Ask anyone who’s ever attempted to remove any kind of label, inkjet labels included, from a jam jar, a DVD cover, a glass ornament or any other surface application and they will quickly share with you their frustrations of torn label pieces, leftover residue and sticky gunk covered fingertips.
While there is no exact science behind the removal of self-adhesive labels, there are a few things that you can try to make the process as painless (and mess free) as possible.
How to remove self-adhesive labels and the residue they leave behind
When it comes to label removal, people are willing to try just about everything. Whether that means picking it off with a fingernail, carefully scraping at it with a kitchen knife, or scrubbing it off with a little washing up liquid and a wire brush. Despite all those efforts, bits of the label and remnants of the adhesive used to make it stick often remain. The most effective methods of removing self-adhesive labels include: the application of heat; soaking the label in warm water; using chemicals to dissolve the adhesive.
1. The application of heat
The easiest, and most commonly used, method of label removal is the application of heat. The idea here is to apply carefully the heat of a warm air hair dryer to the label in order to cause the adhesive to melt. Once the adhesive has warmed up, it should be possible to slowly peel off the label. In most situations, this can be done without leaving any sticky residue behind. However, if you do find that residue remains after you’ve removed the label; simply use a piece of strong cello tape to remove whatever residue is left over.
2. Soaking the label in warm water
The next most common method of label removal, and the one you’ve likely seen your mum use when trying to remove pesky labels from her jam jars, involves soaking the label in a bath of warm water for at least 10 minutes. Since most labels rely on water based acrylic adhesives, heat and water will help to expedite the removal process. This method of label removal often leaves a sticky residue behind. However, since the residue that is left behind is normally bits of paper and some glue, it is easy to simply rub this off with your fingertips or a coarse sponge.
3. Using chemicals to dissolve the adhesive
If all else fails, it is possible to remove label adhesive with the assistance of chemicals. This can be particularly useful for paper labels. Soaking the label in a solvent like vinegar, white spirit, WD40 or even regular cigarette lighter fluid can help to make label removal easier by softening the adhesive and allowing the label to be cleanly picked off. If you do decide to use harsh chemicals or solvents to remove a label, remember to carefully test the solvent on an unseen area of the surface to ensure that the chemical will not cause damage to materials, paints, or other areas of the surface.
After you’ve removed the label, if you’ve found that you’ve not been able to remove the entire residue, rubbing the surface with isopropyl alcohol or spirits like Vodka can help to remove any tacky glue spots left behind.
As a very last resort, and only if all else fails, you can try to remove especially stubborn labels with the help of acetone. However, it is important to note that doing so will likely damage the surface of whatever the label was applied to.