Want to learn the easiest way to remove sticky labels from food jars? Our simple six-step process uses all-natural, eco-friendly ingredients you already have in your home to get jars squeaky clean!
Do you reuse glass food jars? We love to save both large and small empty jars to use for zero-waste food and household storage but hate when paper labels and sticky glue won’t come off after running jars through the dishwasher. Fortunately, I have a quick and easy (and environmentally-friendly) fix to get jars squeaky clean!
👉 To remove sticky labels from jars using only all-natural ingredients you already have at home, simply follow these six steps:
- Fill your sink or a large bowl with hot water
- Add 1-2 tablespoons dish soap and ½ cup of white vinegar
- Submerge jars in water and let them soak for 20-30 minutes
- Remove jars from water and easily remove labels
- For sticky label glue that won’t come off, mix together equal parts oil and baking soda in a small bowl, then rub onto label glue and scrub with a dish rag or scrub brush
- Wash and dry jars and they’re ready to use!
Read on to learn more about how to get your jars squeaky clean without the use of harsh chemicals or weird ingredients you don’t have? Let’s do it!
🎥 Watch the video
Watch the video below to see my 6-step process for removing labels from glass jars in action!
💧 Fill your sink or a large bowl with hot water.
First, fill your sink or a large glass bowl (one big enough to submerge jars) with hot water. Cold or warm water will work as well, but hot water will help to quickly melt the glue on the labels.
🧴 Add 1-2 tablespoons dish soap and ½ cup of white vinegar.
Add 1-2 tablespoons of a mild dish soap and ½ cup of vinegar to the water. The dish soap will remove the paper labels from glass food jars and the vinegar will help to remove the sticky glue that is used on some food labels.
🚰 Submerge jars in water and let them soak for 20-30 minutes.
Next, add the glass jars to the water, making sure the labels are completely submerged, and let them soak for 20-30 minutes while the dish soap and vinegar work their magic on the labels.
🧽 Remove jars from water and easily remove labels.
Take the jars out of the water and remove labels from the jars. The labels should come off easily without any sticky residue, however if there are pesky glues or paper still stick to the jars then move on to the next step to get those labels off once and for all.
🧼 If there is still label residue, scrub with olive oil and baking soda.
If you’re still dealing with sticky labels, it’s time to put in a little elbow grease. In a small bowl mix together equal parts oil and baking soda and stir to combine. For only a few small jars this may be 2 tablespoons of both oil and baking soda, but for more jars use ¼-⅓ cup of each.
Once combined, rub the oil and soda mixture onto the sticky label and then use a dish rag or a scrubbing brush to rub the label clean. You may need to let the oil mixture sit on the label for a few minutes to loosen up the adhesive glue.
♻️ Wash and dry jars and they’re ready to use!
Finally, wash and dry the newly naked glass jars and they’re ready to use around the house. Fill large jars with homemade vegetable scrap food broth, take them to the grocery store to fill up in the bulk section, or organize your kitchen junk drawer with small jars. The reusable jar options are limitless!
❓ Questions + Quick Tips About Removing Labels From Jars
Is the dish soap and baking soda method for removing labels environmentally friendly?
As long as you choose a mild dish soap that is highly rated by the Environmental Working Group (check EWG’s dish soap recommendations here), then using the dish soap and baking soda method to remove glass jar labels is the most eco-friendly and safe-for-you option compared to other cleaners (washing soda, rubbing alcohol, etc.).
Can I use washing soda to remove labels from jars?
You can use washing soda to remove sticky labels from glass jars. Simply replace the vinegar and/or baking soda in this how-to with washing soda.
However, though the Environmental Work Group gives washing soda an A rating for eco-friendly cleaning purposes, it is not edible and is caustic (meaning can burn your skin) so make sure to use cleaning gloves when handling.
Can I use rubbing alcohol to remove labels from jars?
Rubbing alcohol can be used to remove labels easily from jars, however it is not technically an eco-friendly ingredient.
While rubbing alcohol is a powerful disinfectant with many household uses, isopropyl alcohol’s Material Safety Data Sheet warns that it may cause skin irritation if handling without gloves and serious harm if ingested, not to mention flammable.
For the purposes of removing labels, we suggest sticking with safe ingredients like dish soap and baking soda.
