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Recycling Tips: How to cleanly remove labels from plastic and glass bottles

2 min read


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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

In the quest to become more environmentally conscious, many people have begun keeping plastic and glass bottles around to use as planters, decorative pieces, or if you’re like me, containers for homemade sauces and pickled veggies. But one of the most frustrating parts of reusing bottles is dealing with that sticky residue after you peel off the label.

Sure, you can rinse them in hot water, use a butter knife to scrape off the goo and throw them in the dishwasher. Even after running bottles through the dishwasher, they usually aren’t totally label-free.

So here’s how to clean them properly — using stuff you already have around the house.

Glass bottles

1. Boil water (preferably in a kettle).

2. As the water is heating up, fill the bottle with warm water from the tap. This will warm up the glass to above room temperature, making it unlikely to crack when you perform the next step.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

3. Empty the bottle into the sink. Then, wearing oven mitts, carefully pour the hot water into the glass bottle. If you don’t have a kettle, use a funnel or spouted measuring cup.

4. The heat from the water should loosen the label’s adhesive, allowing you to pull off the label, being careful not to tear it. If you do begin to tear it, just start peeling at another corner.

5. Pour out the hot water.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

6. Find cooking oil, baking soda, a shallow bowl and paper towels (or cotton balls).

7. Mix two parts oil and one part baking soda in the bowl.

8. Using a finger, apply the mix to any sticky residue left on the bottle by the label.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

9. Allow the mix to set for five minutes. If the label is particularly stubborn, feel free to leave it longer.

10. Use a paper towel to scrub the bottle clean (the residue should dissolve easily).

11. Once all sticky bits have been removed, rinse the bottle with water and dish soap to remove excess oil.

12. Find a new home for your squeaky-clean container.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Plastic bottles

Not all plastic bottles can handle boiling water, and scrubbing the adhesive from them is usually slightly easier. So if you want to remove that sticky stuff from a plastic bottle, simply start by removing the label, then proceed to step 4 above.

Do you have other methods you use? Share them in the comments.

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