How to Remove Printed Labels from Plastic: The Simple Way

Labels have saved many families from ingredient confusion in the kitchen; we have never taken a salty cup of tea or some sugary barbecue.

In this day and age, it’s essential to become aware of the various ways to reuse and repurpose items, not just for frugality but for environmental sustainability as well. An important aspect of this is knowing how to remove printed labels from plastic items, be it bottles, containers, or any other item that comes with stubborn adhesive tags. However, as simple as it sounds, the removal process can often be quite challenging, leaving behind an annoying sticky residue.

This article will guide you through several effective methods to remove printed labels from plastic, ensuring that you can repurpose your plastic items quickly and cleanly.

How to Remove Printed Labels from Plastic

To remove printed labels, apply a generous amount of rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover to a cloth. Gently rub the label until it starts peeling. Once loose, scrape it off with a plastic scraper. Clean remaining residue with a cloth soaked in warm water and dish soap. Dry the plastic thoroughly. Always test a small area first to prevent damage.

Understanding Label Printing on Plastic

Before diving into the techniques to remove printed labels, it is crucial to understand the label printing process on plastic surfaces. Labels and logos on bottles and containers are often applied using screen printing or silk screening methods. Ink is pushed through a mesh screen directly onto the plastic packaging, creating a durable and attractive design without the need for an additional adhesive label.

Knowing the printing method can help determine the most effective approach to remove the prints without causing damage to the plastic surface.

Safety Precautions and Materials

Before attempting any label removal method, it is essential to gather all the necessary materials and take proper safety precautions. Some chemicals and tools can be potentially harmful if not used correctly. Always wear chemical-resistant gloves when working with solvents and use caution when handling sharp tools.

How to Remove Printed Labels from Plastic with Cooking Oil

Oil removes printed labels from plastics as it has ingredients that weaken the label, detaching from the surface.

However, you need patience if you have opted for this method. Use canola, vegetable, olive or coconut oil.

You’ll need;

  • Soft cloth
  • Clean rag
  • Empty spray bottle
  • Container
  • Cooking oil
The Steps

Peel Off the Label

Start by peeling off as much of the label as you can. Use your fingernails or a plastic scraper. Be careful not to scratch the plastic. Don’t worry if you can’t get all of it, especially the adhesive part.

Apply Cooking Oil

Pour some cooking oil (like olive oil or canola oil) on a clean cloth or a paper towel, then rub it on the residue left by the label. You should see that the oil starts to loosen the adhesive and make it easier to remove.

Let It Sit

Allow the oil to sit on the adhesive for about 15-20 minutes. This gives the oil time to soak into the residue and soften it.

Scrub Off the Residue

After the oil has sat for a while, use a clean cloth or sponge to scrub off the residue. You may need to apply a bit of force, but not so much that you scratch or damage the plastic.

Wash and Dry

Once you have removed all the adhesive, wash the plastic with warm soapy water to remove any remaining oil and residue. Dry it thoroughly to avoid any water spots.

Remember, not all plastics are the same. Some may react differently to different oils, so it’s best to do a small test patch first to ensure there’s no damage. It’s also important to note that some very stubborn adhesives may not respond well to this method and may require a commercial adhesive remover.

Always remember to recycle or properly dispose of your used cloths and paper towels.

How to Remove Printed Labels from Plastic with Acetone or Nail Polish Remover 

Acetone is an organic compound/chemical that manufacturers commonly use to make nail polish removers or paint removers. Although this is not common knowledge, acetone is available in the products you regularly use as well as big-box stores near you.

Acetone has cleaning properties that break the bond between the plastic and printed labels.

You will need;

  • Acetone or nail polish remover (which contains acetone)
  • Cotton balls or a soft cloth
  • A plastic scraper, or an old credit card
  • Gloves
The Steps

Safety Measures

Before starting the process, put on a pair of latex or nitrile gloves to protect your skin from the acetone or nail polish remover, which can be drying and irritating. Also, ensure you are in a well-ventilated area since inhaling acetone fumes can be harmful. Safety glasses can also be useful if there’s a risk of splashing.

Peel the Label Off

Start by attempting to remove as much of the label as possible manually. Often, you can get the edges to start peeling away and then slowly peel off the whole label. Be careful not to scratch the plastic if you’re using a tool like a plastic scraper or an old credit card.

Soak the Cotton Ball or Cloth

Pour a small amount of acetone or nail polish remover into a container. Soak a cotton ball or a corner of a soft cloth in the solution.

Test the Plastic

Before you start applying the acetone all over the label, it’s wise to test a small, unnoticeable area of the plastic first. Acetone can sometimes discolor or cloud certain types of plastic. Apply a small amount of acetone to the test area, and give it a few moments to react. If there’s no noticeable change, you can proceed.

Apply the Acetone to the Label

If the plastic has passed the test, dab the soaked cotton ball or cloth onto the label. Be generous in your application. The aim is to get the adhesive saturated with the acetone.

