The easiest way to remove beer labels from bottles

Removing beer labels

Go GreenAs a home brewer I have been recycling bottles long before being “green” was the “in” thing. Saving my bottles is second nature for me now. Often times, I’ve got so many bottles saved up in the garage and nothing ready to bottle, so I have to purge the empty bottles in the recycling bin at curbside. I know it’s unfortunate, but there’s only so much room for empties, and I don’t brew as often as I should. On the occasions that I have something in the fermenter that needs bottling, the first thing I need to do is remove the labels. And here’s the best way I’ve found to do that.

Things I’ve Tried

Over the years I’ve come across various ways to remove labels from beer bottles. I’ve tried a bunch of them with varying degrees of success. Below is a brief list of things I’ve tried that didn’t work out so well for me.

  • Chill and Steam

    Directions: Put your empty bottles in a freezer for a half hour, then put them in a steamy, humid room for another half hour to sweat off the labels.
    Results: My steamy room was my bathroom while I took an extra-long relaxing shower. Not sure if I got to the full 30 minutes as required, but I was in there for a very long time, and  the room was definitely full of steam. In fact, I was in there long enough for my fingers to get all pruned, so I thought that would be good enough. Labels didn’t budge, they looked a little sweaty, but weren’t ready to peel.

  • Hair Dryer

    Directions: Take your hair dryer and run it back and forth across the label for 5 minutes. Peel off the label with the aid of a razor blade.
    Results: Apparently my hair dryer isn’t hot enough, because after 5 minutes the labels just laughed at me in a mocking way. I had a brand new straight razor blade, and the labels said “Ha Ha!” in that Nelson from the Simpsons voice.

  • Bake and Peel

    Directions: Oven set to 350F, timer set for 10 minutes. Place the bottles on their sides, center rack, label up. Take out (using pot holders) and peel the label carefully with a razor while the glue is still hot.
    Results: Apparently timing is everything with this method, because I’ve read that folks have great success when they get the glue at just the right melting temp from the oven. I have no patience for that, and my experiment failed, big time. Label was extra crispy, but still attached to the bottle needing further methods of extraction.

What works for me

I’ve found that Baking Soda and Water works the best for me. It’s easy, cost-effective, and doesn’t require lots of skill.

  • Baking soda and water

    Directions: One TBSP baking soda for every 2 cups water, soak for 30 minutes
    Results: I buy my baking soda at Costco, so it’s very inexpensive. I also tend to leave it overnight and check in the morning, rather than checking back in 30 minutes. I usually find the labels floating in the morning. No peeling required. 1/2 Cup Baking Soda / 1 Gallon water. Easy peezy.

So what works for you?

Leave us a comment if you have a label stripping method that works. Cheers!

3 thoughts on “The easiest way to remove beer labels from bottles

  1. I was soaking my bottles overnight, now I’ll add baking soda. On a side note, I find some beers are more friendly to homebrewers then others. So far, I think Bell’s is the most friendly – between labels that fall off in a short soak in water, to allowing yeast to be harvested from their beer. I love them now.

  2. I agree that some labels are easier to remove than others. I tend to drink a lot of Lagunitas and Sierra Nevada brews and both of those labels fall right off with this method. Unfortunately, Bells isn’t distributed here in California, http://www.bellsbeer.com/brands/brand-finder/
    Looks like I’d have to take a trip to Arizona to get my hands on some Bell’s. Hmm… maybe my next home brew should be an Oberon clone?

  3. I can’t believe you’ve overlooked the most obvious one, but you have come close. This should be done prior to consumption. Place your unopened bottles in a cooler. Fill with ice. Allow to chill until at least a 70/30 ice/water ratio is achieved. Start drinking and peeling. The more you drink the easier they peel.

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