Introduction: Non-Toxic Adhesive Removal

Picture of Non-Toxic Adhesive Removal

Does anyone else know the pure frustration that comes when you want to reuse a jar (or container of some sort) but when you peel off the label you can't get the sticky adhesive off underneath? This drives me insane!

I recently came across some spice jars with labels on the glass and the plastic lids. I figured I would just soak them for a long time and all the labels and sticky adhesive would come right off. Wrong! This was not the case at all, and after scrubbing for an extraordinarily long time, I knew it was a lost cause to continue with the soaking method.

My husband suggested using xylene, but since I was going to be using these specific jars for food I didn't want to use something so toxic, especially on plastic lids that could absorb the odor or chemical. (I also know xylene isn't food safe, so I threw that option out the window.) ;)

I started researching how to remove stubborn adhesive and found a million different suggestions/solutions from milk to rubbing alcohol to canola oil. I decided to try a bunch of common kitchen ingredients to see what would work best. Keep reading to find out!

Step 1: Put to the Test!

Picture of Put to the Test!

In my attempt to remove adhesive in a non-toxic manner I tried: Jif peanut butter, rubbing alcohol, vinegar, olive oil, coconut oil, and natural peanut butter.

I left all of the lids to sit for about 15 minutes (because that's what I read to do!) and tried to scrape some of the adhesive off. NONE of these methods worked....well, not at first!

I got frustrated that they didn't work because I really love the jars and lids and wanted to be able to use them! Anyway, I got busy with daily life and forgot about the lids entirely. The next morning I remembered them and looked at them in disgust! my amazement, some of the methods worked, and worked REALLY well!!

Step 2: Rubbing Alcohol & Vinegar

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Neither rubbing alcohol nor vinegar worked at all. They actually made things worse by drying the adhesive onto the lids. Don't bother wasting your time with these!

Step 3: Peanut Butter

Picture of Peanut Butter

Jif peanut butter and natural peanut butter worked well. If you have a sticky situation any peanut butter will work to dissolve adhesive and since most people have peanut butter in their kitchen pantry it's a good option. (it's not the best option though!)

I was able to easily scrape the adhesive off with my fingernail and wash the lid clean with soap and water.

Step 4: Olive Oil

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Olive oil worked okay. I had to scrape for quite a while to get the adhesive off but in the end the lid came clean and will work if olive oil is all you have in your kitchen.

Step 5: Coconut Oil - WINNER!

Picture of Coconut Oil - WINNER!

Coconut oil was the clear winner for removing sticky adhesive. As you can see in the photo the coconut oil not only dissolved the adhesive but allowed the leftover label to come off in a chunk instead of having to scrape over and over.

Step 6: Saving the Fails

Picture of Saving the Fails

I saved the failed attempts (rubbing alcohol and vinegar) by rubbing coconut oil on the lids and letting them sit overnight. They came clean like a dream!


grannyjones (author)2017-03-14

Butter works quite well. I know this because we had a cat that pulled down a fly paper strip, which tangled with his coat and was pulling out clumps of fur. I rubbed butter into the mess, which neutralized the adhesive. We toweled him off, leaving only a little butter, which he was content to remove himself.

mario59 (author)2017-03-05

WD-40 works for me in zillion of cases...after one can soap & rinse well..

GADiltz (author)2017-03-01

The coconut oil works pretty well on medical tape adhesive. I recently had surgery and had to change the bandage often, the tape build up and build up and build up the thing that worked best though was good ol fashioned Crisco. Coconut oil made it very sticky and messy Crisco seem to dissolve it better easier to move when all was said and done kind of like you're moving pitch and tar and your skin.

PeterMerc (author)2017-02-26


I use white spirit (also known as turps substitute, used for thinning paint). Dab it on with a kitchen (paper) towel, leave for a few minutes, the label should peel off. If the goo underneath is thick, scrape it off with a razor blade or craft knife blade (held parallel to the axis of the jar). Wipe off the remaining residue with white spirit/paper towel. Any residual white spirit evaporates fairly quickly but I put the jar through the dishwaher afterwards to make sure it is really clean and no smell.

Iagree with comments about avoiding Xylene.

GavinF2 (author)PeterMerc2017-02-27

White Spirit will also melt a number of different plastic so is best avoided.

