Before discarding a perfectly good plastic container because it still has a label on it, here are a number of ways to remove the label and save the plastic container.
An Ounce of Prevention
Before you apply a label, the best way to prevent this kind of a problem is simply to use a better label. The 1 Stik food labeling system uses proprietary multipurpose adhesive labels which can be applied to all manner of surfaces in hot, cold, and even wet environments yet the label can still be removed without leaving any sticky residue.
The best way to get a label off is to start off with a better label, and the 1 Stik can fit your requirements. You won’t have any more problems getting labels off.
Get Labels off Plastic Containers the Easy Way
As is the case with most kinds of glue, heat acts to melt the glue. Be careful not to overdo it, though, or you’ll melt the plastic as well. Therefore a practical solution is an ordinary hair dryer set on ‘warm’.
As for soaking in hot water, that will often just get the surface of the label off but not the glue underneath it. So if you try the hot water method, you might want to add one of the following methods as well.
If heat is not a practical solution (for example, for a very large label), then you might consider using eucalyptus oil with a cotton ball or a rag or a paper towel. Eucalyptus oil varies in price but around $1 – $2 per ounce is pretty standard.
Shortening or Cooking Oil
Yes, really! Try a solid at room temperature type of shortening like you would for baking. Don’t have shortening? Then try cooking oil (although be aware that it can be messier). Just apply it to the label – and try to really get under the edges – and leave it for several hours or overnight. As with the eucalyptus oil, wipe away any residue with a paper towel or the like.
Note that for cooking oil, you may need to reapply it, as it does not stay in one place like solid vegetable shortening does. However, you can solve this minor problem by instead making a paste using baking soda.
Another trick is to use that old barbecue favorite, lighter fluid. Rub it on the label with a paper towel and allow it to evaporate. It can also help to remove ink residue. Of course, do not smoke around lighter fluid, and always be sure to store it responsibly.
You can also try rubbing alcohol. If you want a more elegant and convenient solution, try alcohol prep pads like you would use before applying an adhesive bandage. As with lighter fluid, be careful not to use alcohol around an open flame.
Hairspray, that old standby for removing ink from fabric, can also take adhesive labels off of plastic containers. Hairspray is another product which should not be used around fire or flame.
Nail Polish Remover
The main ingredient in most brands of nail polish remover is acetone. Much like with alcohol, you can purchase it in convenient pads if you prefer. This is another flammable product so don’t smoke or use it near an open flame. Nail polish remover also has a rather strong smell, so you might want to open a window or start a fan or otherwise air out the room you use it in. Or better yet, use it outside if you can.
Get those old labels off and save the planet by keeping your plastic containers!