How To Remove Lables From Wine Bottles

Method #1: Soak and scrape

I know I’m not the only home winemaker who cleans and reuses commercial wine bottles, but the labels on these bottles are getting more stubborn every year. I like to use the “soak and scrape” method. The first step, immersing the bottles in water and Oxiclean, is part of my normal cleaning process. Sometimes the label comes right off, saving me the trouble, but if not it’s easier to scrape off after a good soak. In the second step, I get a good grip on the bottle so that it cant move, then I use a scraper (and ice scraper would work, but I actually use a plastic ruler) to remove the label.

Method #2: Buy wine with easily removed labels:

If you do this often enough, you’ll begin to notice that some labels always come off easily. On the other hand, some wineries act as if the fate of the planet depends on their labels not coming off for the next 10,000 years. I don’t want to single out Columbia Crest by name, but when I buy their wine, I do so knowing that I won’t get a reusable bottle out of the deal. There was a time when I would switch from ruler to ice scraper, from ice scraper to razor blade, and from razor blade to steel wool to get every last label off of every last bottle. These days, some wine bottles end up in the recycle bin again. I also buy Charles Shaw, yep that’s Trader Joe’s “Three Buck Chuck”, more often. Ok, nobody is going to gush about the complexity or refinement of the wine, but it’s not half bad and the labels come right off after a good soak!

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13 thoughts on “How To Remove Lables From Wine Bottles

  1. jim purdy

    I’m quite new at making wine from scratch but it’s fun and ‘the price is right’.
    About labels, you are soooo right. I get my empties from the recycler and I pick out the good ones, those that fit in a normal case and with labels that soak off. I have a grape/blueberry on the go now that is hi hi in alcohol, for whatever reason…………….

  2. Erroll Post author

    Hello Jim,

    Thanks for stopping by, and let me know how the grape/blueberry turns out!


  3. John

    I personally use a simple soaking in HOT water (maybe 2-4 minutes), followed by a thorough scraping with a razor blade. This method proves most effective with labels on my wife’s and my favorite commercial wine, Fetzer’s Gewurtztraminer, labels. The wine is good, fairly inexpensive, and the labels come right off which makes for ease of re-use. What more can a winemaking sot like myself ask for?

    – John

  4. Misha L. Gray

    I work in a food processing plant. I also make homemade wines and beer. I have been on my job now for 9 years and I recieve Oils, Corn and Corn meal into our facility. I have to get oil samples. We use specimen cups like you get when the doctor tells you go to the bathroom and give a specimen. When the oil (food grade oils) get onto the lables it makes them very soft and very easy to peel off. I thought would this work with a wine bottle. It worked but you have to let it sit a few days before you peel the labels. The oil soaks into the labels and makes glue soften up. Sometimes you can just peel them right away. If you are going to do this, it is messy and use a box to sit bottles on and then wash in the dishwasher to get all oil off bottles.

  5. Chris

    We like to save our labels (we’ve so far covered a coffee and end table in wine label collage), so we use a method that is a little more tedious but have had 90%+ success rate.

    Empty bottles are filled using a funnel above label height with almost boiling water. Let this sit 3-4 minutes and most labels will peel off quiet easily. Use gloves or a heavy towel to hold bottle because it’ll be hot.

    Once the label is gone, and the bottle is empty and cool, removing the glue left behind it pretty simple with a product called Goo-be-gone. I found a bottle of orange gel Goo-be-gone at Fred Meyers and it has lasted a year or so.

  6. Erroll Post author

    Hello Chris,

    It makes sense that the heat would soften the adhesive behind the label, but I never thought of that. Thanks for the tip!


  7. Ellen

    My new favorite method: on the suggestion of a friend who works in the food industry, I tried hot-steaming some really gross used wine bottles by simply putting them in my dishwasher on a hot cycle (without detergent – just hot water). About half-way through the cycle, I started pulling out a couple at a time. A lot of the labels just fell right off from the steam, and even the ones that I had to scrape came off extremely easily – and, because the glue had been heated, it was easy to completely remove using a few swipes of a scrubby pad. Also, because the gunk on the inside of the bottles had been heated, it just flew right off when I jet-blasted them. I could hardly believe how easy and quick this whole process was. I had gotten the wine bottles from another friend who’d never cleaned them after using and they’d been sitting in his garage for several years – I wasn’t even sure they could be salvaged but now they are as good as new. One important note though: because a lot of the labels just fall off, don’t let the washer run all the way through the cycle and check the washer when you’re done because labels may have fallen off inside.

  8. Justin

    I know this article is a little old, but I figured I would reply in case any one else comes across this. I was trying to figure out how to get the residual glue off a Columbia Crest bottle, and found was a product called De-solv-it works wonders, just squirted some on, let it sit for about 30 seconds, and it scrubbed right off. For most labels however, use washing soda. You can make it (just bake a baking soda at 400 for an hour) or buy it. Mix it with water and soak the bottles, the labels will fall right off.

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