PeterMerc (author)GavinF22017-02-28

Yes, fair point. I tend to re-use glass bottles rather than plastic, so no problem there. Having said that, white spirit does not affect a fair number of plastics, worth a cautious try if the glue proves tenacious.

tzny (author)2017-02-27

Thank you for sharing. I've had great success with food-grade mineral oil - it removes adhesive residue like a charm. You can also use it to maintain wooden cutting boards or utensils. IKEA has the best price for a good size bottle.

cutshopguy (author)2017-02-26

There is a product we have available her in New Zealand, called Desolvit, which is citrus oil - the sort of stuff you get out of orange or lemon skins. Completely food safe and works really well, in minutes.

njwins (author)cutshopguy2017-02-27

Desolvit is less than 20% orange oil. The rest of the stuff is 'liquid hydrocarbon' and alcohols. See the MDS

I'm not convinced it's food safe.

I use a product called 'Solvit' which is just orange oil and ethanol. MDS here:

Much safer to my way of thinking and smells much better too. A lot of the 'orange oil' products have liquid hydrocarbons in them so you have to be careful.

michaell_d (author)2017-02-25

Can it also remove the residue left by the Gorilla Superglue on my cars dashboard?

wold630 (author)michaell_d2017-02-25

I don't know, but if you try it please let us know how it works!

michaell_d (author)wold6302017-02-27

Peanut Butter did help. The stain/residue is still there but now it's less noticiable.

arpruss (author)2017-02-26

Technically, rubbing alcohol (isopropyl) is toxic. But it evaporates well.

GavinF2 (author)arpruss2017-02-27

Everything is toxic if you are exposed to enough of it.

vbliss (author)2017-02-26

Pinterest has a lifehack suggesting the following: fill sink with enough hot water to cover the jars you want to remove labels from. Add one full scoop of Oxyclean per full sink). Let jars sit for about an hour. The labels slide right off. The only labels that didn't come off cleanly were ones I tried to remove before using this method. The residue still came off, I just had to work at it a bit. This even worked for those hard plastic labels (like on Yankee Candle jars).

GavinF2 (author)vbliss2017-02-27

If you soak a label in clean water long enough that it has wet the inside of the entire label then it will come off and whatever is left will come off by dabbing at it with the sticky part of the label you just removed.

herby325 (author)2017-02-26

A stamp collecting friend of mine is using "Pure Citrus Orange Air
Freshener" (from Home Depot) to remove stamps from envelopes. I have
used this spray on all sorts of label adhesives and it works like charm,
better than Goo-Gone. Spray it on, let sit for a couple of minutes, and
peel it off. I tried it on all sorts of adhesive labels and it works
like magic. Try it. The main ingredient is oil from oranges. Totally

GavinF2 (author)herby3252017-02-27

Citrus oil is also marketed as bong cleaner around my way.

John Ciccarelli (author)2017-02-26

I'm hoping to do this (remove adhesive labels) from over 20 large (4'x8') sheets of plastic (Lexan, acrylic, ...) that I recently obtained. The sheets have been stored indoors for decades, so the paper+adhesive protective layer on both sides won't peel off as it would have soon after the sheets were manufactured. Does anyone have experience with any of these label remover candidates in my situation?

FlorinJ (author)John Ciccarelli2017-02-26

I described how I use paraffin candle oil in another comment. I suppose this should work on your poly-carbonate/acrylic plates too - to my knowledge, paraffin oil does not affect those materials. Given that they are dried over a long time, however, you might have to do some rubbing/waiting before the solvent penetrates the glue layer.

FlorinJ (author)2017-02-26

What I use: paraffin candle oil. I always have some at home.

How I do it: soak the label in water, and, once softened, scrape what comes off - the smooth, paint-covered surface of the label otherwise prevents the oil from reaching the glue. You don't have to do a very good job of removing the paper so far, you just have to end up with a porous paper surface, instead of the smooth, sealed one that the label initially had. Put a few drops of candle oil and rub it into the paper - that's why you wanted a porous surface, the oil would not easily reach the glue through the intact paper surface. The adhesive will dissolve and come off easily and completely, together with the remaining pieces of paper. Now wash with dish washing soap as you would any regular dish. The candle oil comes off like any other grease, leaving absolutely no residue behind.

winnetui (author)2017-02-26

Additional some of my tricks to the same problem (situations and glue may varie).

Patience. Try to get a corner of the label free, fix it in a way (magnets, pegs..) and let do the weight very slowely (and there by clean) the main work (keep the place below cushioned...) Or manually, as a meditation/ force endurace training...

With the label (glueside) itself you often can dub away any residuals of glue.

When I use volatile solvents, it helps to keep a less amount of chemistry for longer time in place by covering it with alumnium foil (alcohols, volatile oils, naphta and similar).

