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RogueChip

Cleaning labels off of glass bottles

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Hello all,

I am a glass bottle person - the plastic works, but somehow to me feels "cheap." No offense meant to all of you who use plastic and are happy with it, but they're just not for me. As my mother likes to say, "That's why there's chocolate and vanilla."

Anyway, there is a particular22-ounceaa73192e-dff3-4677-ad6b-799e3fe529f5.jpg bottle shape that I like. It's used by Redhook Brewery and the beers inside are pretty good so it's no big deal buying (and drinking)  their beer and saving the bottle. The problem is, the labels that they use are glued on so well they have been a real bear to get off ... until last night. Up until now, I have tried soaking overnight in hot soapy water, using commercial oil-based "Goof-Off" type cleaners, and even just scraping them off with a razor blade. The razor blade worked the best but it was a real pain and I went through a single-edge blade for every three or four bottles.

Last night I tried using One-Step cleaner. I soaked the bottle for about 2-3 minutes, the label peeled off easily, and the glue wiped off with a plastic scouring pad.  As a bonus, it also cleaned the old beer gunk out of the bottle. I cleaned three dozen bottles in the time it would have taken to razor-scrape a quarter of that, and they came out shining!

I heartily recommend One-Step cleaner!

Chip Weinert

On the banks of Oregon's Rogue River

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Oxiclean Free is what most recommend, removes labels and cleans the bottle.  The only ones I had issues with were Short's, but I don't want their bottles anyway.

 

One concern in using oil-based things like Goo-Gone is to ensure that NONE of it gets in the bottle at any time.  

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I too use "Free" and seems in most cases to work like a champ.  The bottles I have the best luck with are Sam Adams, not that I have had to remove labels in quite some time now that my collection has reached critical mass.

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Might want to reconsider the 22 oz as well.  12 oz works best for a single "Homebrew Pour" into a single glass.  Bigger than that and you'll be drinking way too many of your yeastie friends.

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While a 22 oz isn't ideal for one person, I find that the bigger bottles are good for when you have friends over.  Pour one, leave the bottle tilted, fill another, etc.  

 

I also find that if I pour one and put it back in the frig it settles just fine.

 

I have 12, 16, 16.9 and 33.8 oz bottles.  Would love some 22s.

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One concern in using oil-based things like Goo-Gone is to ensure that NONE of it gets in the bottle at any time.  

 

Your comment here just made me think that perhaps it's best if using a cleaner to get the label and glue off to do it while the bottle still has the cap on and the beer inside.  This would assure that none of it gets inside the bottle.

 

I've gotten labels off empty bottles just using water and the dull side of a table knife.  Often there will be a little glue residue still on the bottle, but I haven't worried about it.  I just make sure that none of that water gets inside the bottle.

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Here's what I do (not that this is the perfect way, it's just what I do).

 

I accumulate bottles by getting them from friends, or I place a Craigslist ad offering to meet people in the grocery store parking lot and pay them the bottle deposit so they don't have to stand at the machine in the store.  Usually you can find someone with several cases.  First time I did it I got 7 cases from two people, then a homebrewer traded me for moving boxes I had for sale, and then gave me the rest of his collection since he was just going to dump it.  I currently have beer in 11.8 cases of beer (mostly glass, but not all) and I have 5 more cases (including plastic) of clean bottles, and 3 cases of bottles that need to be cleaned (which I won't clean until I need them).

 

When I need bottles, I clean several cases at once, not worth the effort of cleaning a few.  I put very hot water in a Rubbermaid tub.  I lay the bottles down and let them fill them up (have to push on the neck to hold it down to fill) and make sure that when all the bottles are filled (my tub fits about 12) that the water covers them up completely.  I let them soak about 15 minutes.

 

Then I come back in and remove bottles, one at a time.  The labels either already fell off or are falling off.  I pick them out of the water and toss them.  I take a sponge and use the rough side and rub the entire outside of the bottle including the neck. I then dump the water out put the bottle into another tub full of a solution of Oxiclean FREE ($7 - 8 for 3 lbs at your grocery store) and very hot water.  By doing this two-step label removal process, all the glue residue remains in the first tub and stays out of your bottles.  I added that first step after seeing very yellow water from all the glue and deciding to try adding a step.

 

 I then insert the bottle into a 5 gallon bucket still full (mostly) of the solution.  I do this until I have 1/2 dozen in the bucket.  Then I put 6 more in the tub.

 

I take the 6 in the bucket and one by one I use a bottle brush to scrub the inside.  I then dump the solution from the bottle back into the tub and put the bottle in my laundry sink.  I do this for all six, and when done I make sure that the new six bottles in the Rubbermaid tub are submerged (they won't be until you dump the full bottles back in).

 

For the 6 in the sink, I now use my jet bottle washer to blast the bottle with very hot water (remember to NOT do this with plastic bottles, just glass).  I hold the next bottle underneath the washout pointed down so it gets rinsed on the outside.  I then swap bottles.  When done, I put them on my bottle tree and do the next two.  When all 6 are done, I repeat the cycle working on the second 6 that have now been soaking in the Rubbermaid tub for a while.

 

As the liquid cools I take a break. I pour some into a plastic microwaveable spaghetti container.  I microwave it on high for 10 minutes, and dump it into the Rubbermaid tub.  I make sure to do this before it gets too cool, as hot water works best in the process.  If you let the whole tub get too cool, when you go to heat it back up by the time you get the last of it heated the initial reheated part is cool again.  By the way, this cleans the wife's spaghetti pot so well she is overjoyed.  

