How to remove labels?

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The Experimenter

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Quick question... I've been saving commercial pop top beer bottles for bottling my brews and they have worked great. However, I was wondering if there was a common method for quickly and easily removing the labels? I just want plain, clean, unmarked brown bottles without needing to buy a bunch of empty bottles on Amazon. Of course this is not a dire need; the stuff tastes the same either way, but I just think they'd look nicer.

Most of the ones I encounter are paper labels that tend to tear into tiny scraps if you try to dry peel them off the bottles. I was thinking of soaking them in warm water for a few hours, scrubbing with some steel wool, and then removing any excess glue residue with a solvent (on bottles in which the label does easily peel off, I've used a cloth lightly dampened with Zippo fluid which tends to easily dissolve most if not all of the glue residue... just need a well ventilated area and some gloves).

Would this soak and scrub method work well enough, OR do you suggest a different method? Should I add anything to the water I soak them in? Or should I not soak them? Maybe I should just put hot water in the bottles (keeping the outside dry) so as to heat up and loosen the glue and making them easier to peel?...

Any thoughts on good methods for removing glued on paper labels from beer bottles?
 
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The Experimenter

The Experimenter

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I do a hot soak with oxyclean for a 1/2hr or more. Some labels come off easier then others. Some European labels come off if you breath on them funny.
Pure Oxyclean? Or is there a specific ratio you dilute it in water with?
 

DBhomebrew

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Pure Oxyclean? Or is there a specific ratio you dilute it in water with?
I fill and cover the bottles with the hottest tap water then shake in 'about this much' Oxy Free.

Yes, 1/2hr or more. Sometimes that 'more' is overnight, but I like to get to them as soon as the labels release. I find it's easier to rinse the Oxy film if it's still warm.

And if a bottle is giving me too much trouble, in the bin it goes. Not worth the time.
 
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The Experimenter

The Experimenter

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^ This but I find that some labels need an overnight soak to get them completely loose.

As for dilution, I do PBW at about 0.5-.75 oz per gallon for cleaning bottles.
I am a bit of a noob here, so I gotta ask, what’s PBW?
 
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The Experimenter

The Experimenter

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Cool, thanks for the tips guys. I’ll probably try the hot soak in water alone and see if I can make it work, but will definitely invest in some Oxyfree or PBW if the water fails to live up to my expectations on its own.
 

DBhomebrew

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Oxy/PBW is really great for cleaning fermenters, too. I usually bottle at night. I fill the fermenter with water/Oxy and let it sit until I've made coffee the next morning. Usually just a good hot rinse is all it needs, no scrubbing.
 

DuncB

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Dishwasher also pretty good provided you get to the bottles before the drying cycle occurs ie still wet.

If the bottles have those plastic labels on sometimes the label peels off so easy but leaves really sticky glue on the bottle.

I use orange solvent to get the residual glue off just a spray on the glue and it rubs off after a minute or two with a damp cloth. The orange solvent can be sprayed direct on paper labels and that releases them pretty well but its a one at a time process as opposed to the drop the bottles in oxyclean.

I stick any labels I make for the beer on with milk. Works brilliantly and they fall off if soaked in cold water.
With your own label makes the bottle look even better especially if you are giving them away.
 
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The Experimenter

The Experimenter

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Dishwasher also pretty good provided you get to the bottles before the drying cycle occurs ie still wet.

If the bottles have those plastic labels on sometimes the label peels off so easy but leaves really sticky glue on the bottle.

I use orange solvent to get the residual glue off just a spray on the glue and it rubs off after a minute or two with a damp cloth. The orange solvent can be sprayed direct on paper labels and that releases them pretty well but its a one at a time process as opposed to the drop the bottles in oxyclean.

I stick any labels I make for the beer on with milk. Works brilliantly and they fall off if soaked in cold water.
With your own label makes the bottle look even better especially if you are giving them away.
Thanks for the different tips... I think I'll eventually make my own labels one day, but right now I'm just trying to get all the bottles clean so they all look the same and uniform (as opposed to inviting friends to try my new brew and then bringing out a bunch of mismatched bottles with a bunch of random beer/cider labels on them).
 

day_trippr

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fwiw, Sam Adams bottle labels will float off if soaked in plain hot water long enough.

If they accomplished nothing else, SA stocked a lot of home brewers' glass needs :D I had 20 cases of their long necks at one point...

Cheers!
 