Miamoomoos (author)2017-02-26

I think your instructable was awesome.. I use eucalyptus oil and dissolve it too, but they are expensive and I don't always have them. I do like your natural method of the coconut oil. Thanks for taking the time to share your findings with us. The experimenting is half the fun..

...anyhow I enjoyed it ..cheers

Walker MacNeil (author)2017-02-26

Mine is a 2 step process. 1st is use a hairdryer; high temp for metals/glass; low temp for plastics/melties. Be careful as it can get hot on the fingers with the hairdryer. The label should then come right off. Any remaining residue I then use coconut oil to remove the remaining stickiness.

I came here to say this also. Heat always works perfectly for me.

gravityisweak (author)2017-02-26

Hmm that's really good to know. I've always just used a heat gun. It works great on glass, but it's a bit tricker on plastic. Although usually I save glass jars with metal lids.

Fuzzworth (author)2017-02-26

I have had some success using a strongly adhesive tape like Gorilla Tape; place the tape over the gummy stuff you want to remove, press it down to make sure it is as fully adhered as possible, and then strip it off. Doesn't always work first go-round (sometimes doesn't work at all) but it's worth a try. Also if you are removing from a container, whether plastic or glass, fill the container with hot water or heat it up with a heat gun (careful--could bake it on further or melt the plastic container) to soften the stickum, and then use the Gorilla Tape. I have a shelf full of nail and screw and parts containers that used to be peanut butter jars and Metamucil containers, now not sticky to the touch.

jtomlinson1 (author)2017-02-26

I use "GooGone" on Jif plastic jars - works great!

Krafteegrl (author)jtomlinson12017-02-26

I don't like GooGone because it smells so strong and that smell doesn't go away. That puts me off

RajeshS70 (author)2017-02-26

Eucalyptus oil works best on any kind of labels.

osoriocj (author)2017-02-26

On glass jars, no problem because you can remove the labels with a knife

The problem arises when the lid/jar are made of plastic.

If the label is glued with silicon hot glue, you need hot water/air to remove it but you can damage the jar/lid by shrinking or distortion.

If the label is made of plastic and is attached on a plastic surface, quit. You're going to experiment a frustration.

The success is granted if the label is made of paper

1- Simple paper label

Spread any cook oil over the label and wait til you can easily peel it off from the jar (more than half hour). You can notice the color changing. Use a paper towel to remove the remaining oil and glue.

2- Laminated paper label

Use a exacto knife to make scratches on the top of label. Take some care to avoid damages to the jar and keep the the paper as integer as possible. Make many scratches and go to the Step 1.

noahspurrier (author)2017-02-26

He suggested xylene? That's a terrible idea. Good God, xylene is the worst solvent! That stuff gets into everything and it refuses to evaporate. Days later I can still smell anything that been touched by xylene.

Here is what I use as my go-to solvent for everything. You might not accept this answer at first, but if you give it a few tests I think you might come to see the appeal and advantages. The universal solution for removing sticker glue is Ronsonol Lighter Fluid. This is the lighter fluid used to fill wick-style lighters like Zippo (not the BBQ charcoal starter fluid). VM&P Naphtha can be used, but it does not work quite as well as Ronsonol. Ronsonol may have a strong smell at first, but it evaporates quickly and absolutely cleanly. It does not leave a residue. It a safe on most paints and inks yet it will soften and dissolve almost all sticker glues so that they glide right off even porous paper without harm. I used to use the stuff in a library to clean books. With some very sticky glue residues I'd get books almost soaked in lighter fluid. 10 minutes later you couldn't smell anything on the paper. Ronsonol is refined and formulated so that people can carry it in their pocket in a lighter. Wick lighters are not sealed, so they are always slowly leaking and evaporating away their fuel in your pocket. Ronsonol is formulated to have no heavy hydrocarbons that would remain behind and leave a smelly residue... Ronsonol dissolves sticker glue more effectively than isopropyl alcohol or acetone, yet it will not attack plastics or paints the way acetone does. The only positive thing about isopropyl alcohol or acetone is that they both evaporate quickly and absolutely cleanly with no residue, but so then does Ronsonol.

You may have seen or used Goof Off, Goo Gone, or Oops cleaners. These all cost about 4 times what Ronsonol costs by volume and none of them work as well or as cleanly. I've done side-by-side tests. Ronsonol worked better than any other product specifically sold for removing stickers and adhesives. And it was the only one that dried cleanly with no residue odor. All the others actually left a slight, oily, smelly residue.

Believe it or not, I am not an employee or stockholder of Ronsonol. I've used it for years and it still astounds me that it works better in every way than products specifically sold as sticker glue cleaner.

sgbotsford (author)2017-02-26

You are correct to avoid xylene. Avoid benzene too. While safe enough on glass, I wouldn't use on plastic. Remember that the labels are on the outside, so if you leave the lids on while working, residue won't come into contact with food.