Let it Sit

Allow the acetone to work on the adhesive for a few minutes. The soaking time will help to dissolve the adhesive.

Rub Away the Label and Adhesive

After allowing the acetone to sit, begin rubbing at the label with the acetone-soaked cotton or cloth. The label should start coming away. For stubborn adhesive, you may need to repeat the process several times.

Scrape off Residual Adhesive

If there’s still residue left over after the label is mostly gone, you can carefully use your plastic scraper or old credit card to remove the remaining adhesive. Make sure not to scratch or damage the plastic.

Clean the Plastic

Once you’ve successfully removed the label and any residue, rinse the area thoroughly with warm soapy water. This will help to remove any leftover acetone and adhesive.

Dry Thoroughly

Dry the plastic item thoroughly. You can air dry or use a dry, clean cloth. This should leave your plastic item looking clean and free from labels.

How to Remove Printed Label from Plastic with Lacquer Thinner and Rubbing Alcohol

Lacquer thinner works the same as cooking oil, but the thinner is a bit stronger. Rubbing alcohol is famous for its outstanding work in removing various unwanted marks.

You’ll need;

  • Lacquer thinner
  • Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol)
  • Soft cloth or sponge
  • Protective gloves
  • Eye protection
  • Cotton swabs
  • Water and mild detergent
  • Soft towel
  • Plastic scraper or old credit card
  • A ventilated workspace
The Steps

Initial Removal

Start by trying to remove as much of the label as you can manually. If it is a paper label, it may peel off in large chunks. Use a plastic scraper or an old credit card to carefully lift the edges of the label and peel it back. Be careful not to scratch or damage the plastic surface.

Test the Solvents

Before applying any solvent to the plastic, it’s important to test it first to make sure it won’t damage the plastic. Apply a small amount of lacquer thinner to a hidden area of the plastic using a cotton swab. Wait a few minutes and check for any clouding, discoloration, or damage. If the lacquer thinner damages the plastic, try the same test with the rubbing alcohol, which is milder.

Apply the Solvent

If the lacquer thinner doesn’t damage the plastic, dampen a soft cloth or sponge with it. Rub the cloth gently over the label, trying to apply the thinner only to the label area to minimize potential damage to the plastic. Apply as little thinner as possible—you can always add more if necessary.

Soak and Scrape

Allow the solvent to sit on the label for a few minutes, giving it time to dissolve the label and the adhesive. After letting it sit, use your plastic scraper or old credit card to gently scrape the label away. Do this carefully to avoid scratching the plastic.

Repeat If Necessary

If the label does not come off, or if only some of it comes off, repeat steps 4 and 5.

Switch to Rubbing Alcohol If Needed

If the label is still stubbornly sticking to the plastic, or if you found that the lacquer thinner was too harsh for the plastic, you can switch to using rubbing alcohol. Apply it in the same manner as you did with the lacquer thinner.

Clean the Plastic

Once the label is completely removed, there may be some sticky residue remaining. Clean the plastic with a soft cloth or sponge, warm water, and mild detergent. Rub the area gently to remove the residue.

Rinse and Dry

Rinse the area thoroughly with clean water to remove any solvent or detergent residue. Dry the plastic thoroughly with a soft towel.

How to Remove Printed Labels from Plastic with Degreaser

Degreasers are powerful cleaning agents specifically formulated to tackle tough substances such as oils, grease, fingerprints, and residues from metal fabrication.

They are also effective in removing printed labels from plastic surfaces.

You’ll need

  • Degreaser such as WD-40
  • Water
  • Microfiber towel
The Steps
  1. Put on your protective gloves to avoid any skin irritation.
  2. If the label is a sticker, try to peel off as much of it as you can before applying the degreaser.
  3. Dilute your chosen degreaser as per the instructions given on the product’s packaging. Some heavy-duty degreasers might need to be diluted with warm water before use.
  4. Apply the diluted degreaser to the area where the label is attached. If you’re using a spray-on product, you can spray it directly onto the area. For other types of degreasers, you can use a cloth or sponge to apply the product.
  5. Let the degreaser sit on the label for the recommended time given in the product’s instructions. Typically, this is around 5-10 minutes, but it can be longer depending on the product and the stubbornness of the label.
  6. After the degreaser has had time to work, use your scrubbing brush or sponge to gently scrub at the label. The degreaser should have loosened the adhesive, allowing the label to come off.
  7. Rinse the plastic with warm water to remove any remaining degreaser or label residue. Be sure to do this in a suitable location, such as a sink or outdoors, as the degreaser can be harmful to certain surfaces or plants.
  8. Dry the plastic with a microfiber cloth or towel.
  9. If any label or adhesive residue remains, repeat the process until the plastic is completely clean.

How to Remove the Sticky Label Residue on Plastic

Sticky label residue can be a bit tough to remove, especially from plastic surfaces. However, there are several methods you can try:

Warm Soapy Water

For less stubborn labels, warm soapy water can often get the job done.