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The Experimenter

The Experimenter

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fwiw, Sam Adams bottle labels will float off if soaked in plain hot water long enough.

If they accomplished nothing else, SA stocked a lot of home brewers' glass needs :D I had 20 cases of their long necks at one point...

Cheers!
I'm not a huge SA fan, but knowing what you just told me I might just have to do some work on a few SA 12 packs over the next couple of weekends.
 

beerisyummy

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My MO is I clean bottles in the sink (having previously rinsed them after imbibing), soaking briefly with a solution of PBW and scrubbing with a bottle brush and then running thru the dishwasher with the sanitizing function. It's a bit much, but I have ZERO bottle infections. But the point is, as long as I've got the sinkful of PBW/water, if I want to de-label a few more bottles, I'll just dump 'em in there for a couple hours. DEFINITELY helps to know which labels come off easier. I'm over on the Left Coast and most of my bottles of choice are Anchor, Sierra Nevada and Deschutes. Doesn't hurt that they all make great beer :bigmug:
 

day_trippr

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lol!
I met and actually talked with Bill Koch at the JC brewery years ago.
I floated out of there and can't remember anything that was said :D

Cheers!
 

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I pack all my bottles with labels I get into a cooler box. When it's full, I fill it up with the hosepipe, slap on the lid and let it sit for a week. When you open it, all the labels are floating around. I find icy cold water works really well, for some reason.
 

RMRPE

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I soak them in a baking soda solution (4 tbs/gal) and most labels just fall off. I just keep a container filled next to my slop sink that holds a couple of bottles. Hot water solution works faster but it works cold as well. When the solution gets gross, I just dump it and make another when I'm ready to strip labels again.
 
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When I was bottling, I'd keep a clean garbage can on the deck full of water and fragrance-free oxyclean. Any used bottle would be rinsed, and then put in the garbage can and filled up with the the water/oxyclean solution. At bottling time, I'd pull out the required number of bottles, and I'd pick the ones that had lost their label. A very quick brushing with some steel wool on the outside and they'd be ready for bottling.

MC
 

btbonser

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I always soaked them in hot water then used a green scrubbing pad for the residual glue. Sam Adams labels always came off easier than Sierra Nevada labels. Probably different glued.

I would avoid using any chemicals
 

z-bob

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I soak them overnight in a bucket with cold water and sudsy ammonia. Usually the labels just fall off. Unless they are foil labels, or that brand uses a weird glue. For those, I fill the bottle with hot water, wait a few seconds, then scrape the label off with a razor blade.
 

Karn

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I pack all my bottles with labels I get into a cooler box. When it's full, I fill it up with the hosepipe, slap on the lid and let it sit for a week. When you open it, all the labels are floating around. I find icy cold water works really well, for some reason.
Do you know the ph of your water and if it's hard or soft, or neither? Thanks.
 

SnowDogCider

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If you don’t want to go all toxic try the Magic Eraser. It will get the stubborn glue residue pretty well.
Good luck
 

A1sportsdad

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I put about 2 Tbs of Oxiclean in a 5 gallon bucket with warm to hot water and let 12 or 13 bottles soak a few hours or overnight. The toughest labels for me to get off are my own. Mine leave a lot of adhesive behind that needs to be scraped. It’s just not as water soluble as beer manufacturers labels. Their labels come off easily after the soak. Then I just give them a quick scrub with a scouring sponge to wipe off the adhesive then rinse them well.
 

z-bob

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I put about 2 Tbs of Oxiclean in a 5 gallon bucket with warm to hot water and let 12 or 13 bottles soak a few hours or overnight. The toughest labels for me to get off are my own. Mine leave a lot of adhesive behind that needs to be scraped. It’s just not as water soluble as beer manufacturers labels. Their labels come off easily after the soak. Then I just give them a quick scrub with a scouring sponge to wipe off the adhesive then rinse them well.
Try using a little charcoal lighter on a paper towel for your homemade labels.
 

Dr_Jeff

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I use a school glue stick to put on labels, they come right off with warm water.
 
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The Experimenter

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I tried the Oxiclean Free and put 1 full scoop (up to the #4 line on the scoop) dissolved in 5 gallons of warm water. On the beer bottles it worked like a charm!! I had a small bit of trouble with some Saranac bottles whose labels didn't come all the way off and left some residue when I tried to peel them off, but otherwise (for all of the 4 or 5 other brands mixed in) it worked great. Even with the Saranac bottles though, no razor was needed at any point and the residue came off with light scrubbing.

