How to Get Labels Off Plastic for Recycling

Written by c. taylor
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How to Get Labels Off Plastic for Recycling
Use water and solvent to remove the label from plastic before recycling. (a blue recycle symbol image by wayne ruston from

Recycling reduces waste material, pollution and helps save limited resources. Many communities have facilities to recycle plastics such as milk jugs, soda bottles and various other containers. Although most places do not require that you remove labels, some facilities may request their removal. Check with your local recycler to see if this is necessary.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Run hot water over the plastic label for several seconds. Gently pull the label away from the bottle, starting at a corner. Keep the water running between the label and plastic to help loosen the adhesive.

  2. 2

    Spread a generous layer of cooking oil over the label. This will soften the label and adhesive, allowing you to peel off the label. You may have to apply the oil several times. If you still have trouble, you may need a stronger solvent.

  3. 3

    Use rubbing alcohol, lighter fluid, WD40 or similar substances to break down the adhesive. This works to remove the label or stubborn adhesive residue.

Tips and warnings

  • Remove any lids --these cannot be recycled and too many of them can "contaminate" the plastic that can be recycled.

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