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Old 11-15-2009, 03:01 PM   #1
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Default Removing (commercial) wine labels

Let me just start by saying that I am a complete wine n00b and still fairly n00bish at the beer. I have been looking around this forum and other places for some information on the various steps involved once my wine is ready to come out of the carboy... (ie bottling). Since I have now tried a number of things at home, I thought that I would share them, and people can add their own, jump in with advice, point out that I am wrong and throw rotten fruit (although fermenting fruit might be nicer.) I also had the thought that if I end up posting a few of these types of topics maybe I (or another person) could compile a wine FAQ sticky... so... on to this topic for real...

I was in one of the LHBS and noticed that they were selling bottles. I found out the price and ($14/ dozen) and thought there was no way I was paying that when I could get perfectly good bottles from friends for free. After cleaning almost half the bottles I need for my current batch I went to my other LHBS and bought 12 brand new bottles for $12 (his prices are usually better and he is really knowledgeable and easy going, but 40 mins from my house.) I still had some bottles to lean. Here is what I have tried and what worked and didn't work.

Soaking in dish liquid - I fill up the sink with warm water and a bit of dish soap and leave the bottles. When the labels are soaked I scrape them off with a kitchen knife, then they go back into the water. I then let them soak overnight and scrub off the remaining goo with a (nylon) scouring pad. I found that adding a drop of dish soap right on the left-over label goo really makes this easier. Pros: not actually that much elbow grease in the long run. Cons: Takes up the sink (I have a double) and I am really not sure how cool it is to use the dish liquid.

Variations of this that are a bad idea When my husband stepped into help I was happy. He has more grease in his elbows. His brilliant ideas included emery cloth (which seemed to work, but was messy) and sandpaper. I now have some bottles with some unsolicited etching. Good thing I don't plan to give all the wine away!

Boiling hot waterIf you fill up the bottle with boiling hot water and let it sit the adhesive will warm up and you can peel the label off. I found this on some site where people are trying to get the labels in one piece. The downside of this is that the bottle gets very hot, you can usually only use the water in one additional bottle, and you kinda have to be careful, because once it tears it can be really hard to get the rest off. As well this leaves some of the adhesive behind and you still have to wash or scrub. Pros: you can keep the label from the commercial wine. Cons: dangerous, waste of time and hot water, kinda a pain.

Suggestions I didn't try Apparently you can "bake" the labels off. You make sure that the bottles are completely dry and stick them in the oven at 350 for 7-9 minutes. Again this was so that you could pull off the labels intact. The instructions did warn that there had to be no liquid in the bottle or it will come out as steam, and again the bottles get very hot, so you have to take them out with oven mitts.

Also - people seem to be able to do fancy things with a razor blade. I didn't go there either.

And - there was one suggestion that I think involved smashing the bottle. I didn't open the link since it didn't seem to get where I was going.

Some things that didn't workYou know how sometimes you are drinking a cold beer slow and when it warms up the condensation makes the label almost slip off? Well I tried filling a bottle with water and sticking it in the fridge. I took it out a couple of hours later and got lots of condensation, but the label didn't budge. Ditto for just running cold water on it.

I also tried melting the adhesive with steam and with a hairdryer. I am not patient enough for that. I might as well have decided to collect sand and learn to blow glass. The steam or hairdryer may work, providing you have a lot of time on your hands. (In which case I could use a little help sanitizing all my stuff on bottling day.)

Anyway... just my thoughts... feel free to add you own, or comment, or throw fruit.

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Old 11-15-2009, 03:09 PM   #2
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I soak my bottles in warm water w/o soap. I can do it four at a time in the kitchen sink or 6-8 at a time in a 5-gallon pail. I let them sit for about 20 minutes and peel the label off. Some may require a bit of scouring with a plastic scrubber. If the labels won't easily peel off, I discard the entire bottle. With practice, you'll find some brands that have very peelable labels.

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Old 11-15-2009, 03:19 PM   #3
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Overnight Oxyclean Free soak in the utility sink and the next morning the labels are floating. There are a couple brands that it doesn't work because the label and glue are some kind of weird stuff and, like summersolstice, get tossed. Luckily I have several wine drinking friends that like the rewards of giving me their bottles, more wine.

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Old 11-15-2009, 03:28 PM   #4
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I have had some labels that just peel off (under running water). At the moment I seem to be stuck for bottles and was given about 40 all of the same brand, so that is a lot to toss.

As for oxyclean, I am not even sure that it is available in my area. Still they are good points for others...

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Old 11-15-2009, 03:28 PM   #5
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+1 Oxyclean and for the stubborn labels something like http://www.orange-sol.com/household/index.html will usually take off most glues.

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Old 11-15-2009, 03:38 PM   #6
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Any good easy ways to remove labels that are "Painted on" or "silk screened" on? At the moment it is all that I had for a few bottles and while I know what is in there I don't want others thinking that it is the kind of wine that is in there (the picture is of kiwi's and strawberries).
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Old 11-15-2009, 03:51 PM   #7
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I have learned which labels come off easy and they are all I even bring home. If I go buy bottles they are a buck apiece. I am not spending 30 mins of scraping to get a $1 bottle.

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Old 11-15-2009, 03:51 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lady_brewer View Post
I have had some labels that just peel off (under running water). At the moment I seem to be stuck for bottles and was given about 40 all of the same brand, so that is a lot to toss.

As for oxyclean, I am not even sure that it is available in my area. Still they are good points for others...
I hear you, on my first batch I was really searching for enough bottles. I was stuck using some with stubborn labels and ended up scraping some with a razor blade to get them off.

Once the word is out it gets much easier to get bottles. Every week or two I go into my office and there is a bag of bottles sitting there from co-workers. The VP of my department is my main source at work.

We also have a friend that drinks way too much but he is my best source. For his bottles, hubby needs to take the truck to pick up the bottles. Find a wine drinking alcoholic and believe me you will get more bottles than you can fill.
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Old 11-15-2009, 03:52 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Emerald View Post
Any good easy ways to remove labels that are "Painted on" or "silk screened" on? At the moment it is all that I had for a few bottles and while I know what is in there I don't want others thinking that it is the kind of wine that is in there (the picture is of kiwi's and strawberries).
I have been able to successfully remove screened-on labels from several different beer bottles by soaking them for a few days in a Star San solution that was a bit higher than normal strength. There are some stubborn bottles from some vendors that this doesn't work on, though, so YMMV.
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Old 11-15-2009, 03:56 PM   #10
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You should also consider the wine-in-a-bag thing. I have so far been very very happy with this, generally because I bulk age anyhow. I fill one bag for immediate consumption and bottle the rest for saving.

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