Can I use a hair dryer to remove labels from jars?
You can use a hair dryer to blow hot air onto a food label to melt the glue, however you will still need to soak the jar in either water or use oil to remove the sticky label.
For this reason we recommend cutting out this step and going right to soaking in hot water with soap, vinegar, and baking soda, which will also help adhesive glue to easily rub off.
Does removing labels with dish soap and vinegar method damage jars?
Removing labels with dish soap and baking soda does not damage jars and they will be able to be used again for other household and food storage.
Does the vinegar and dish soap label-removing method work on all jars and labels?
Using dish soap and vinegar should remove all paper labels from beer, wine, champagne, and other types of jars. If sticky labels persist, make sure to use a combination of oil and baking soda to scrub off pesky paper labels.
Some screen printed labels like dates or on some beer bottle may need a stronger scrub brush to remove. However, if the label is etched into bottle then it is not possible to remove the label.
Does the dish soap and vinegar method label removal method work on metal?
You can remove sticky paper labels from metal with dish soap and vinegar, and a small amount of baking soda if needed. Just follow the steps above for glass jar label removal and you’ll have clean metal containers in no time.
💡 Ideas for what to store in your newly clean jars
Now that your glass food and drink jars are clean and ready to use, here are some ideas to fill up reusable glass jar for a zero-waste container storage in your pantry and around the house.
- Use reusable glass jars to store homemade food scrap vegetable broth. After saving homemade food scraps and making broth, fill up empty jars with homemade vegetable broth made from food scraps and freeze until ready to use.
- Take your empty glass jars to the grocery store to fill in the bulk section. Fill up jars with pantry staples like rice and other grains, dried fruit, flour, sugar, nuts, seeds, and other foods instead of using plastic bags.
- Organize your pantry with glass jars. Take foods out of plastic or paper boxes and store in see-through glass jars for a clean pantry and to easily see which foods you have on hand. We’ve found that food that is visible gets eaten, so put food in jars to reduce its changes of being wasted.
- Organize your kitchen drawers with small glass jars. Use empty jars to store small bits and bobs in the kitchen, like coins, leftover bread ties, bag clips, etc. No more opening ten drawers to find your small kitchen items!
👉 More zero waste kitchen ideas
- How to Remove Labels from Wine Bottles
- The Ultimate Zero Waste Kitchen Gift Guide
- How to Get Started Going Zero Waste in the Kitchen
- How to Compost Paper Towels (+ Why You Shouldn’t)
♻️ Want more inspiration for going green in the kitchen? Join the Green Living Community for plant-based recipes, sustainable kitchen hacks, and get our FREE guide to meal planning to reduce food waste!
How to Easily Remove Sticky Labels from Glass Jars
- 1 Kitchen sink or large glass mixing bowl
- 1 Kitchen scrubbing brush
- 3 gallons hot water
- 2 tablespoons mild dish soap
- 1 cup distilled white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons baking soda
- 2 tablespoons oil
- Fill your sink or a large bowl with hot water. You can also use cold water, but hot water will help to melt the glue adhesive used on labels.
- Add 1-2 tablespoons dish soap and 1 cup of white vinegar. The dish soap and vinegar will work with the hot water to melt the glue and allow for easy label removal.
- Submerge jars in water and let them soak for 20-30 minutes. Letting the jars soak will help labels to be removed easily.
- Remove jars from water and easily remove labels. Peel off labels and set aside any with sticky glue that won't easily rub off.
- For sticky label glue that won’t come off, mix together equal parts oil and baking soda in a small bowl, then rub onto label glue and scrub with a dish rag or scrub brush. Let the oil mixture soak onto labels for a few minutes and then use a scrub brush or rag to rub off labels and glue.
- Wash and dry jars. Then they’re ready to use!
- Is this glass jar label removal method eco-friendly? Yes, the dish soap and vinegar are environmentally-friendly ingredients.
- What jars will this work on? Any empty glass or metal jars with paper labels. Etched or screen printed labels cannot be removed without damaging the jar.
- What to do with jar once clean: Fill large jars with homemade vegetable scrap food broth, take them to the grocery store to fill up in the bulk section, or organize your kitchen junk drawer with small jars.
UPDATE: This tutorial was originally published in May 2020 and was updated in for clarity in March 2022.