Are you looking for a cost-effective way to bottle your homebrew? While you can just buy new bottles, recycling old ones is a better option. Not only is it good for your pocket but the environment too. Talk about a win-win!
The reality though is that cleaning beer bottles and taking the labels off requires a bit of time, patience, and trial and error. We’ve tried many methods—some have worked and others haven’t. In this article, we’ll show you several ways to remove beer bottle labels based on what has worked for us.
So, without further ado let us get started!
Tools and Supplies To Remove Beer Bottle Labels
You will need the following tools and supplies to get started:
- Stainless steel wool
- Baking soda
- Sta San
- Powdered Brewery Wash (PBW)
- Paper towel or dish towel
- Safety gear- gloves, mask, googles
Ways To Remove Beer Bottle Labels
Try one or more of these methods to remove the labels on your beer bottles. Some methods might work faster than others depending on the type of paper and the glue used to stick the label. So, do not be discouraged if the first method you try doesn’t give you the results you were expecting—simply move on to the next one.
1. Soak bottles in warm soapy water
The easiest way to rip off labels on bottles is to soak them in hot water for a couple of hours to a few days. The trick is to fully submerge the bottles in water to really break down the paper label.
Easily peel-able labels will fall right off the bottle on their own and your only job would be to slightly scrub down the bottles to remove the specks of the label that are left clinging on the bottle.
2. Clean using OxiClean
Sometimes, the labels are firmly glued to the glass bottle and more powerful action is required to get rid of them. Our go-to solution for removing stubborn beer bottle labels is OxiClean.
OxiClean is a super popular dishwashing soap that not only has the power to cut through grease and stains but also loosen the tough adhesive.
To get started, fill your kitchen sink with warm water and add in a tablespoon of OxiClean. Give the solution a good mix to dissolve the powder. We recommend checking out this explainer on how best to do this process.
Next, place the bottles in the OxiClean solution. Don’t overcrowd the sink—just put enough bottles that will easily submerge and also give you space for scrubbing if necessary. Allow the bottles to soak for about 60 minutes.
Some labels might completely come undone while others will only partially peel away. Use steel wool or another scrubber to scrape off the remaining labels and the glue on the bottles.
Once you remove all the glue and the entire label, rinse each bottle under warm water a couple of times. Then, wipe down the bottle and set it aside to drain. Repeat this process with the remaining bottles.
3. Add baking powder to the water
For mildly stubborn labels, you can substitute dishwashing soap with baking powder or soda bicarbonate. The reaction between the water and baking soda is intense enough to loosen the glue holding the labels to the bottles.
Add 16 tablespoons of baking soda to each gallon of water. Submerge the bottles in the water and soak for 20 to 30 minutes. For an effective soak, make sure that the water fully covers the bottles.
The labels should easily lift off the bottle. Scrub off any remaining parts of the labels and then, give the bottles a nice rinse.
4. Use Powdered Brewery Wash
Powdered brewery wash (PBW) is an alkali cleaner that was specifically developed for cleaning glass bottles and jars. PBW is a great choice for removing screen-printed labels, which can be particularly difficult to get rid of.
To get started, add one or two ounces of PBW per gallon of water. Then soak your beer bottles in the solution overnight. By the time you come around to cleaning your bottles, much of the labels would have peeled off on their own. Still, you might have to do a bit of scrubbing to come out with completely clean beer bottles.
5. Soak Bottles in a Solution of Sta San
Sta San is a sanitizer and cleaning solution popular among home and commercial brewers. Being an acid, it tends to be stronger and more effective than the milder baking soda or Oxiclean at removing bottle labels.
Sta San is made from phosphoric acid but it is odorless and stainless and it will likely affect the aroma and taste of your beer.
Another pro of using this solution is that when mixed with water and used as a soaking solution, it can remain effective for further use for up to 4 days when stored in a sealed container as long as it is at pH 3 or lower. A little Sta San goes a long way and this cleaning agent is safe for humans and the environment too.
To remove beer bottle labels using Sta San, add half a cup to a gallon of water. Place the bottles in the solution and wait for about 30 minutes. If necessary, clean the bottles to remove any leftover labels. Then, rinse thoroughly.
6. Get Rid of Industrial Strength Labels Using Ammonia
If dishwashing soap, baking soda, Sta San, and even PBW do not help to loosen the labels on your beer bottles, you might need to use something stronger: ammonia.
Ammonia is safe to use at home but it is still a powerful and harsh chemical so you need to be extremely careful with it. Wear protective gloves, goggles, and a facemask when handling this chemical to avoid burns or gassing yourself. You should also work in a well-ventilated area, preferably outdoors, for extra caution.
When you have tried everything to remove the labels and nothing seems to work, it might be tempting to dump the bottles in large quantities of ammonia. But, in reality, a little of this chemical goes a long way.
To get started, fill a medium-sized bucket with water. Then, add half a cup of ammonia to the water. Next, submerge the beer bottles in the ammonia solution and cover the bucket. Allow the bottles to soak for 30 to 60 minutes to allow the ammonia to do its job.
After the waiting time, take the lid off the bucket. By this time, those stubborn labels will have dissolved! That is how powerful the ammonia solution is. In fact, unlike the other methods, you might not even need to scrub the bottles after soaking them in this solution.
Take your time to thoroughly clean the bottles. Rinse them at least thrice to ensure that no trace of ammonia is left behind on the bottles you will use to store your homebrew.
- Aim for efficiency
Check the type of labels that are on your bottles before attempting to remove them. This will save you from a lot of trial and error because you will know whether to use a mild or stronger solution to remove as much of the labels as possible.
Keep in mind that European beer bottle labels are generally less stubborn than American ones—so you want to use the most efficient method depending on the type of labels you are dealing with.
- Minimize messes
Whichever method you use to remove beer bottle labels, chances are good that you will end up scrubbing the bottles to get rid of the remaining glue and any pieces of the label. Avoid scrubbing bottles in your sink because the paper labels will end up blocking your drainage and will cause a bigger problem.
For a less messy cleaning process, place something like a trash bag on the counter next to the sink and use this surface to scrub the bottles on. You can then discard the trash bag with the scrubbings.
- Try the dishwasher
Consider running the bottles through a soap-free cycle in the dishwasher. Manual rinsing is generally enough but for super clean and sparkling bottles, we recommend running them in a dishwashing machine.
Say Goodbye To Stubborn Beer Bottle Labels
Some people don’t mind a hodgepodge of bottles in their fridge or pantry but if you want a clean start for your beer, so to speak, you will have to learn how to remove beer bottle labels like a pro. Reusing beer bottles is a smart way to store your homebrew. It will not cost you much and you will also be minimizing your carbon footprint.
As you can see from our guide, removing labels stuck on glass bottles is not the easiest thing to do but with a bit of patience and elbow grease, you should be able to get those pesky labels off and come out with clean bottles for your brew.
Keep in mind the tips we have provided and sooner rather later, you will get the hang of it.