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effective way to remove labels from beer bottles

Is there one?
Was drinking some of Lagunitas Freak Out Stereo Ale and found out the brewery is planning on doing a bunch of Zappa-inspired beers (scary I know) and want to keep the labels.

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  1. Try soaking the bottle in water, or anything to make the bottle "sweat" will remove the label

    1. Keep them moist by spraying down with windex until they peel off or soak in soapy warm water. Some are harder to remove than others. If its the sticker variety (not just a glued label), they can be peeled off in whole without soaking if you are very careful not to let the adhesive peel away from the paper as you are peeling it away from the bottle.

      I know saoking in PBW (powdered brewery wash)solution takes them right off in about 15 minutes, but unless you visit a homebrew shop, you probably won't be able to find it.

      1. I used to *try* and save my wine labels years ago with varying degrees of luck.

        I've never tried Labeloff (by the time this came out, I had stopped trying to save labels), but it might be worth a try.


        1. The best way to do it, which is how everyone does it that homebrews beer to remove labels, is to soak the bottle in a solution of warm water and ammonia. Make sure you soak it for like an hour. it will just slide off. Works for most labels, but it doesn't work well for labels that are made of plastic or metallic.

          1 Reply
          1. re: deldredge

            I tried this and it worked with varying degrees of success. After a couple hours, the hitachino label came right off; big hole (montana) label ripped; and the lagunitas label hasn't been budging at all when I test it, and it's been about 12 hours now for that one.
            i'm saving the most important one until i'm confident, but it looks like it's all highly dependent on the brewery so you can't figure out the best method until afterwards.

          2. Soaking sometimes leave plain paper labels looking pretty sad. So, unless you're the type of collector who only wants to save stuff from beer bottles you've actually consumed, often a brewery will be happy to send you some labels if you send a SASE or, in other cases, they'll gladly sell you a package/set of labels for a nominal amount, as long as the demand doesn't overwhelm them.

            There's also a huge label collecting segment of most breweriana groups (many collectors "run out of room" and switch to labels after years of displaying bottles, cans, signs, kegs, etc...).

            The Lagunitas website has a phone number for their "store"- maybe you can make a deal with them over the phone to send you some unused labels for a set amount.

            2 Replies
            1. re: JessKidden

              very nice recommendations, all of them. I'll try the ammonia/ warm soak this weekend, and also give lagunitas a ring.
              Thank you!

              1. re: JessKidden

                Some breweries are happy to reply to label requests; I would include a SASE if I asked for a label.

              2. I soak in water. That always works for me. Then carefully remove and apply to Watercolour paper (absorbant heavy bonded paper) and pres with a weight (a flat bottomed frying pan works). The label then dries on and adhears very well. I then punch holes in the paper, put in a 3-ring binder and write my comments on the back. I have a nice wine binder now (it does also include beers and spirits -- so those labels come off too).

                1. The best method is to get a hair dryer and heat it up till it's scortching hot, get a razor and peel an edge and keep going while it is hot. Takes time but works like a charm

                  1. Washing soda and water. Arm and Hammer makes washing soda (or used to, anyway, back when we were making beer) and a soak with that makes the labels slide right off.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Snackish

                      If you are a planner, leave your bottles out in the sun rain wind and snow for the winter... but make sure if it's wine you keep the old corks in... and the beer bottles upside down so they don't fill with water, freeze and break...I live in washington,the sun and the rain takes care of or at least loosens the glue on paper labels in about 4 months. i found synthetic steel wool in warm lightly soaped water finishes them up nicely ~best regards..

                    2. i collect wine bottle labels as well as beer labels. i used to use labelsaver, which was heavy plastic with an adhesive on one side. that seemed expensive after a while and now i use a high end clear packing tape. you need a dry label for this to work. cover the entire label with a piece of tape. make sure that the tape adheres well by scraping a pen or pencil up and down the label, pressing the tape into the label. slowly lift up one side of the tape, when you get to the label "start" it by scraping off the label with a razor blade, once the label is started it should peel up. the paper of the label will split, leaving the side with the adhesive on the bottle, and the side with the printing protected by the tape.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Lenox637

                        This is how I do it (mostly), too. I am not confident enough with my razor skills to not presoak the label first, though. Strapping tape will adhere to anything, though, so I don't worry too much about getting all the moisture out of the label. If the label moves freely, I slide it off in one piece and dry it that way. If it remains "secure" to my touch then I place the tape on the front and work it until I have success. I've only had problems with this method once (knock on Formica and particle board) and the glue the vinter used was designed by a sadist anyway.

