Taken from our Facebook account. A reply by Jim to a question from a member. I guess an update to the one MJ wrote years ago which was published on Bob Kay’s US Beer Label site.
Removing labels from bottles: three ways, all using a sharp blade – razor, Stanley or similar:
Easiest are sticky labels – test first by trying to lift a corner and feeling if it’s sticky. If yes then put an inch or two of boiling water into the bottle, swill it around and carefully peel off the label starting at one or more corners, then immediately roll the sticky back onto a sheet of clean paper working from the middle outwards to avoid bubbles and creases. Fairly obviously – the bottle will be hot! This method also works for cans but less boiling water is needed. Warning – be more careful if the label is plastic as it is liable to stretch, not so important for paper. Trim excess paper off afterwards.
Next, soak-offs – try immersing the bottle in hot/boiling water for a few minutes, then try to peel off the label with your blade. Some will almost float off (happy days), others will come slowly if you gently ease the blade under the straight side. Multiple immersions may be necessary if the glue dries out again and this may take considerable time and care. Gently wash the back of the label between your fingers to get rid of the gum and then press it between absorbent sheets to dry and flatten it.
This will work in the majority of cases but occasionally you come across a label that either starts to disintegrate or just will not come off. The only way I know for these is to let the label dry out completely then VERY slowly and carefully work your blade at an angle of 30-45 degrees under the straight edges of the label possibly using a rocking motion if you find that helps. You are actually cutting through the glue and it can take a very long time and the label may come off looking quite creased but how much trouble you put in depends on how much you value the label. I generally don’t bother removing back or neck labels in this case.
I have only ever had one label that was a complete disaster – a plastic label that shrivelled when heated. Good Luck!