To get rid of the slimy film from the Oxi, I had a second 5 gallon bucket with Star San and the Star San just cut right through the film (didn't even need to scrub it or anything, just swish 'em around for a couple of seconds). I can't remember if the Star San was something someone in this thread mentioned or if it was something I read in a different thread, but it also works like a charm, cutting right through the Oxi film like nothing.

I also tried the Oxi on some 750ml bottles (for my mead) and had mixed results.
  • Two bottles had labels that released after half an hour.
  • Three had labels that released halfway and then had to be peeled, leaving behind very sticky residue that took some more soaking to get rid of (it came off after soaking overnight).
  • After an overnight soak, 2 others appeared to not release at all, but came off easily with light scrubbing.
  • The final one had some weird super sticky stretchy white label that looked like it was going to peel off in one piece when you started pulling on it but then would start tearing in a thousand different places creating a patchwork of label fragments and residue all across the bottle (it was simultaneously stretchy and flaky; it was weird and I have no idea what it was made out of)... I considered just giving up on this one, but it was a really beautiful Trip in the Woods bottle by Sierra Nevada (looks like this: https://i2.wp.com/honestboozereviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/maplescotch.png?resize=433,650 ) and to me looks like a really old timey sort of bottle you'd find on the table of a medieval alehouse (I think it's called a Belgian Style bottle?)... Just the sort of thing I want to put mead in. I wanted this frickin' bottle! And yes, I know I could order bottles like these, but I already owned this one and didn't want to just throw it out... So I broke out the steel wool and went at it and after about 25 minutes of scrubbing I had a perfectly clean, and very beautiful, bottle (and a very sore arm).
 
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ajm163

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back when i bottled. save up the bottles until you have a case or two. fill the bathtub with hot water and oxiclean let the bottles sit overnight. most of the labels will be floating on top of the water in the morning. probably a handful will use some stupid glue that wont dissolve. you can ether work to scrape them off or be like me if they didn't come off over night they got recycled
 

BrewZer

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Quick question... I've been saving commercial pop top beer bottles for bottling my brews and they have worked great. However, I was wondering if there was a common method for quickly and easily removing the labels? I just want plain, clean, unmarked brown bottles without needing to buy a bunch of empty bottles on Amazon. Of course this is not a dire need; the stuff tastes the same either way, but I just think they'd look nicer.

Most of the ones I encounter are paper labels that tend to tear into tiny scraps if you try to dry peel them off the bottles. I was thinking of soaking them in warm water for a few hours, scrubbing with some steel wool, and then removing any excess glue residue with a solvent (on bottles in which the label does easily peel off, I've used a cloth lightly dampened with Zippo fluid which tends to easily dissolve most if not all of the glue residue... just need a well ventilated area and some gloves).

Would this soak and scrub method work well enough, OR do you suggest a different method? Should I add anything to the water I soak them in? Or should I not soak them? Maybe I should just put hot water in the bottles (keeping the outside dry) so as to heat up and loosen the glue and making them easier to peel?...

Any thoughts on good methods for removing glued on paper labels from beer bottles?
Hot soak for a couple of hours, followed by a couple of scrapes with a razor blade.
 

hotbeer

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I've never had a problem getting the labels off the store/bar bought beer I buy. Many times the sweat condensation loosens the label completely in the humidity we have here in the south. Any remaining goo comes off with a wet rag if you get it before it dries.

For other bottles that present issues because of the adhesive used, I many times just add some household ammonia to warm water and let them soak a couple hours..... somewhere in a room with exhaust fan.

Failing that, either WD-40, rubbing alcohol or acetone along with elbow grease.
 
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The Experimenter

The Experimenter

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Child labour works well after the soaking ( of the bottles ).
LOL, if you have your own kids I suppose that's true; I don't though. The only children I am frequently around are my students, but I don't think my Principal would appreciate me bringing a bunch of beer bottles to class and forcing the students to scrub/peel them for a grade 😆
 

DuncB

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Back to the long soak in PBW then and a good scrape. Rehabbing bottles or upcycling is a pain, but once done maintenance and reuse is easy.
If certain bottles have a particularly tenacious label it's better to send them straight to recycle.
A good light to inspect the bottom of the bottles for hidden crud is helpful as well.
 
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