                      2. I wish I could remember the urban legend from my teen days. It was either if the guy could peel his label off whole, he'd have some success with his young lady that night, or it might have been vice-versa. Anyone else remember this?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: KevinB

                          I do, and was just about to chime in on that very memory. Back in my glory days of bar hopping, they were called **** tickets. The smaller neck label was called a variation on that theme.

                        2. I lived in a Center City Philadelphia 4th floor walkup during the mid to late 90s. It was at this time that I first became curious about beer. So much so that I started to decorate the refrigerator with the beer labels I'd collected. First I covered the freezer door, then the refrigerator door and finally the side above the stove. Labels I recall clearly are Celis White and Abbey deRocs. I'm sure that a few Chimay labels were on there too. I miss that apartment. Anyway, my technique was to soak the bottles in soapy water overnight. If I was lucky they'd be floating on the surface for me the next morning. But often I'd have to resort to a gentle pick at the perimeter to liberate the more stubborn ones. When I finally moved out it was easy yet difficult to remove the labels. I mean they came right off but removing them symbolized to me a transition in my life finally away from post college years to adulthood.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Chinon00

                            It varies from brand to brand. I've been trying to get a label off of one of the bottles of my Harvestoun old Engine Oil every time I use a bottle (its sort of a protective method the stuffs gone through at least three lable designs and two different breweries since I bumped into it. I've yet to get a label off. hot water and soap do nothing to the label glue and try to lift and edge just causes the label to disinthergrate. I even tried a bottle of label remover (a petroleum product design specificaly to temporarly unstick label glue-you can sometimes find it at the Container store) ant it wont make the glue loosen. I don't know what the Harveston brewery is useing to glue thier labes on but it seems undissolvable.

                          2. Place in oven, bake at 200 for about 15 minutes or so. (Letting it go longer shouldn't hurt anything; you're not going to reach the ignition point of the labels, but don't leave it for hours.) CAREFUL, very hot obviously! But you want to hold the bottle with some kind of potholder, then peel the label off while it's hot. This is much more reliable than any soaking we've tried. The label will even retain some stickiness, so when you peel it off you'll need something to stick it on. We do batches at once with wine bottles then temporarily stick the labels on the edge of the countertop (laminate) until ready to stick them on paper or whatever.

                            1. I was trying to get labels off the Sam Adams bottles so I could use them for homebrewing. These are by far the hardest labels to remove, they use some sort of super glue. Even after soaking forever with different solutions they struggled to come off. Anyway a friend of my told me that the BEST thing to use is OXY CLEAN and boy was he right. Just soak them in warm water and add OXY Clean and BAM! within a 1/2hr they are melting off the bottles. Thanks Billy Mays :)

                              1. This method has always worked for me on removing labels from bottles:

                                Saturate a paper towel in your dishwater. Lightly wring it out - you want it wet and soapy, but not dripping. Lay it over the label. Place the bottle in a plastic bag (zip-type or grocery type will work). Remove excess air. Leave overnight. 90% of the time the label will peel right off the next day. There will often be enough stick-um left to adhere the saved label to a piece of paper. If the label doesn't come off easily, just repeat the process for another night.

                                1. I used to own a used record store. I took off price stickers and such from album covers using lighter fluid; the kind you use for cigarette lighters. I would apply a small amount of fluid to the top of the sticker let it soak only briefly then remove the label. This left the album cover undamaged and unstained but seemed to dissolve the glue. It may work in this case as well.

                                  1. after much experimenting, i have found the sure fire best method to get these labels off the bottle.

                                    youll need a bucket, or a vessel to soak in (sink, tub, etc), baking soda, and hot water.

                                    fill each bottle up with the hottest water you can, placing the cap back on if possible to keep the heat in. no need for boiling hot water, just hot from the tap will work.

                                    pour a generous amount of baking soda in to your bucket.

                                    place all the bottles in the bucket and fill with same hot water.

                                    allow to soak overnight.

                                    depending on the condition of the labels, they will basically fall off the next morning. the baking soda and hot water dissolves a good portion of the glue.

                                    1. Hey I got a great video showing how to easily remove labels and glue residue here: