How to Remove a Wine Label (or Not)

Did you know that 45.4 percent of all the data currently taking up space on Web servers around the world consists of instructions on how to remove a wine label from a bottle? OK, that’s an exaggeration, but there sure is no shortage of advice out there.

DIY experts ranging from Martha Stewart to Popular Mechanics have weighed in. The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have their own takes. A wine blogger has made a goofy demonstration video. There are even commercially available products!

What do we recommend?

Well, it depends on what your ultimate intention might be – whether you’re looking to make use of the bottle, or the label.

For upcycling purposes, you don’t have to worry about preserving the label. You just want a nice clean bottle, label be damned.

Soaking the bottle in a water-ammonia solution was a winner in tests done by Popular Mechanics: “Use enough ammonia and the label will just dissolve.” But ammonia, as the magazine notes, is nasty stuff, and we’d understand if you want to avoid it. Plus, after hearing about the experience of Debbie, a dedicated protea upcycler, we suspect ammonia could be a bad fit for our bottles.

Debbie used a commonly recommended and seemingly less toxic solution of water, vinegar and dish soap, and look what it did to her bottle:

bad bottle

As you can see, the solution didn’t get the label off especially well, and worse yet, ate away at the design painted on the bottle – the very thing that makes a protea bottle so special!

So instead, after soaking your bottle in plain hot water for a half-hour or so, gently peel what you can off the bottle. Even if a lot of your label comes off, you’ll still have glue residue to contend with – we can’t deny it, the glue is stubborn. But Debbie was able to rub away what remained by applying some vegetable oil and scrubbing with a paper towel.

If you’re looking to preserve the label for a scrap book or tasting-notes compilation, the methods available break down into two main camps – wet and dry. We’ve long enjoyed pretty good success with steam, simply holding the bottle above a kettle spout at slow boil. And that was our preferred method until we saw Wine Folly’s video, the one we linked to above. Goofy, yes, but it works!

A key to the technique is that she heats the bottle in a 200-degree oven, not the 350-degree oven that Popular Mechanics tried; this just might be the perfect temperature that loosens the glue while not overheating it and creating a sticky mess.

Got your own method that’s foolproof? Let us know about it, in the comments here or on our Facebook page. Or check out these other crafting tips and tricks:

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