Jar Labels Will Never Get the Better of You Again!

I’m thrifty and clever, so I save glass jars and bottles. I reuse them in my cupboards and pantry.

But I’m also lazy, and if there’s anything that bugs me, it’s how hard it is to get those stuck-on-forever labels off my treasures. Can you relate? If so, read on for the lazy-bones way to label-free jars. I’m quoting Amanda Sims, researcher and writer for www.food52.com.

This is so much more efficient and muscle-free. You’ll need water, oil, a scouring sponge, and time for a "let soak overnight" step. Here is how it goes:

1. Rub a little oil on the label. The hardest part! Drop some oil right on the label, and use your pointer to rub it over every part of the label. That's it.

A note on "oil": Amanda says she has yet to find an oil that doesn’t work for this task. (She’s tried olive, extra-virgin olive, sesame, vegetable, avocado, peanut, and a strange flavored garlic oil, all with equal success.) Feel free to use a fancy dropper of eucalyptus oil, which smells very good, if it pleases you. Or reach for that cheap bottle of canola oil that you bought in a dire situation once and rarely ever use. Whatever.

Other oily substances, such as mayonnaise or peanut butter, will also work—but mayonnaise fingers can be a little grody and the use of peanut butter a little wasteful. But it's up to you, and a light layer all over the label will do. No need to gob it on.

2. Cover the oiled jar with warm water. Just set a mixing bowl or pitcher in the sink, put the oiled jar in it, and pour warm water all over top—including inside the jar, so it stays sunk. Amanda says she sometimes uses hot water if she’s feeling hateful towards a particular label (I know the feeling): sometimes she just uses warm. Eventually, it's going to come to room temperature anyway; the exact starting temperature doesn't matter.

3. Leave it there overnight. In the morning, while you are waiting for your bread to toast, remove the jar and pour out the oily water. Rinse the jar.

4. Remove the label using a scouring sponge. Not a soft sponge, not steel wool. Amanda uses those green scrubby scouring pads, cut into inch-wide slivers (after a few labels, they'll get a little gunky and need to be trashed, so there's no reason to waste the whole pad at once). After the oil + soak combo, the label—paper and sticky stuff and all—will come off easily, and it will be very, very satisfying. (Again, I know the feeling.)

You'll only need to employ gentle pressure with your scouring pad. You will not need to "pick" at anything, or scrub vigorously. Yes, the super sticky layer will come off, too!

5. Clean as you normally would. Use soap and water or a cycle through the dishwasher, to remove the oil. Now, your jar is ready to re-use!

Yes, there are five steps and one requires an overnight lapse—nobody said this would be "quick." But it's effective every time, largely hands off, and possible no matter how fancy or unfancy your oil selection is.

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  •   www.food52.com

    Alice Osborne
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
    Email the author! alice@dvo.com

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