 

As I said, I do this for a few cases at a time, because it's a lot of work.  I don't worry about the label glue getting in the bottle as it is very diluted, and I blast the bottle with hot water while it's still wet.  If a bottle fails inspection after they dry, I do it once more (or the next time).  If it doesn't get clean in two tries, I recycle it, not worth the work.   

 

For bottles that have my beer in them, after I pour them I dump out the remaining trub, fill them with hot water (warm for PET bottles), shake, and dump again.  Then I fill them 1/2 way, put one drop of unscented dish soap in them, and shake with my hand over the top.  Dump into the next bottle, then rinse repeatedly with hot water until clean.  Rarely does this not result in a perfectly clean bottle.  If I don't have the time to do this (i.e. company), I dump the trub out, fill it once water and dump it again, then fill it all the way to the top and let it sit on the counter or in the sink.  All the way ensures nothing dries.  

 

Hope this helps some.  Note the links are to show examples, you should be able to get a bottle brush for under $4, a jet bottle washer for under $10, and a bottle tree for under $20 that holds 45 bottles.  

 

I store the water in a bucket, and then the next day when I'm ready to do more bottles I heat it up in my brew pot to 140.  Dump it in, put in the first bottles, then rinse my brew pot (so the soap doesn't dry on it) and start all over.

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I use multiple vessels, like Rick. But, since I use Five Star PBW, it cleans the bottles while the labels slip right off. Then I just scrub them with an ordinary dish towel to remove any residual glue (usually nine to very little left at this point) then transfer them to clean rinse water. I might use a bottle brush if I'm in doubt, but rarely am. That stuff works great! Five Star Powdered Brewery Wash is definitely worth every penny. It also is great for stuck on dried Krausen that you often find at the top of your fermenting vessel.

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Hello all,

I am a glass bottle person - the plastic works, but somehow to me feels "cheap." No offense meant to all of you who use plastic and are happy with it, but they're just not for me. As my mother likes to say, "That's why there's chocolate and vanilla."

Anyway, there is a particular22-ounceaa73192e-dff3-4677-ad6b-799e3fe529f5.jpg bottle shape that I like. It's used by Redhook Brewery and the beers inside are pretty good so it's no big deal buying (and drinking)  their beer and saving the bottle. The problem is, the labels that they use are glued on so well they have been a real bear to get off ... until last night. Up until now, I have tried soaking overnight in hot soapy water, using commercial oil-based "Goof-Off" type cleaners, and even just scraping them off with a razor blade. The razor blade worked the best but it was a real pain and I went through a single-edge blade for every three or four bottles.

Last night I tried using One-Step cleaner. I soaked the bottle for about 2-3 minutes, the label peeled off easily, and the glue wiped off with a plastic scouring pad.  As a bonus, it also cleaned the old beer gunk out of the bottle. I cleaned three dozen bottles in the time it would have taken to razor-scrape a quarter of that, and they came out shining!

I heartily recommend One-Step cleaner!

Chip Weinert

On the banks of Oregon's Rogue River

The One-Step and our No-Rinse are the same thing. ;)

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Short's uses an adhesive that must have been developed for the space program, it's not water soluble.

 

And of course use brown bottles - no green or clear.

 

Sam Adams are good as stated.

why not green? one of the few decent non-twist top i have up here is steam whistle which is a very dark green so i can't see light penetration being a problem

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why not green? one of the few decent non-twist top i have up here is steam whistle which is a very dark green so i can't see light penetration being a problem

 

Suit yourself.  

 

 skunky beer is called “lightstruck” by chemists and beer nerds, and this is why you’ll often find odoriferous brews in clear or green bottles. Brown bottles block much more light and are a far superior vessel for beer

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why not green? one of the few decent non-twist top i have up here is steam whistle which is a very dark green so i can't see light penetration being a problem

I've used green 20oz and green 2L bottles for my beer.  No problems at all.  You have to be really careful about sunlight though.

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why not green? one of the few decent non-twist top i have up here is steam whistle which is a very dark green so i can't see light penetration being a problem

Has to do with the red coloring in the brown deflecting UV. Which green don't, regardless to how dark it is. In the FWIW department, brown bottles only buy you seconds @ full sunlight. Having said that, I'm a Brown bottle man

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On 11/18/2014 at 2:28 AM, RickBeer said:

Oxiclean Free is what most recommend, removes labels and cleans the bottle.  The only ones I had issues with were Short's, but I don't want their bottles anyway.

 

One concern in using oil-based things like Goo-Gone is to ensure that NONE of it gets in the bottle at any time.  

Does this also sanitize the bottles? New to brewing, looking for pros/cons of glass vs plastic. 

 

Also, thanks for being such an awesome resource! It was a great help to find your page. 

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On 11/18/2014 at 0:38 PM, Da Yooper said:

I too use "Free" and seems in most cases to work like a champ.  The bottles I have the best luck with are Sam Adams, not that I have had to remove labels in quite some time now that my collection has reached critical mass.

 

I also will buy Sam Adams beer when I'm in need of bottles. The labels will almost fall off with just hot tap water and a drop of two of soap. After the labels come off I clean the outside with a sponge and more soap, rinse them inside and out really well, let them dry and clean and sanitize when I'm ready to bottle. Angry Orchard Hard Cider and Saranac bottles also delable well. 

 

On 11/18/2014 at 3:20 PM, epete28 said:

I use the plastic MB bottles just because I haven't bought a capper yet. I've saved plenty of bottles, mainly Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada. Most of those bottles are still wearing their labels though, so this is helpful.

 

Search eBay for vintage bottle cappers. Works just as well as a newer one at a fraction of the cost. 

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