Getting Those Labels Off

Lightweight, non-reactive, unbreakable and usually airtight plastic containers are perfect for storing dried herbs and other treasures. Reusing them reduces waste and environmental impact much more effectively than labor–and chemistry-intensive industrial recycling.

The only hitch is those stupid labels. Most glues don’t stick to plastic, so the ones used to stick labels on it have to be practically bulletproof. Unlike glass containers, plastic ones can’t be de-labelled by soaking in hot water. Scrubbing scratches up the plastic, and even then it only removes the paper. Tacky glue remains to stick to hands and attract dirt.

But removing labels from plastic containers is deceptively easy once you know how. For success every time, without scratched containers or residual glue, follow this simple procedure:

1. Apply a thick coat of cooking oil to the label in question.
2. Allow it to soak in, undisturbed, for 24 hours.
3. Try to peel the label off. If it comes readily, proceed to the next step. If it doesn’t, repeat steps 1 and 2. (Many labels require two applications; some take several.)
4. After the label has been peeled off, some sticky, partly dissolved glue will remain. To remove it, coat the area with oil a final time and allow it to sit overnight.
5. Wipe off the oil and dissolved glue, then wash the container in hot, soapy water. No trace of label or glue will remain.

Note from Annie: Although this is not the book in which you’d expect to find information about removing labels, it does in fact have one of the best set of directions for solving this very commonly frustrating challenge. It is also one of my favorite books, because of tidbits just such as this.

Adapted from 'The Neighborhood Forager, by Robert K. Henderson.Copyright (c)2000 by Robert K. Henderson. Reprinted by permission of Chelsea Green Publishing Company.
Adapted from 'The Neighborhood Forager, by Robert K. Henderson.

30 comments

Terry V.
Terry V.3 years ago

thanks

Krystal R.
Karen B.4 years ago

Tea tree oil works amazing, just apply and in seconds wipe off and it's all gone... then wash the tea tree oil off...

Krystal R.
Karen B.4 years ago

Tea tree oil works amazing, just apply and in seconds wipe off and it's all gone... then wash the tea tree oil off...

Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton4 years ago

Great tip - thanks for posting.

Edith M.
Edith M.4 years ago

Thanks!--didn't realize oil would work..been trying to get the usual things to work, as well as citra-solve, with limited results. Very cool!

Joe R.
Joe R.4 years ago

I give it a try. Thanks.

Mac C.
mac C.4 years ago

hey thanks, good to know.

Sue H.
Sue H.4 years ago

Well, you learn something new every day! Thanks for posting.

Robert O.
Robert O.4 years ago

Thank you Annie! :)

Robert O.
Robert O.4 years ago

Thank you Annie! :)