I have had some success with mayonnaise -- basically an emulsified oil. Coconut oil is a short chain oil, which may explain its effectiveness. Diesel fuel works quite well. Fumes aren't terribly toxic, but there is a potential fire hazard. Work outside. Paint thinner (varsol) is safer, both in terms of additives, and fire hazard but to my surprise is much more expensive than diesel. Gasoline works too, but is definitely 'do this outside'.

Very hot water and dishwasher soap can work. As can TSP (tri-sodium-phosphate) TSP in general is a good cleaner and degreaser, but don't run it down the sink, as it's a fertilizer for algae in lakes. Dilute and use on the garden instead.

Try acetone (fingernail polish solvent) on stubborn ones. Warning: Acetone will dissolve many plastics. Not as harmful as xylene, but VERY flammable. Work outside.

Sodium silicate glues soften much faster in a basic solution. A few grains of draino per cup of hot water, or oven cleaner. This is mostly sodium hydroxide -- lye. This stuff is corrosive. It will destroy aluminum. Even dilute it's tough on hands. Tougher on eyes Wear gloves and eye protection. Neutralize with vinegar then water on skin and eyes.

Polyethylene plastic is immune to most chemicals. this is the most common plastic used for pails, and also for rubbermaid totes. This gives you a means of doing long soaks without tying up the sink for a week.

Sound Guy (author)2017-02-26

Isopropyl alcohol isn't exactly non-toxic.

wold630 (author)Sound Guy2017-02-26

Very true, and it doesn't work anyway!

shangrilarcadia (author)2017-02-25

I usually use baking soda with a little vegetable oil mixed in to make it a paste. Rinse with hot water, scrub with the paste, and rinse again. It works great. I bet a little baking soda mixed with coconut oil would work great too.

baecker03 (author)2017-02-25

I always try to remove labels without great first, then I put the container in boiling water and use acetone to remove residue. rubbing alcohol if it's plastic.

wold630 (author)baecker032017-02-25

I couldn't get rubbing alcohol to work at all. Maybe it reacts differently to different adhesives.

baecker03 (author)wold6302017-02-25

it is poor at removing adhesives, but it won't damage most things. the key is to warm up the surface with hot water.. the adhesive gets soft and is pliable. I use good paper towels and alcohol.

baecker03 (author)baecker032017-02-25

great= heat

mrsmerwin (author)2017-02-24

I have 4jars in my sink that I have been soaking for 2 days in soapy water. How thick of a layer of coconut oil. I am actually running low on the stuff. It sat on my shelf for the longest time but now it seams that coconut oil is like duct tape--it fixes everything. Time to shop for more.

wold630 (author)mrsmerwin2017-02-24

I applied a thin layer. Just enough for the papery part to become very moist.

mrsmerwin (author)wold6302017-02-25

I tried it. You don't have to wait very long--I gave it about an hour and half of the labels came right off. The other half did not work as well. I think it was a different kind of glue. Weird since the jars all came from the same place. Thanks to you I have several different ideas to try.

mrsmerwin (author)wold6302017-02-25

Thanks. That is what I was hoping for.

john12692 (author)2017-02-24

use orange oil. I am pretty sure that is what is in goo-gone and the only thing it wouldn't take off was a parking permit sticker that had baked onto my car's windshield for a year in Florida.

I am sure it would have gotten that off too but my mother used it so much when I was a kid, and the smell is so strong, that I hate the smell (though most people find it pleasant); and didn't want my car to smell like oranges forever so I used some acetone (nail polish remover) and it came right off.

just to clarify, the smell isn't that bad. But I dislike the smell so much that I don't eat oranges because of the orange oil smell on my hands afterwards. I love oranges and orange juice, but I can't stand orange oil. (there may be some childhood trauma involved in my dislike of the smell that I don't remember as I find it hard to believe it was only the goo-gone)

baecker03 (author)john126922017-02-25

razor blade at a low angle... maybe like 5% or less

Yonatan24 (author)2017-02-25

I used WD-40 to remove a sticker of a glass jar once (for my EL lamp), and I barely even needed to scrub it to get the sticker label off. Now instead of having my hands smell horribly for a long time until I'm able to wash it all off, like they'll have a wonderful coconutty smell :)

About This Instructable




Bio: Hi, I'm Jen! In my free time I'm a crafter, food lover, cake decorator, and Etsy shop owner. I also can't stop ... More »
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