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

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?

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Top Comment:
“Fill the jar with hot water just above the label. Put the jar in the microwave but********NO LID ON IT!!!>>>>>>>Set for 45 sec to 60 sec. and it will boil. Open microwave and put the lid on. Take out and let it sit for 5 minutes or so. (test an edge to see if the label is ready to peel off) Always use 2 hand to slowly pull the label off. IT WILL PEEL OFF LIKE MAGIC AND LEAVE NO GLUE THE LITTLE GOLD MEDICINE BOTTLES WORK GREAT WITH THIS. ”
— Sally W.

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.


And if you'd rather bypass the whole sticker-removal situation entirely, these beauts arrive sticker-free from our shop:

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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    Glass Bottles
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    Linda klassen
  • Michael Mean
    Michael Mean
  • Josh B
    Josh B
  • Sally Wright
    Sally Wright
Amanda Sims

Written by: Amanda Sims

Professional trespasser.


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.
Marit G. March 4, 2017
Here in Norway I go to the drug store and buy something called plaster remover. works great!
Smaug March 4, 2017
I'm guessing that's plaster in the British sense of a bandaid- I mostly remove plaster with a claw hammer.
Pat B. March 3, 2017
The suggested method sounds complicated and long. Goo be Gone is fine for glass, metal and other non-reactive surfaces, but 'eats' into plastic. Best product and method for me: Lighter Fluid (Zippo,Ronsonal or other brand). Squeeze a small amount on label; wait a minute or two, then remove with fingers and rub surface with paper towel. Repeat, if necessary; glue residue, if any, can be removed with a bit of paper towel soaked with lighter fluid. Works on plastic, glass, metal, and paper (book covers, greeting cards, gift boxes, etc.)
Anne March 3, 2017
Very best way is to fill the glass bottle with boiling water, wait a couple of minutes then the label will peel off in one piece, no residue. Works for wine bottle labels, anyway.
tastysweet March 2, 2017
I just use goo be gone.
Sara March 1, 2017
The easiest way I've found is to use a heat gun that is made for rubber stamping projects. Slowly heat the label until it is warm & the label will peel right off. Try to heat all around the label evenly.
Gary March 1, 2017
I'm with Craig. WD-40 works amazingly well. I spray a bit on a paper towel to limit the collateral damage (don't want WD-40 all over the counter) and zip zop zooey, the label and all the goo is gone! A little bit of soap to get rid of the smell and you are all set
Anne-Marie March 1, 2017
As much as I hate the smell, Skin-so-Soft works exceptionally well - no soaking necessary. Goo Gone is another awesome product with an oddly pleasant industrial orange scent. TSP does work, but can leave the glass cloudy. I've actually left out the oil and just soaked a jar and been as successful in removal.
Joe March 1, 2017
I haven't seen glass discoloration with TSP but the majority of my experience was removing labels from colored glass. We would also use a solution of citric acid to neutralize the TSP although white vinegar would yield the same result.
Anne-Marie March 2, 2017
Great suggestion, thanks! I have a big house painting project coming up and usually have issues with the TSP on windows (just HAD to have an old house with painted sashes and fancy junk, ha, ha). We normally use a bucket of clear water, but that doesn't always rinse well enough.
Joe March 1, 2017
I probably have more experience removing labels than anyone on the planet...although, Trump would argue that no one removes labels better than he does. I worked for a winery that was clueless about custom label projects. For 2 years straight I peeled more labels off of bottles than I applied. 10's of thousands of cases worth. You can buy a product called TSP (tri sodium phosphate) at any department store or on amazon. It has dozens of household uses and even works better than other products for clearing your drains. It's inexpensive and safe. It will remove any paper label cleanly with a quick soak in solution.
daisybrain March 1, 2017
Why are we removing labels from jars? Can't you reuse it with the label on? I do.
Carmen D. March 1, 2017
Well sure, you can leave the labels on if you want to. But, if you're using them for some craft project or whatever and you don't like the label, it's nice to have a fast way of getting rid of it.
Valerie T. March 1, 2017
If you use a dishwasher, the labels come off in there and gum up the works.