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

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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?

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.

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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.
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!
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:

Hand-Turned Mason Jar and Lid

Hand-Turned Mason Jar and Lid

Ball Elite Blue Jars (Set of 8)

Ball Elite Blue Jars (Set of 8)

Weck Tulip Jars (Set of 6)

Weck Tulip Jars (Set of 6)

Vintage French Green Canning Jar

Vintage French Green Canning Jar


Tags: Kitchen Hacks, Eco-Friendly, Life Hacks