In this instructable I'm going to do some experiments for removing labels from bottles. There are lots of ways to remove labels. I'm just going to try 1 way, but 4 variations of it. There are 3 types of labels that I'm going to try removing: paper labels, plastic labels, and painted on labels.
Here is what I used for this experiment:
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Step 1: Bagging the Bottles
For this experiment I'm going to take one of the bottles, and with a paper label first, fold up a paper towel to wrap around the bottle label, then put it into a seal-able plastic bag. On this first test I'm going to add water with dish soap, more than enough to soak the paper towel. The goal is to keep the liquid in contact with the label. I'll do the same to a bottle with a plastic label and a painted on label. Once the bottles are bagged up, I left them in a warm place for about an hour.
Step 2: Remove the Paper Label With Soapy Water
I try removing the paper label first, it looks like the water soaked into it good. The label peeled off easy and it looks like it separated from the adhesive good. I try wiping the glue from the bottle with the soaked paper towel, and it comes off pretty easy.
Step 3: Remove the Plastic Label With Soapy Water
Next I try removing the plastic label. It's a bit tough to get started, but comes off in one piece. I didn't feel like soaking it made any difference. There isn't much glue left behind, but it isn't too hard to clean off with the soapy water.
Step 4: Try to Remove the Painted on Label With Soapy Water
Now I try the bottle with the painted on label. Nothing to peal off this time, so I try wiping it with the soapy water. No surprise considering it's just soapy water, but none of the paint comes off. I grab a razor blade and scrape at the paint, but still none of it comes off.
Step 5: The Next Test
The next test I use fingernail polish remover, 100% acetone, instead of soapy water. Again, I left them in a warm place for about an hour.
Step 6: Remove the Paper Label With Acetone
The paper label comes off easy, maybe easier than it did with the soapy water. The remaining glue comes off about the same easy. I noticed the paint on my table is a bit smudged by the acetone too.
Step 7: Remove the Plastic Label With Acetone
Next I do the plastic label. Still a bit tough to get started, but takes off most of the glue with the plastic. But notice how the paint is separating from the label. Gets a bit messy, but the glue cleans off well.
Step 8: Try to Remove the Painted on Label With Acetone
Now I try the painted on label. I expected this to work well, but even with tough scrubbing, none of the paint comes off. Even scraping with a razor blade doesn't remove any of the paint.
Step 9: The Next Test
The next test is with apple cider vinegar (5% acidity), again left in a warm place for about an hour.
Step 10: Remove the Paper Label With Apple Cider Vinegar
The paper label soaked up the vinegar good, but it didn't separate from the glue very well. I have to work harder to get it off the bottle. I can wipe off all the remaining glue, but I have to work at that more too.
Step 11: Remove the Plastic Label With Apple Cider Vinegar
With the plastic label, I have to work at it a bit more to get the label off. Like on the other tests, there isn't much glue left behind on this one, but it also doesn't come off as easy.
Step 12: Try to Remove the Painted on Label With Apple Cider Vinegar
Now with the painted on label, I get a bit unexpected results. A little rubbing and scrubbing with just the paper towel DOES remove some of the paint, and somewhat easily. But more scrubbing doesn't remove any more. Scraping with a razor blade didn't remove any more either.
Step 13: The Next Test
The 4th thing I tried was soaking with distilled white vinegar (5% acidity.) This time, because of the results with the apple cider vinegar, I let it soak for about an hour and a half.
Step 14: Remove the Paper Label With Distilled White Vinegar
The paper label peeled off mostly, but not completely. The remaining glue wiped off fairly easy too.
Step 15: Remove the Plastic Label With Distilled White Vinegar
The plastic label peeled off about the same as it did on the other tests. Wiping the glue off was about the same too.
Step 16: Try to Remove the Painted on Label With Distilled White Vinegar
With the painted on label, again I got some unexpected results. Rubbing and scrubbing with the paper towel didn't have an effect. But scraping with the razor blade did. I couldn't get all of the paint off, but a good amount of it scraped off easily.
Step 17: More Time With the Distilled White Vinegar and the Painted on Label
I decided to expand on the 2 vinegar tests. I let the painted label soak with distilled white vinegar for a couple hours. Again, rubbing and scrubbing didn't do anything, but scraping with the razor blade worked great. Letting it soak for that long allowed me to scrape most of the paint off, but not all of it.
Step 18: More Time With the Apple Cider Vinegar and the Painted on Label
After letting the painted label soak with the apple cider vinegar for a couple hours, I tried scrubbing with the paper towel. Most of the paint came off pretty easy, just with the scrubbing. Scraping afterwards with the razor blade, though, didn't make much of a difference. I also tried scrubbing the paint on the same bottle that wasn't wrapped in the soaked paper towel, and none of it came off.
Step 19: Even Longer With Apple Cider Vinegar and the Painted on Label
I decided to do one final test. This time with the apple cider vinegar, I let it soak over night. With a little bit of rubbing, the paint starts to come off. Without much effort, most of the paint came off. And with some harder scrubbing, I was able to get the rest of the paint off. I tried scrubbing the unwrapped part of this bottle, and it didn't come off.
Step 20: My Conclusion
If you're interested in using one of these ways to remove a label from a bottle, here is what I noticed: Overall, soaking longer should improve your result.
With paper labels, acetone works the best but has the potential for damaging the paint or finish of your table or work surface, if you're not careful. Cleaning the remaining glue off the bottle works well using either acetone or soapy water, with acetone being better and soapy water being safer.
With plastic labels, none of these soaked through the label, so try warming the bottle to soften the glue on the label, then clean the remaining glue off with either soapy water or acetone.
With painted labels, try vinegar. Any vinegar should work, just remember that it may need to soak for several hours. If the paint doesn't wipe off, have something handy to scrape the paint.
If you use a different method for removing labels from bottles, please leave a comment and tell us about it.