Easy Label Removal From Plastic Bottles




If you have ever wanted to re-use a plastic drink bottle for something else, but hate the mess the labels leave when you peel them off, then this short instructable will demonstrate a couple of quick, easy, methods to completely remove labels from plastic drink bottles.

This is not the same as removing from glass jars and bottles, like this great Instructable from thickneckarts, Easiest, least messy way to remove labels from glass bottles! You do NOT want to use a heat gun to loosen the glue, as it will quickly melt the plastic. Also, you should not use some of the petroleum based lubricants (looking at you, WD-40) as it can weaken and dissolve the plastic.

Step 1: Materials

There are just a few things you may need to cleanly remove the gluey labels from your bottles.

  • Plastic drink bottles with labels
  • Tub just large enough to contain the bottle
  • Very hot water
  • Room temperature water
  • A knife
  • Any alcohol based hand sanitizer

Step 2: For New, Still-Full Bottles

If you are more of a proactive person (vs reactive) then you prepare your bottles even before you need them. Use this method even before you open the bottle for the first time. This method is the easiest.

  1. First, peel off as much of the label as you can by hand. This will ALWAYS leave the gluey messy part with bits of label still attached.
  2. Next smear a little bit of hand sanitizer on the gluey bits.
  3. Then, carefully with the knife scrape away the gluey bits. DO NOT use the knife to cut under the label or pry up the gummy parts. This is just scraping, not cutting.
  4. Re-apply the hand sanitizer as needed.
  5. Within a minute all the gluey label bits should be cleared off.
  6. Use a towel to wipe away the hand sanitizer and flakes of label.

This works because first, the carbonation pressure in contained in the bottle, pushing the plastic tight and keeping the side straight. The alcohol breaks down the glue making it easy to pull up and scrape away.

Step 3: Already Empty Bottles

Now, if you have a bunch of already empty bottles that still have the labels, don’t worry. Those can be removed also. This also works if you do not have any hand sanitizer… well, handy.

  1. First, add a couple inches of very hot water into the tub.
  2. Next, fill the bottles all the way up with room temperature water.
  3. Reattach the cap.
  4. Then, lay the bottle down in the hot water bath, with the label sticky submerged into the water.
  5. Let it rest in the water for a couple minutes.
  6. Remove the bottle from the water and while it is still wet carefully scrape at the label glue. Careful, the bottle surface could be quite hot yet. (Scrape, not pry and cut)
  7. It may take a couple additional dips in the hot bath to loosen up the glue, but it will eventually all scrape off.

The reason you want to fill the bottle with room temperature water is that if you put an empty bottle in hot water, the bottle will instantly begin to shrink and warp. This may be fine, but for some future projects you may require an intact bottle. The heat from the water will warm the glue back up making it easier to remove.

Step 4: Conclusion

There you go. Now you have a couple simple ways to remove the labels from plastic beverage bottles for use in future projects.

Let me know what you do with your bottles in the comments.

If you curious as to whyI needed half a dozen label-free bottles, check out my Instructable, Giant Lightsaber Floor Lamp!

And as always, thanks for checking out my Instructable!



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    6 Discussions


    2 years ago

    you shrunk the bottle. the shrunk bottle is not as good for storing pressurized contents.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Actually, the photo was not at the same angle so it only looked shrunk. Putting an empty bottle in a hot water bath, shrinks it, and definitely using the heat gun will shrink and deform, but keeping it full of room temperature water or still carbonated beverage prevents any amount of shrinking.

    But you are absolutely correct regarding the usefulness (or lack there of) with shrunken bottles.


    2 years ago

    I've always used naphtha to remove adhesive residue and never have had issues with it weakening or dissolving plastic. (Naphtha is sold as cigarette lighter fluid, white gas for camping stoves or "VM & P Naphtha" in most paint stores.)

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Cool! Thanks for the tip! I had not heard of that stuff. Does it have fumes or odors?


    2 years ago

    I like it. I've used many types of chemicals and it worked well. But if you can acconplish the removeal without harsh chemicals, all the better.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks for checking it out. Yes, I wanted to have a way that did not involve chemicals, and use most common household items people already have handy.