Remove Sticky Label Residue Naturally

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To say that I enjoy crafting is an understatement. I adore the creative process of crafting. But I really adore crafting with repurposed items. I find it a creative challenge to turn something that was trash into something beautiful and useful. I have a real thing for repurposing glass or plastic jars. There are so many rewarding ways you can craft with a jar. But before you can turn a recycled jar into a lovely craft, you have to remove the sticky label residue. About two years ago I started experimenting to find a way to remove sticky label residue naturally without chemicals and I’ve figured out a simple process that works for me using household items I already have. 

3 glass jars on white wood table

When I first started repurposing jars, I used chemical glue removers. It just didn’t seem right to do something earth-friendly by repurposing these jars but to use chemicals to remove the labels. Plus, I often use the decorated jars to hold food items and so I definitely didn’t want to use chemicals to remove the labels. 

Remove Sticky Label Residue Naturally

Peel label carefully so the glue comes off with the paper label.  Some labels can be peeled off and the sticky residue will come off the with the paper label. Start by carefully trying to peel the edge of the label up. If you can, slowly pull the label off so that the glue residue comes off with the label. If you can remove the glue residue with the label, this is the easiest option. 

hand lifting paper label from glass jar

Soak jar in a tub of warm water.   Sometimes it’s not possible to remove the glue residue with the label and that’s when I soak the jar in a tub of warm water. When you’re lucky, the entire label plus the glue will come right off after about 5 -10 minutes in the water. 

hand holding jar showing label residue

But sometimes you end up with a jar that has no paper label left but lots of glue residue left.

clear jar with label residue laying on plate with oil

Place label residue in vegetable oil.  Place the jar in on a plate or in a container with a lip. Pour vegetable oil over the glue residue and leave the jar alone for 15 – 30 minutes to allow the vegetable oil to soak into the glue. Often I turn the bottle over so the label glue sits in the puddle of oil on the plate. If the jar is round, I put a paper towel over the label glue and soak the paper towel with vegetable oil. The paper towel holds the vegetable oil in place long enough to work through the glue residue. Sometimes the glue residue is extra difficult, so I leave the jar soaking in the vegetable oil overnight. 

hand holding brown scraper and removing label residue from clear jar

Scrape oil-soaked residue off.  Once the jar has soaked in the vegetable oil and the glue has softened, use a scrapper or the edge of a spoon to scrape the glue off. If the glue won’t come off, soak it in the vegetable oil for a longer period. I haven’t met a glue yet that won’t eventually give in after being soaked in vegetable oil for up to 48 hours. Occasionally, inexplicably it’s easier to wipe the glue residue off than to scrape it off. If you’re finding that when you scrape the glue off it just rolls up into little balls or strings of glue that’s when you want to try the a reusable cloth (or paper towel) to wipe the glue off. 

2 clean clear jars on white wood table

Wash jars well to remove oil. Once you’ve removed all the glue residue, wash the jars well to remove the vegetable oil. I always put glass jars through the dish washer to completely remove the oil.

3 glass jars, 2 decorated, on white wood table

After the first few times you use these tips to remove sticky label residue naturally, you’ll get a feel for which labels do best with which techniques. I just recommend you walk through these steps and eventually one of them will work. What do you use to remove sticky label residue? 

Repurposed Jar Crafts

glass jar with plant on white table
jar decorated with red, white, and blue stripes and candy on white wood table
3 glass jars with colorful polka dots holding yellow flowers
3 beach glass jars with shells and raffia

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19 Comments

    1. It works for all labels, some just have to soak overnight, Raquel. Let me know how it works for you.

  1. What a great way to get that sticky goo off the glass jars, Susan. I have often put the jars in the dishwasher and just hoped for the best. Now I know how to easily and safely get the goo off.

    1. It’s worked on every type of label so far, Dani. More stuborn labels require a bit of soaking first.

  2. I need this! I have been saving so many jars and can’t figure out how to get the labels off. Thanks so much!!!!

  3. Many years ago my mom taught me to remove label glue with veg oil and I can confirm that it works fine. Never tried soaking though — I just pour some oil on a piece of paper towel and rub it off, only takes a few minutes. Recently that didn’t work on one with very strong glue so I’m going to try your soaking method on that one. Thanks.

    1. I think that label producers are using stronger glue than they used to because I remember being able to use your finger nail to remove many labels. Hope that soaking works for you as well as it does for me.

    1. Vegetable oil has worked for me. If the residue it really stubborn, I’ve soaked the area in the oil overnight and even as long as two days. But eventually, I’ve been able to scrape off the residue. Hope this helps, Cindy.

  4. I tried this and it didn’t work on mine! I tried using oil and I don’t recommend because it’s a waste

    1. I’m sorry that it didn’t work for you. I’ve used oil for years. For particularly stubborn glue, I let the oil sit for longer time, even overnight.

  5. OMG thank you sooooo much for this tip, I’m going to try it tomorrow morning. I’ve got a draw full of lovely jars that I have been unable to get the glue off especially the New Marks and Spencer concentrated sauce miniature jars, god knows what glue they use but I just can’t get it off the jars.
    Thank you sooooo much for sharing this xx

    1. If the glue is particularly stubborn, I’d soaked the glue overnight in the oil. I pour oil in a plate or pan and place the jar in the plate so that the glue is submerged. Rotate the jar every few hours so that all the glue sits in the oil. That usually makes it easy to scrape the glue residue off the jar. Occasionally, I have to soak the jar a second time. But it will work. Good luck, Jane.

  6. I have always used baby oil to remove sticker stuff. Since some gifts came with baby oil and I never used it for babies, I have always had some laying around the house. My “babies” are now between 41 and 32 years old, and I still have not ever bought any baby oil!

    1. Baby oil is a magical tool for home care, isn’t it? When were stationed in an area with hard water, it was recommended to put a thin coat of baby oil on shower glass doors after cleaning to reduce the water marks.

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