it goes:

1. Rub a little oil on the label.

The hardest part! Drop some oil right on the label, and use your pointer to rub it over every part of the label. That's it.

A note on "oil": I have yet to find an oil that does not work for this task. (I have tried olive, extra-virgin olive, sesame, vegetable, avocado, peanut, and a strange flavored garlic oil, all with equal success.) Feel free to use a fancy dropper of eucalyptus oil, which smells very good, if it pleases you. Or reach for that cheap bottle of canola oil that you bought in a dire situation once and rarely ever use. You be you.

Other oily substances, such as mayonnaise or peanut butter, will also work—but I find mayonnaise fingers a little grody and the use of peanut butter a little... wasteful. However, it's up to you. A light layer all over the label will do. No need to gob it on.

Cover the oiled jars with warm water. Photo by James Ransom

2. Cover the oiled jar with warm water.

I typically set a mixing bowl or pitcher in the sink, put the oiled jar in it, and pour warm water all over top—including inside the jar, so it stays sunk. Sometimes I use hot water, if I'm feeling hateful towards a particular label; sometimes I just use warm. Eventually, it's going to come to room temperature anyway; the exact starting temperature doesn't matter.

3. Leave it there overnight.

In the morning, while you are waiting for your coffee to percolate, remove the jar and pour out the oily (hopefully not mayonnaise-y) water. Rinse the jar.

4. Remove the label using a scouring sponge.

Not a soft sponge, not steel wool. I use these green scrubby scouring pads, cut into inch-wide slivers (after a few labels, they'll get a little gunky and need to be trashed, so there's no reason to waste the whole pad at once). After the oil + soak combo, the label—paper and sticky stuff and all—will come off easily, and it will be very, very satisfying.

You'll only need to employ gentle pressure with your scouring pad. You will not need to "pick" at anything, or scrub vigorously.

Yes, the super sticky layer will come off, too! Photo by James Ransom

5. Clean as you normally would.

Soap and water or a cycle through the dishwasher, to remove the oil. Now, your jar is ready to re-use!

Yes, there are five steps and one requires an overnight lapse—nobody said this would be "quick." But it's effective every time, largely hands off, and possible no matter how fancy or unfancy your oil selection is.


Grab your copy

It's here: Our game-changing guide to everyone's favorite room in the house. Your Do-Anything Kitchen gathers the smartest ideas and savviest tricks—from our community, test kitchen, and cooks we love—to help transform your space into its best self.

Grab your copy

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • SAS
  • Seaqueen07
  • Martha539
  • anne
  • Snow
Amanda Sims

Written by: Amanda Sims

Professional trespasser.


