|Once more unto the breech...|
Removing labels from beer bottles can be the most frustrating exercise in the world right?
What if I told you I've learnt the secret of easily removing those damn sticky labels.
You'd be thinking I pulling your leg.
I'm not though.
I've done the research. I've done the experiments. I have scrubbed labels. I have licked labels. I have oxicleaned and I have used my damn finger nails to get those last stubborn bits of residue off. I have also pulled labels off completely intact in one move.
So much so, I hate beer labels.
But, due to my work, for you dear home brewer, I've got 6 or maybe 7 tricks and tips on removing beer labels from bottles. They are not magical fixes but they sure make things a lot easier and less frustrating.
The good old overnight soak
The first thing you need to do is accept that life is like a box of shitty beer labels, you never know and some of them are as stubborn as your mother in law after a couple of gins. Some labels will simply come off after a 24 hour soak in cold water. Others will not even soften after three weeks in the bucket.
That's just the way is. Accept it, and you will feel so much better for it.
Yes, the most simple way to remove a beer label is to let the glass bottle soak in a bucket or tub overnight. Fully submerged. If you get a beer label that's willing to soak up water and with a glue that dissolves easily enough, there's good odds you will be able to pull the whole label off from the bottle 100 percent intact and leaving no residue.
Such occasions are rare and must be celebrated by sharing your home brew with your neighbours and workmates.
Baking soda is not just for making hokey pokey
But if the overnight soak doesn't float your label off intact, you might want to try baking soda. Baking soda is like a magical cooking ingredient that housewives from back in the day is also good for using as toothpaste and removing axel grease.
Baking soda is actually a handy chemical called sodium bicarbonate and it's true and time tested remedy - it will help remove labels. With your soak, add in a few table spoons of the soda, stir and leave to soak for 24 hours.
If there is some residue after removing the label, a quick scrub with a steel wool or plastic kitchen scrubber (think 3M cleaners) should do the trick.
Did you ever see Robocob?
The first one, not the shitty remake. I saw that as a young lad and one scene that stuck with me forever was when one of the bad guy's henchmen gets his comeuppance with a bath of toxic waste.
It melts his skin right off!
Like sucking chicken of a slow cooked chicken drum.
And see as that's how we really would like our labels to come off, let's rachet the solution up.
It's a hydrogen and nitrogen compound (NH3 is the scientific name) and it dissolve your label like it was human flesh bathed in toxic waste. Be warned though, ammonia is a HARSH chemical as it is very caustic. Don't get it on you or inhale it and we suggest your do the soak outside.
It doesn't do anything to the glass bottle though, so it's a viable trick.
Never mix it with bleach as a chemical reaction will occur, exposing you to a poisonous gas.
So maybe only try to use ammonia if you have the most stubborn of beer bottle labels. Before using the bottles you will need to thoroughly rinse them in plenty of water.
And then rinse again just to be sure.
So if the suggestion above scared you, let's slow down and have a think about some other chemical agents that might be handy.
Have you ever heard of Oxiclean?
It's a massively popular laundry cleaner / stain remover. It's good because it makes whites whiter and brighter brighter or something. Maybe it's good because one of the active ingredients in OxiClean is sodium percarbonate.
This wonder chemical is an adduct of sodium carbonate and hydrogen peroxide, the active ingredients of OxiClean and many other popular laundry soakers.
I typically use sodium percarbonate all the time and this is the actual truth, about an hour ago I was adding sodium percarbonate to a tub of beer bottles that needed the labels removed. As I was standing outside in the dark, garden hose in hand I thought, you know, it would probably be a good idea make a good post about how to remove beer labels).
So, I personally can vouch for using sodium percarbonate to remove beer labels.
It still can be a dog though. If you get a stubborn beer label, you're going to need to use some elbow grease.
You could also try using hot steam from a kettle. We haven't done this but we think this idea would probably work if given enough time. If you had to do twenty bottles, it wouldn't be worth the energy.
PBW - Powdered Brewery Wash
This cleaning product is widely used in commercial breweries and microbreweries a like but countless home brewers across the country have twigged that they can use it for cleaning their own brewing equipment. Because PBW is so strong it will also make short work of beer labels as well. Give it a soak overnight and you might just be surprised at how easy it will be to get the labels off.
So in summary here's the ways you can remove beer labels:
- Overnight soak in water
- Baking soda
- Caustic soda or ammonia
- Oxy Clean or sodium percarbonate or ordinary laundry soak
- Powdered Brewery Wash
You could also try using a jet blaster but you'd need to be able to securely hold the bottles!
These tricks also work just as well for wine bottles but you will have to be prepared to get in there and do some scrubbing on those stuborn labels, it's just a fact of life.