The Cottage Smallholder

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How to remove glue from jam jar labels

Jam jars, labels removed - washed and ready for use

Jam jars, labels removed - washed and ready for use

Why is it always the prettiest jam jars that have the most stubborn labels and glue? There’s no chance that they would accidentally peel off and nobody would know what was inside. And when you want to fill them with your own home made preserves they cling to their gluey deposits like stubborn stains.

I’m late with my Seville orange marmalade making this year. But I have Sevilles, lemons and sugar at the ready. The real problem has been the jars. In past years I have washed them, dealt with the labels and stored them ready for use. Unfortunately last year I just washed them, put them in carrier bags and slung them in the barn.

My first problem was actually locating the jars. After a long search I discovered twelve labelled jars in a carrier bag. Soaking things in clothes washing powder or liquid has been an answer to many of my kitchen woes in the past and I thought that I’d give this a whirl with the jars. It worked a treat, computer generated labels came off and their glue was washed off easily!

However, I had nine jars with thick labels and gunky glue. The thick labels came off relatively easily but the glue was holding on tight.

Then I remembered a comment that Pat had left a comment back in August 2010 on the blog.
“To remove the sticky residue on any container after the removal of the previous label you should use ….WD40,

It claimed its use on the tin and with enough on a paper towel it makes short work of that mess I assure you !!!

Give it a go, but remember to replace the one you take from the tool box because after you see what it can be used for you won’t put it back !!”

Clearly I had used our can of  WD40 for something else and had not put it back, as it wasn’t in the tool shed. So I valiantly tried groundnut oil, cigarette lighter fuel – they were about 3% efficient. Then in frustration and despair turned out the cleaning cupboard under the sink.

I found the WD40 lurking in the murky depths! One quick spray and the glue just wiped off. Our can of WD40 will now be living permanently under the kitchen sink, having just read this extensive list of the uses of WD40 I can see how invaluable it’s going to be in the future.


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  1. Great tip

    WD40 is also great for getting boot polish stains out of cream carpets…………… of those lessons I would rather not have had to learn!!

  2. WD40 is indeed a wonderstuff but if you don’t have any handy, lighter fluid (Ronsonol or similar) also works very well. I try to have both in the house at all times. I have tried the dishwasher method and while it does remove the labels I find it doesn’t always get rid of the glue.

  3. Cooking oil works too – smear some oil on the label, let the jar lie sideways on the counter overnight, peel off the label in the morning and wash the jar in warm soapy water 🙂

    Definitely cheaper than buying / having to ensure you have a tin of WD40 in your cupboard LOL And one less empty WD40 container to sending for recycling / toss in landfill.

  4. steve h

    Sounds useful stuff! – just what i need to get Peanut butter off my shoe-laces!! 😉

  5. ice queen

    I’ve just canned up a batch of chicken stock, and whilst all the jars were squeaky clean inside some had labels still valiantly clinging on. Not after 30 mins pressure cooking. A great way to remove stubborn labels!


  6. Anne Wilson

    I will have to try this, firmly stuck labels are so frustrating.

  7. that’s a really good tip thank you! I’ve tried all sorts before to try and remove them.

  8. Hi Fiona, I used a product called sticky stuff remover which Lakeland sell but I bought ages ago from either Lidl or Aldi. However I can see that I won’t need to replace it when it eventually runs out. My sister just puts the jars, label and all, in the dishwasher. At the end of the cycle she picks out the whole label from the bottom of the dishwasher. I’m sure someone will have a tale of woe involving blocked drains but it has worked for my sister so far. I’m just taking a break from marmalade making but have enough Sevilles for one more batch in the fridge, perhaps next weekend. Happy marmalade making.

  9. Wow, thanks for the tip. If this really works it will save hours and hours of future frustration.

  10. Veronica

    I haven’t tried this, but I’m really hoping it will work. Stuck-on jar labels are the bane of my life! Were yours Geeta’s chutney jars by any chance? Those are the worst!

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Veronica

      I set the Geeta jars aside but reckon that I can even handle those now. The liquid clothes washing stuff was great on the labels and the WD40 worked on the glue. With regard to the latter I didn’t really believe how good it was.

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