When I started my zero waste journey glass jars were one of the items I invested in right away. They have so many purposes: canning, storing food in the refrigerator, getting coffee to-go, storing food in the freezer, bringing home leftovers from restaurants, storing food in the pantry.
You get the idea.
I’m a sucker for a good jar, and that isn’t limited to new ones from the store. I did originally buy 2 cases of wide mouth mason jars (and I am so glad I did), but the majority of my collection comes from jars I get secondhand or ones that I bought full of food (mostly peanut butter or artichoke hearts) at the store and have been reusing since.
The one issue I have with reusing jars is the labels. Some can be easily removed with soap and water but others can be almost impossible to remove and even once the label is gone that glue can stay on the jar forever making it icky to look at and touch. An easy way to deal with this issue would to just leave the labels on as is (and that is definitely an option), but I like the look of clean glass.
There is something so uniform about it even if all the jars are mismatched. And because I enjoy that look I remove the labels off my jars. Here’s how:
The BEFORE picture:
Step 1: Remove Labels
I know, this is a tutorial on how to remove labels, so just saying “remove them” isn’t as helpful as you were hoping. But the first step really is removing the label. The top paper or plastic layer that is. The glue underneath requires a couple more steps.
Some labels just peal off easy peasy:
But some require a bit more work. If you are having trouble getting a label off, try soaking it for 30 minutes – 1 hour in hot water. I like to use a bowl so that I don’t need to fill my sink up all the way just for a couple jars.
If the label is still being stubborn try scraping it with your thumbnail or, in really tricky cases, try using a butter knife to scrape or leave the stubborn pieces and just jump to step 2. The paste that I apply tends to remove small pieces of stuck on label just fine.
Step 2: Make Paste
Once your jars are label free (or almost label free), but still covered in glue, it’s time to make the paste that will get that glue off. To do this combine baking soda and a liquid oil (I use sunflower oil). I don’t measure how much I put it, but I add enough of each to make a thick, yet spreadable paste. The consistency is similar to that of a very thick glaze.
Step 3: Apply Paste
Apply a nice thick layer of paste over all sticky areas, and let it sit. I usually wait at least 30 minutes, but I’m doubting there is any magic to that number.
Step 4: Scrub!
I use a natural bristle brush to scrub my jars thoroughly. If I’m doing multiple jars at once, I rinse my brush out with hot soapy water in between each. I find this helps the brush actually scrub off the glue, instead of becoming gummed up with glue and oil.
Step 5: Wash Jars
Once your jars have been scrubbed, give them a quick wash with hot water and soap to remove the baking soda and oil mixture.
The AFTER picture:
Once your jars are clean and dry they are ready to use.
Be sure to wash out your brush and any bowl you used right away. The glue from the jars gets harder to wash away if you leave it in your scrub brush.