Skip to main content

How to Remove Beer Bottle Labels

When you've finished a batch of homebrew, you'll either bottle it or put it in a keg.  Although they are more work, I prefer bottles because they're easier for me to store and share with friends.  Buying bottles to use for homebrew can get costly - especially if your friends don't return them after they finish drinking the contents.  That's why many home brewers like me use bottles recycled from micro brews and craft brews we've purchased in the store.

In order to give your home brew a nicer look, you'll want to remove the original labels first.  That will allow you to add your own labels later on.

For Belgian and German beers, I'll often use just hot water.  For most others, I'll use the method described below.

I've found that one of the easiest ways to remove labels from craft beer bottles is:

  • Get a half-scoop of Oxi-Clean laundry stain remover (which is food safe) or a generic brand of the same material.
  • Turn on your kitchen faucet's hot water tap and wait until it's as hot as it gets.  
  • Close up one side of your sink.  Dump in the scoop of Oxi-Clean and start filling the sink with hot water.  Swirl the water around to dissolve all the cleaner in the hot water.
  • When the sink is full enough to submerge the largest bottle you're de-labeling, stop filling it.  Move the faucet to the empty side of the sink.
  • Fill each bottle you want to de-label with hot water from the faucet, as full as possible. (This will ensure that the bottle sinks in the hot cleaning solution.)
  • Gently set the bottle in the sink filled with cleaning solution, making sure the label side is down.
  • Repeat the above two steps for all the other bottles you want to de-label, or as many as will fit comfortably in your sink.
  • Wait at least 15 minutes (but 30-60 minutes is even better).  Return to the sink.
  • You'll find that many of the labels are now floating loose in the cleaning solution.  Pull those out and discard them.  
  • Take a bottle that's already lost its label, and empty its contents into the sink.  Hold it at an angle that will allow you to see if any adhesive is still visible.  If so, scrub it with a dish scrubbing sponge (the kind that are safe for non-stick pans).  The adhesive should come off.  
  • For bottles that haven't lost their labels, try peeling them off.  If they're too hard to remove, you may be dealing with a plasticized (or even completely plastic) label.  For plastic labels, you can let those dry and try peeling them off like you would a sticker.  If that doesn't work, I usually discard the label.
  • Some labels (like those from Ommegang and The Brew Kettle) don't come off on the first soak, but the first soak loosens the outer layer.  Peel off this outer layer and let the bottles soak again. Often this will loosen the remaining label material and allow them to be removed cleanly.
  • Always be sure to carefully and completely rinse the bottles you've de-labeled, or the cleaner will leave behind residue you won't like.  
  • The bottles you couldn't de-label should be rinsed and placed in the recycling if you don't want to use them.
There are some brands of beer for which the labels remove more easily than others.  The ones that tend to work best are the more "papery" labels.  I've found the following tend to clean up well:
  • Anchor Brewing
  • Anderson Valley
  • Angry Orchard Cider
  • Belgian beers like Scaldis, Chimay, La Chouffe, Maredsous, or Duvel
  • Belhaven
  • Bell's
  • Dogfish Head
  • English and most other European beers
  • Fat Head's (often these will remove by just submerging in hot water and peeling)
  • Founder's
  • German beers like Weihenstephaner, Paulaner, and Ayinger
  • Lager Heads (often these will remove by just submerging in hot water and peeling)
  • Magic Hat
  • New Belgium (not the painted-on Lips of Faith but the paper-labeled ones)
  • Omission
  • Sam Adams (usually)
  • Sierra Nevada
  • Taxman Brewing (these remove with just submerging in hot water and peeling off)
  • Troeg's
There are some I don't bother with because the labels are too hard to remove, such as:
  • Columbus Brewing Co. - you can somewhat remove these by soaking in very hot water with a strong Oxi Clean or PBW solution, then using a Nylon pan scraper to remove the paper, soaking in the Oxi Clean solution a bit more, and wiping down with Goo Gone, but even this tends to leave behind some residue
  • Thirsty Dog - sometimes you can just peel them off and use Goo Gone to remove leftover adhesive, but that's a lot of work I often don't engage in
  • Great Lakes Brewing Co.
  • Smithwick's
  • Two Brothers
Many breweries today use thin plastic labels adhered to the bottles, rather than paper-based ones. The Hoppin' Frog brewery is a good example. I find that often I can remove these by filling the bottle with the hottest tap water I have and letting it sit for a few minutes. Then I run more hot tap water over the top of the label while the bottle is still filled with hot water. This tends to loosen the label, and I can then begin carefully peeling it off the bottle. Any leftover adhesive can either be ignored or scrubbed off with Goo Gone or a similar glue-removing solution. (I've heard WD-40 is good for this, but I'm not keen on getting that stuff too close to my beer.) This works for Innis & Gunn labels, too.

