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Cleaning Glass Cullet: getting the labels off already smashed bottles Answered

Also posted in Green Category
Short Ver: I'm looking for a way to get the paper, foil, glue, and plastic labels off the bits of glass that have been smashed at the recycling center.  Or, a cheap (nearly free) resource in KANSAS.

Long Story: There are several good uses for recycling glass cullet, the glass is plentiful at the local recycling center, they get very little for it because there isn't a re-user within efficient shipping range. I was looking into buying recycled glass to use in a project, but shipping to get it delivered to KANSAS is outrageous $.
I want to start off with glass as the aggregate in concrete countertops. That's a lot of glass - a couple hundred pounds per countertop. Yes, they're very heavy. I've internet searched to my bandwidth limit. No-one nearby does the glass cullet thing.
So, I went to the local recycling center and picked up a couple of 5 gallon buckets of smashed glass. Really great. Now, how do I get all the labels off?


throwing broken glass in a cement mixer along with a couple lenghts of chain for 20 min or so will tumble the glass with soft edges,after pour in 5 gal of soapy water into mix and tumble a little longer, this gets rid of most labels and residue left in bottles.drain and rinse with clean water a couple of times. The prob is not crushing, tumbling or washing the glass, the prob is drying it, the moisture that adheres to the "cullet" dramaticly affects your concrete mix.

I find petrol (that's gasoline to you) is the best thing for removing labels and label goo, although in the quantities you're talking about it would be a pretty hazardous process. 

You might consider just tumbling the glass in a big mixer, removing surface-adherents by process of abrasion.


.  +1. Soaking in warm, soapy water will loosen the labels and the mechanical agitation should knock them off (and remove some of the sharp edges at the same time). Agitate with the soapy water and rinse with clean water before the glue has a chance to dry out. After removing the labels, you can use the same tumbler with dry media to remove sharp edges and polish the glass.

Available for rent nearby. Good idea to consider renting for an afternoon before investing a lot in something that might not work at all.
IF it works, I'm going to need a mixer eventually.....

My brute-force suggestion is to just try different solvents -- you'll be hard-pressed to find something that would damage smashed glass. Alcohol, acetone, MEK, paint thinner...raid a garage and try soaking samples in small amounts.

Other thought...sand and tumbler? I imagine the abrasive action of some sand, along with the glass itself, would tend to crumble off labels. This would also tend to round off sharp edges and make it that much easier to work with.

Good suggestion. I went tumbler shopping. No factory made ones available in this tiny town. So, exploring eBay and looking for DIY alternatives. In the mean time, I'll be testing the solvents.

DIY shouldn't be too hard, one of those 5-gallon buckets makes a drum, and aren't tiny towns always full of old washing machines with motors and drive belts inside? Or maybe just take a washing machine and seal up the holes in the drum. Hmmm...

Yep, lots of washers sittin outside in the backyards. But they are there because the motors failed, and the belts broke, and the water pump gave out.
But, it is an awesome idea: seal up the holes in the drum? Bondo?
Definately the size needed....
Hmmmm... Off to scour the alley for washers.

In my experience, most labels on jars and bottles can be removed with very hot water - it softens both the label and the adhesive.

I'd be inclined to try dumping the glass in a big pot, pouring over the hottest water your domestic supply can manage, then topping up with a couple of kettles-full.

Give the labels a few minutes to soften, then put a pair of gardening gloves over a pair of rubber washing-up gloves, and scrub the labels off with your fingertips.


(BTW - to remove labels off intact jars, fill the jar with hot water, give the glue time to soften, then scrape it off with a spatula, blade or fingernails.)

Yes, the product GOO-GONE is actually a solvent but it does a wonderful job or removing most labels and the sticky glue left behind already removed (by other means) labels.