  • Remove as much of the label as possible.
  • Soak the plastic item in warm soapy water for a few hours.
  • After soaking, try to rub the residue off with a soft cloth or sponge. Be careful not to scratch the plastic.

Rubbing Alcohol or Acetone

For more persistent residue, you can try using rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) or acetone (nail polish remover). However, remember that these substances can potentially damage some plastics.

  • Apply a bit of the alcohol or acetone to a clean cloth.
  • Rub the sticky area with the cloth until the residue is gone.
  • Rinse the item with warm soapy water, then dry it off.

Cooking Oil or Peanut Butter

The oils in cooking oil or peanut butter can help to dissolve the adhesive.

  • Apply some cooking oil or peanut butter to the sticky area and let it sit for a few hours or overnight.
  • Use a cloth or sponge to rub off the residue.
  • Clean the item with warm soapy water to remove any remaining oil or peanut butter.

Commercial Adhesive Remover

There are also commercial products available that are specifically designed to remove adhesive residue, such as Goo Gone or WD-40.

  • Apply the product according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then rub off the residue.
  • Clean the item with warm soapy water to remove any remaining product.

Remember to always test any substance on a small, inconspicuous area of the plastic first to ensure it won’t damage the material.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Remove Printed Logo from Plastic?

Removing a printed logo from a plastic item requires some care to avoid damaging the plastic. Here’s a general method:

Materials Needed:

  1. Isopropyl Alcohol or Acetone (Nail Polish Remover).
  2. Soft cloth or cotton balls.
  3. Warm soapy water.
  4. Protective gloves.
  5. Protective eyewear (optional).


  1. Always start by cleaning the area with warm soapy water to remove any debris or dirt from the plastic surface.
  2. Dry the plastic item completely.
  3. Put on your protective gloves (and eyewear if desired) to protect your skin and eyes from the isopropyl alcohol or acetone.
  4. Dampen the soft cloth or cotton ball with a small amount of isopropyl alcohol or acetone.
  5. Gently rub the logo on the plastic with the dampened cloth or cotton ball.
  6. You should start seeing the logo coming off. If it’s not, then try applying a little more pressure. Be careful not to scratch or damage the plastic.
  7. Repeat the process as necessary until the logo is completely removed.
  8. Once the logo is removed, clean the area again with warm soapy water to remove any residue from the alcohol or acetone.
  9. Dry the plastic item completely.

Please note: Not all plastics respond well to isopropyl alcohol or acetone. Some may become discolored, foggy, or even get damaged. So it’s a good idea to test a small, unnoticeable area first to make sure it won’t harm the plastic.

Also, remember that acetone and isopropyl alcohol are flammable and produce fumes that can be harmful if inhaled in large quantities. So ensure you work in a well-ventilated area and keep these substances away from heat sources and open flames.

How do you remove a logo from a hoodie?

Removing a logo from a hoodie can be challenging depending on the type of logo application. Some logos are printed, while others are embroidered or sewn into the fabric. Each type requires a different removal method.

Here are a few general methods to remove different types of logos:

  1. Printed Logos:
    • Acetone or Nail Polish Remover: Apply a small amount of acetone or nail polish remover to a cotton ball. Gently rub the logo with the soaked cotton ball. The logo should begin to fade. Rinse the area with water and launder as usual. Be sure to test this method on a small, inconspicuous area first as acetone can discolor some fabrics.
    • Iron and Freezer Paper: This method sometimes works for heat-transfer logos. Place a piece of freezer paper over the logo, shiny side down. Apply heat with an iron on low setting. The heat can loosen the adhesive, allowing the logo to stick to the paper when you lift it. This may not work for all types of heat-transfer logos and can risk damaging the fabric if too much heat is applied.
  2. Embroidered Logos:
    • Seam Ripper: This is the safest and most common way to remove an embroidered logo. Turn the hoodie inside out to expose the back of the embroidery. Use a seam ripper or small scissors to cut the threads and carefully remove them. Be very careful not to cut the fabric of the hoodie. This method can be time-consuming and may leave small holes or visible marks where the logo was.

Please note that some logos cannot be removed without causing damage to the fabric. Always test any removal method on a small, inconspicuous area first, and proceed with caution. If the logo is too complex or integrated into the fabric, it might be best to cover it up with a patch or consider consulting a professional tailor or fabric specialist.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, various methods can effectively remove printed labels from plastic items. The necessary materials and ingredients are likely already in your home, making the process convenient and cost-effective. With a bit of patience and the right approach, you can successfully remove unwanted labels and give your plastic items a fresh, clean look. Share your newfound knowledge with others and help them remove printed labels from plastic with ease!

Remember to always test a small area of your container before using any removal method, as some plastics may be sensitive to chemicals or heat. Practice safety precautions when handling solvents and sharp tools, and ensure that your work area is well-ventilated.

Happy label removal!