Other methods that I've not personally used, but which I'm told work in some cases, include:
  • Microwave the bottle for 30-40 seconds to loosen the "sticker" type labels, but be sure to use a heat-resistant glove or oven mitt to handle the bottle or you can get burned.
  • Use a razor scraper to scrape off the label. Be careful not to get cut.  (A Nylon pan scraper can actually work well in many cases and is much safer.)
  • Hair dryer or heat gun.  As with the microwave method, a heat-resistant glove is advised.
  • Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (half-cup in a bucket), used like the Oxi-Clean above
  • Household baking soda (a cup in a bucket of water) and hot water, and a method similar to the Oxi-Clean above
  • Use boiling water in your brew kettle to loosen them.
  • Use Star San or PBW (Brewer's Wash) in place of Oxi-Clean above.  (I've tried this and didn't think the results with Star San were as good as PBW or Oxi-Clean, but your mileage may vary.)
  • Use hot water and ammonia instead of Oxi-Clean.
  • Use hot water and bleach instead of Oxi-Clean.
  • Fill the bottle with boiling water from a tea kettle, wait a little while, and peel off the sticker.
If you've got a favorite method not mentioned here, please leave a comment describing it!

Updated:  August 22, 2015 to include CBC instructions and links to some of the products mentioned.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Things I've Learned Brewing with The Grainfather, Part 2

In the last post, I shared an overview of The Grainfather, recommended equipment to use with it, and an overview of the brewing process.  In this installment, I'm going to talk specifically about mashing and sparging. Having brewed over a dozen batches with it, I'm finally becoming very comfortable with the device, the mash process, and how to get what I want out of it. I don't consider myself a "master" of it yet, though.

For those who have never done all-grain brewing, I want to provide a quick overview of the mash process itself.

Mashing - With or Without The Grainfather
The goal of mashing is to turn the starches in the grain into sugars. More specifically, you want to turn the starches into a mix of fermentable and unfermentable sugars that provide the flavor profile associated with the beer you are brewing. A sweeter beer might warrant more unfermentable sugars. A more dry beer will demand few unfermentable sugars.

To a great extent, controlling the amount o…

Brewing with The Grainfather, Part 3 - Cleaning and Overall Thoughts

In Part 1 of this series, I introduced The Grainfather and discussed how to use it for mashing and sparging.  In Part 2, we talked about boiling and chilling the wort with The Grainfather and its included counterflow chiller.  In this final segment, we'll discuss cleanup and overall thoughts about the device and its usage.

Cleanup

Once you've pumped the wort from The Grainfather into your fermenter and pitched your yeast, you're well on your way to a delicious batch of homebrew.  Unfortunately, you've still got some cleanup work to do.

The cleanup process in my experience will take 20-30 minutes.  It involves the following tasks:

Removing and discarding the grain from The Grainfather's grain basketCleaning the grain basket, kettle, recirculation tube, and wort chillerCleaning all the other implements used in brewing (scale, scoops, mash paddle, etc.) At the end of the brewing process, there will be hops bags (if you used them), grain and other residue, and usually so…

Brewing with The Grainfather, Part 1 - Mashing and Sparging

(Important note:  This article series is based on the US version of the product.  Prices are expressed in US dollars, measurements of temperature and volume are in US units unless otherwise noted.)

iMake's The Grainfather is an all-in-one RIMS brewing system designed to be used indoors with household electric current.  It includes the kettle, grain basket, recirculation tube, pump, electronic temperature controller, instruction book, and counterflow chiller.  It does not include a mash paddle, fermenter, cleaning supplies, or pretty much anything else.  The price is around $800-900 depending on where you shop and the discounts offered.

The Grainfather handles mashing, boiling, recirculating, sparging (to a degree), and chilling of the wort.  You'll still need a fermentation vessel of some sort and some other supplies we'll discuss later.

Grainfather Assembly and Initial Cleaning

Assembly of The Grainfather in my experience was pretty easy overall.  There were a couple of s…