It's best to remove wine labels well ahead of time. This can be a time consuming process so you want to start early.

Reusing wine bottles is the perfect way to save some money when making your own wine. The problem is how do you remove the labels?

I’ve found there are mainly three types of labels, paper, plastic, and plastic coated paper. Paper labels are easy as they’ll come off after only a few minutes in water. Plastic labels peel off but leave a mess (more on that below).

The toughest labels to remove are the plastic coated paper labels. They don’t peel off and water can’t penetrate the plastic so you can’t soak it off.

After a bit of practice, however, I stumbled upon a method that works really well for paper and plastic coated paper labels. Check out this video to see how I do it.

I’ve got a few more tips and safety tips for you after the video so be sure to check out the rest of the post too.

Here’s a brief summary of how to remove wine labels made of paper and plastic coated paper:

Scraping Blade With Spare Razor

1. Using a utility knife carefully score the label vertically and horizontally.

2. Soak the bottle in a tub of water for 24 hours. Hint: it helps to put a little water in the wine bottle so that it doesn’t float. This way you can stand them up in the tub.

3. After soaking take  a window scraping blade and scrape the label off. Be sure to push the blade down the bottle away from you. Do this on a table and not your leg.

4. With all of the paper removed scrub off the glue.

The glue can be particularly challenging to remove. One way to speed this process along is to use a cleaner such as Goo Gone. HOWEVER, do not allow any bit of this to get inside the bottle!

It’s best to spray a rag away from the bottles and then use the rag to wipe down the bottles. Goo Gone in your wine isn’t going to taste good. After using any cleaners be sure to thoroughly wash the outside of the bottle.

If you have to remove wine labels from a lot of bottles be sure to wash the rag out once in a while. While the goo removers do break down the glue it has to go somewhere. Your rag soaks it up and after ten labels or so you’ll just be spreading glue around instead of removing it.

Removing Plastic Labels

There are some labels that don’t have any paper in them. They’re thin sheets of plastic. I’ve found that these labels leave a real mess of glue behind.

Your best bet is to peel the label by hand and then either scrape off the glue or use Goo Gone.

A Word on Safety

It’s not hard to remove wine labels but please do be careful with those utility knives and window scrapers. I don’t want to be a nag but I’d rather see you bottling wine than getting stitches in the hospital. So just two safety points here.

1. Always use a brand new blade. It’s much better to get cut by a brand new, albeit really sharp, blade than an old jagged one. The healing process goes much quicker in the event of a cut.

2. Always cut away from yourself over a table. Never bring the blade toward yourself or rest the bottle on your leg.

If you’d like to see how you can avoid having to do all of this check out these removable wine labels. They make reusing bottles much easier as they leave behind no residue when removed.

  • Thanks for the tips. I have always had great success with just Goo Gone and a paper towel. I lay the bottle on its side on top of the paper towel, spray the Goo Gone on the label to let it soak in, and in about 10 minutes the label peels right off. Granted this was all to save the label instead of to use the bottle for winemaking but I do not believe any of the chemical got inside the bottle during the process.

    • Jeff, thank you for the feedback! I’ll give your method a try and report back how it worked on the more stubborn labels I have.

      Does your method work on plastic labels too?


      • I haven’t had a problem but a lot of times with the plastic labels, they’ll just peel right off when you get them started. I’m always amazed with Goo Gone as I don’t know how it can do its magic without smelling horrible, burning your hands, etc. 🙂

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  • Emmett

    Great Post! Another easy way that I have used to remove label’s is by putting them in an oven set to 200 degrees F for about 15 minutes. After that time the glue is nice and tacky so the label can just peel right off and usually leave no residue. Its also handy if you want to keep the label of a wine you liked, but want use the bottle for a batch.

    • Hi Emmet, thanks! I’ve heard of this oven method before. It makes a lot of sense. Have you ever had a bottle break due to the heat? Can you heat a bottle more than once?

      I think I’m going to have to give this a try. Thanks for sharing your method. -Matt

  • RWS

    I have used the blade scraper on over a thousand bottles. All types of labels. To clean the residue just use a cloth with acetone. Entire process takes less than two minutes per bottle.