SAS March 28, 2021
All of that work with the oil to remove a label is not necessary. Simply put the bottle in a bath of water and baking soda overnight or for a few hours. In the morning the label will usually be floating and off of the jar. Any sticky residue can be quickly scraped with a knife or anything with a hard/sharp edge.
tastysweet March 28, 2021
Sabrina, all I do is spray a little goo be gone. Let it sit for about 2 min. then scrape it off then wash
anne March 28, 2021
That is as much trouble as anything else. Alcohol. Comes right off. Don't use goo gone. It is a petroleum product and terrible for heath and the environment. It isn't necessary. Pure alcohol is the secret.
tastysweet March 28, 2021
I understand your concern Anne. Will try the alcohol next time. I keep a spray bottle of it in the bathroom. Will see how it fares.
tastysweet March 28, 2021
Anne, ok tried the alcohol and didn't work on the plastic lid for my glass container. Put the goo be gone on it, waited for about 10 secs, wiped off clean. Then rinsed it off. No trouble at all.
Seaqueen07 March 16, 2020
Or, run some warm to hot water over the label, and get the first layer off..there will be some leftover, and its ok..then get some "go gone" from any hard ware store, its very inexpensive and very effective, get some old rag and have a little bit of the " go gone" on the corner, rub the label, or what left of, and that's it..all gone..then wash it with soap and warm water, and you are all set.. easy peasy!!!
mudd March 17, 2020
Goo gone!
Martha539 March 15, 2020
Try a hair dryer, a retail trick. Works on virtually any glued label on any surface. Just heat the corner, lift the edge, and slowly keep the hair dryer warming the next section as you pull up gently. Most of the time the entire label with all its adhesive comes off in one piece if you keep warming as you go!
anne March 14, 2020
Why do people write articles claiming to be The Authority of anything? This is NOT the best way to get a label or sticker off of anything. Rubbing alcohol takes it right off without all the ridiculous soaking and drama. Please.
Snow March 14, 2020
It's not about label removal, it's about the industrial strength adhesive they use to hold the label to the jar.
I rinse out the jar n lid, crisscross score the label with a paring knife, rub full-strength dish soap on the label and put it in timeout at least overnight. Dawn dish soap seems to pull the goo off too.
Otherwise it's oil on hand, green scrubbies which I also cut into strips and begrudging elbow grease. Then off to the dishwasher.
Yes there are solvents out there but you have to be careful how you dispose of the rags. And at some point, in the garbage truck or at the dump, they coming and poof! fire.
Frances S. March 14, 2020
Sounds good as i am also a lazybones and appreciate certain jars or bottles for reuse of various foods or things. Thank you!!
cook34q March 13, 2020
Instead of oil, and waiting overnight then scrubbing. I have an even easier way.
1st buy or get if you have on hand. A can of regular lighter fluid. Be careful with this stuff - it is very flammable. 1. Get an old rag or a paper towel, pour a small amount of lighter fluid on the rag or paper towel. Next dab the rag/paper towel on the sticker. Let it sit for a short time 1 to2 minutes. The sticker will be easily removed now. Use gloves or wash your hands throughly. Then properly dispose of the rag or paper towel. Steve
AntoniaJames March 13, 2020
If this process assumes that one is eventually going to be using a scrubber to get the label off, may I respectfully suggest simply soaking the jar in very hot soapy water overnight, and using a few drops of acetone (nail polish remover for those of you who don't always have a can of acetone on a shelf in your garage) on a Grove Collaborative walnut scrubbing pad or a scruffy bar mop in the morning. That will take any goo right off. (Often after a good soak, the label rubs right off, with no residue.) I do think the oil step is unnecessary. ;o)
mdelgatty March 12, 2020
Labels are attached with different kinds of glues; I haven't found any one method that works for all of them. For a lot of really sticky glues - not the paper layer so much - peanut butter overnight is the closest I've come...
anne March 28, 2021
Alcohol. Works on every single thing.
Glass B. November 26, 2017
I got better idea! The Laziest Way to Get a Sticker Off a Jar is Also the Most Effective. I'll give a try!
Visit this site to get more colorful bottles.
Linda K. November 26, 2017
Agreed those are beautiful shipping to Canada😔
Michael M. October 17, 2017
WD-40, end of story. No waiting overnight, no scrubbing.
Josh B. July 29, 2017
Make an alkaline solution using water and the baked baking soda in Food 52's article here:

Let the jars soak in the alkaline solution for 30 minutes. Labels slip right off without being damaged (good for saving your favorite wine labels). This way is helpful for if you have hundreds of bottles to clean!
Sally W. May 5, 2017
Use a hair dryer. takes 3 mins - done.
Especially for those IKEA labels.
Ignacio T. April 30, 2017
EUREKA¡ Put a paper napkin over the `impossible´ glue. Give it a few shots of Lighter fluid [Ronsonol, Zippo, etc.]. Rub quickly; lighter fluid is quite volatile. Can use some more. Glue gone for ever!
Mucky M. April 30, 2017
I concur...WD40 no wait and no effort.
Terry March 29, 2017
I use WD 40 and no wait. It brings sticky labels off of everything.
Urbane T. March 29, 2017
I make terrariums and sometimes have 40-50 glass vessels to prep at once. My fast and easy method involves hot water, white vinegar, baking soda, and a natural dishwashing liquid (any will do). Supplies most of us have on hand. Simply combine ingredients on one side of the sink. Labels and thrift store price markings usually come right off and a soft cloth and baking soda does the trick *if* there are any stubborn labels. Clean, disinfect, and remove pesky labels all at once. Now, that's my idea of simple.
Fatima A. March 20, 2017
All u need to do is put water in a large pot and put in the jars with labels , boil for a bit and in no time u will actually see before ur eyes yes, yes the label is sliding off the jar.It's magicical no it's reality when boiling in scalding hot water! PRESTO,FINITO!
By:Fatima Azam
Noreen K. March 7, 2017
I just put hot water in the jar and let it sit for about a minute. Then the sticker peels off very easily, no tools or scrubbing needed.