As someone on a tight budget who likes to save space and neatly organize, I often find myself making use of glass jars and bottles from store bought foods such as jelly or salad dressing. Eventually, I even found uses for plastic containers as well, but overall the worst part about wanting to use these containers is getting the labels off. Of course you can leave them on, but there may be confusion as to what is inside and of course they look much nicer with your own labels or even blank. Over the years I have tried every method I could come across and eventually came up with the one that works best for me.
There are tons of reasons to use glass over plastic, from reducing the chemicals (including BPA) leached into your foods, storage of home made foods, ease of cleaning (glass isn’t going to turn spaghetti-sauce-orange like plastic will) and let’s be honest, it looks a heck of a lot nicer.
BPA is a compound in common plastics which is an endocrine disruptor that mimics estrogen and leads to negative health effects including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, infertility, and developmental problems.
The key to removing labels on glass is soak, soak, soak. No matter how well those labels are on there a good soak in hot water will likely get them off. For some containers with lower tack adhesive, this is the only step you need. The labels will likely slide off after 15 minutes soaking in hot water.
For those with higher tack adhesive, you’ll need a little more help. If the labels don’t easily slide off after 15 minutes, leave them soaking overnight, sometimes that step alone is enough to do it. If that doesn’t take care of it, you’re now in a good position to get the rest off. Using a scraper, knife or razor bladepush any remaining label and adhesive off. Once the label is off, coat the area with dish soap, scrub and rinse. Repeat the scraping and soaping as necessary until the glass feels clean (it will squeak when you rub your fingers against it). You can then wash it as normal.
Don’t put items with labels in your dishwasher, the adhesive can clog your cleaning arms and result in poor performance or costly repairs.
There are a lot of reasons to avoid re-using plastic bottles for food items, such a BPA and other chemicals that can be leached into your food. However, plastic bottles can make great storage containers for things you don’t eat such as paint, cosmetics, soaps, lotions, craft supplies, garden supplies, etc. While using identical re-purposed bottles can make things more organized and look neater, the most compelling reason to re-use/re-purpse plastic bottles is to keep them out of the landfill.
My two favorite uses for plastic bottles are storing custom colors of paint, glaze, home made chalkboard paint (post coming soon on that and it doesn’t use grout!). One of the most unexpected uses was storing medications. Buying your everyday medications in bulk or in the store brand often leaves you with boxes 10 times the size needed to store those pills. While some of the bulk meds come in bottles, they often give you a bottle twice the size of what it contains. Reusing smaller bottles can not only help you save space but if you use transparent bottles, you can see the meds you are looking for. I buy quite a lot of supplements that come in green, transparent bottles. I save each of these to store my medicines in. I use a basic label maker to label each one. Not only has it doubled the space in my medicine cabinet, but the labels are much more clear to read making it easier to find what I am looking for.
Label your medicines and include expiration dates and dosage. You may be able to tell what your ibuprofen looks like, but everyone else in the house might not. When recycling bottles without child safety caps make sure you keep them in a locked cabinet or out of reach. Always be extra safe when it comes to medication.
To remove labels from plastic you will need some extra help. Soaking the labels may get them off or it may remove some or all of the paper and leave the adhesive behind. Adhesive on plastic is almost always high tack, so even if you remove all of the label, you’ll still be left with that “sticky glue” that held it on. If the adhesive is thin you may be able to remove it with acetone (be careful it can melt some plastics) or alcohol, but more than likely that won’t work well. After trying various things over the years I find you just can’t beat Duck adhesive remover. It’s a product similar to goo gone, but the bottle comes with a dabber tip as well as a plastic scraper attached that aids a great deal in removal process. Skip the soak entirely and follow these steps.
1. Peel off the label. If it won’t peel, soak it.
2. Use the bottle’s blotter tip to rub the adhesive remover on the sticky stuff and scrape it thoroughly. It will leave you with a lot of no longer sticky dollops of goo.
2. Take it to your sink, coat it in dish soap, scrub it with a brush and rinse.
You may need to the repeat steps 2 and 3 more than once to get it entirely clean. Much like glass it will squeak when the adhesive is gone, but unlike glass it can look perfectly clean when there is still sticky goo on the bottle, don’t judge it visibly. If it doesn’t squeak, repeat the soap wash. If it still doesn’t squeak repeat steps 1 and 2 until it does. You can then wash it as normal.