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Getting the stickers off stuff


Fat Guy
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While Goo-Gone will remove most adhesives, I've never found it very effective at actually removing the label itself. Back when I worked at Sur La Table, we used Un-du.

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I use orange oil which I hope is less toxic than goo gone. But first I always wash and/or soak the label to see if it will come off easily. I try to reuse all kinds of bottles and jars, but like them to be free from labels so I can see what is in them. I'm always amused when the special organic mayonnaise label is stuck down with what seems like industrial glue and takes several days of soaking and scraping to get partially off, until I'm forced to use a chemical to remove it completely. Almost doesn't seem worth it for the use of the jar.

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My first action is to scratch the upper surface of the label thoroughly with a junker paring knife and then submerge the piece in a pot of water. An hour later, the label will be soaked through and easy to scrape off.

I hate Goo-Gone. I can't stand the smell, and the greasy coating (and the smell) are almost impossible to remove. Also, it's not very effective.

My second try is JAZ's recommendation, Un-du. It has little odor, acts fast and dries up quickly. It doesn't remove the adhesive very well, so the area under the removed label has to be scrubbed with a paper towel moistened with water or perhaps vodka before the adhesive re-hardens.

Un-du is overpriced. Get one bottle with the handy plastic scraper http://www.amazon.com/Lee-LEE01004-Un-du-Adhesive-Remover/dp/B002M1IKV6/ref=sr_1_cc_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1304447539&sr=1-2-catcorr and refill it with Grip Solvent (for re-gripping golf clubs), which is the same thing except $6.45 per quart from http://www.golfsmith.com/products/916A or $8.45 from http://www.amazon.com/Grip-Solvent-32oz/dp/B002EBX2YY/ref=sr_1_1?s=automotive&ie=UTF8&qid=1296253302&sr=1-1 instead of $6.40 per ounce.

For some sticky stuff (such as pine pitch on my car windshield), the only thing that works is acetone, on a frequently-renewed cheesecloth pad. It immediately penetrates any paper (at least if the surface is scratched), so it should work on a stubborn label. However, it's toxic and will catch fire in a blink. Use only out of doors standing upwind of the fumes.

Unfortunately, two of the best adhesive dissolvers, ether and carbon tetrachloride, have been illegal for years.

Edited by k43 (log)
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Lots of different answers because there are lots of different solutes and solvents. As we learned in Chem 101, "Like dissolves like."

One of my favorite solvents, that I had not seen mentioned is Alcohol. Denatured Alcohol from the home improvement store, or grain alcohol, or vodka if it's all you've got.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Acetone in small pastel bottles is called 'Nail Polish Remover'.

The acetone based stuff is usually in the yellow bottle.

Avoid the stuff with moisturizers added. The labels could care less.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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  • 2 weeks later...

For self-stick type labels, I've found patience to be an important thing. If I can get a start with a fingernail, and start pulling the label off slooowwwllllyyy, it will often come off with little adhesive left on the container. Pull it too fast, and the label will often start tearing, leaving a layer of paper-covered adhesive on the container.

But sometimes the paper is too weak for the adhesive, and tearing can't be avoided. Then I use paint thinner (but many of the other solvents mentioned above would probably work, too). I dip a Q-tip or pipe cleaner in the solvent, and apply that to the edge of the label. Once it get it started, I pull slowly, applying a little solvent from time to time along where the label and the container meet. Again, patience helps.

Little bits of adhesive left on the container can usually be rubbed off, or pulled off with tape or the label itself. If it's a glass container (or if you don't mind some abrasion of the container), a light abrasive such as Bon Ami or Lava soap will help in the removal of the last bits. Or sometimes if I've still got the paint thinner open, I'll just apply a little (a few drops is all it takes), let it soften the goo, and then wipe it off with a paper towel.

Labels applied with a hard adhesive, like most of those on wine bottles, will often come off after being soaked for a day or so, some much faster. If simple soaking doesn't work, then I add a little ammonia to the soaking water, which will soften some types of glue (but will sometimes bleach the label, which is not good if you're trying to save the label). Very hot water works on some adhesives; I lay a cloth over the label and pour near-boiling water over that. Sometimes the label will slip right off.

If all these things fail, then a razor blade scraper will usually do the job, maybe followed up with some Bon Ami or Lava soap or solvent to get the last bits off.

Dick in Northbrook, IL

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