Introduction: How to Remove Labels and Stickers (with Lighter Fluid)
I collect a lot of new/used media such as books and DVDs and prefer them without any price labels or "Now a Major Motion Picture" declarations. A lot of people don't care about the labels on the backs of books or plastered onto the front of DVDs but I personally can't stand them and opt to take the time to peel off each one.
If you too prefer to not have your book collection marred with price stickers or just have a vendetta against labels in general then this is the Instructable for you. This is the method I prefer as it is can be quick and most of the time there isn't a whole lot of mess to clean up (no guarantees).
sandpaper - 120 grit (or other coarse grits)
"label lifter" or plastic scraper**
paper towel/toilet paper
latex gloves (optional but recommended)
*I would think any lighter fluid would work but I find Ronsonol Lighter Fuel works best and is the cheapest (the one in the yellow bottle with blue on it), but I have had satisfactory results with Zippo brand fuel too. I guess you could also use Goo Gone but I personally can't stand the smell and find it's messier as it doesn't evaporate as quickly as most lighter fluids (not really recommended).
SAFETY NOTE: Lighter fluid contains naptha which can be dangerous to your skin, lungs and other important parts of the body. I would recommend wearing latex gloves and work in a well ventilated area. For your reference, the MSDS for Ronsonol Lighter Fuel: http://www.cooperbooth.com/datasheets/160606.pdf
**I have a Goo Gone label lifter that works great but you could easily make a scraper out of a credit card by scraping a beveled edge (like that of a chisel) by running a utility knife along an edge at an angle a couple times.
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Step 1: Test the Resistance of the Label
First try to peel the label off using a scraper or fingernail without any chemicals (see Note 1). Some labels actually come off easily without tearing or leaving an adhesive residue behind.
If it doesn't peel off easily move on to Step 2.
1. Be careful of removing labels from book covers with a glossy finish without using the lighter fluid method, they sometimes come off easily but take the glossy coating with it and leave a dull area where the label was. It's usually unnoticeable but if you're like me, once you notice it you'll see it every time you pick up the book, for the rest of your life.
Step 2: Scuff the Label With Sandpaper
You want to create a path for the lighter fluid to get to the adhesive underneath the label so it can dissolve it. Some labels are porous and the fluid will soak through. Drop some onto it to see if it does. If it doesn't soak it up, do the following:
Use your piece of sandpaper and CAREFULLY scuff the label without getting too close to the outer edge of the label (you risk scratching what's underneath the label if you do and it's usually not necessary as the fluid will seep underneath the label perimeter from the outside edge). Also be careful not to scratch too deep and tear right through the label, you're only trying to break through the nonporous layer enough for the fluid to seep through.
Step 3: Saturate the Label With Lighter Fluid
Add a couple drops of lighter fluid (see Note 2) onto the label and around the edge so that it penetrates the paper label and makes contact with the adhesive below. Work it in with your finger if need be (again, latex gloves are recommended. See safety note).
Let the fluid sit for a minute or two to do it's thing and evaporate (you can try to peel it off when it's wet but I find it is then more likely to leave adhesive residue). The fluid tends to drip all over the place so be sure to keep your paper towel standing by.
2. Be sure to first test an area on the item to see if the lighter fluid will ruin it in any way (remove coloring/dissolve it). Most papery products like book covers might slightly soak up the fluid but will be fine after it evaporates (again, no guarantees). The fluid tends to shoot out of the bottle pretty quickly so you could try holding a finger over the nozzle to get more control on the flow.
Step 4: Remove the Label
Take your scraper and work from a corner to lift the label. If there is too much resistance and the adhesive is still sticking, repeat Step 3 (see Note 3).
Slowly peel off the label.
3. Some labels are stubborn and don't like to come off in one piece even after a second saturation of lighter fluid. In such a case it's best to just tear off what you can of the label and then repeat Step 3 or just add lighter fluid and work the scraper while it's still wet. Also, if you peel off a label and the label comes off but the adhesive doesn't, just drop some lighter fluid onto the adhesive, let it sit for a couple seconds and then scrape the saturated residue off and wipe clean.
Step 5: Remove Any Remaining Adhesive Residue
Drop some lighter fluid onto the area (or directly onto the paper towel) where the label just was to dissolve any leftover residue. Take a piece of paper towel and wipe the residue away. Let the fluid evaporate and admire your now label-less item.