How-to: Prep Reclaimed Glass Jars for Crafting

glass jars

We love a reclaimed glass craft project around here, but before you can paint, decoupage, or otherwise transform your lovely jar, you need to clean it.

How many times has this happened to you? You find yourself with a pretty, empty glass jar or bottle. Maybe it’s from some nice chutney or a fancy juice you picked up in your travels. You send it through the dishwasher, and when it comes out, it…well, it stinks. While glass is not porous, it is good at absorbing smells, especially if the contents of your jar or bottle were acidic at all.

The other problem with many glass jars is those sticky labels. Sometimes, they practically fall off after a run through the dishwasher, but some companies get way too enthusiastic with the glue, leaving you with a stuck on label that’s a complete eyesore.

Luckily, there are simple tricks to take care of both of these problems!

The Stink Problem

The first thing to do when you’re reclaiming a jar is to clean it. You can either run it through the dishwasher or use a scrubby brush, soap, and hot water to give it a good washing.

If you already washed your jar, but it still has a residual smell, it may seem unusable. Never fear! You can de-stink a smelly jar in seconds with just a bit of baking soda and water. The baking soda is abrasive and absorbent, so it will clean the inside of your jar and absorb the oils that are making it stinky. Here’s how to do it.

1. Put about 1 teaspoon of baking soda into your jar.

2. Add enough water so that your jar is about 1″ full.

3. Shake the jar vigorously for a few minutes, then pour out the baking soda mixture.

4. Add 1″ of water to the jar again and give it a good shake to get any baking soda residue out of there.

5. Pour the water out, dry your jar, and it’s ready to use!

Removing That Sticky Label

There are a couple of options for getting that sticky label off of your jar. You can buy a natural product like Goo Gone, or you can make your own! If you opt to buy Goo Gone, just pick these directions up at step two.

1. In a small jar–not the one you’re cleaning–combine 1/2 cup olive oil with around 2-4 drops of orange essential oil. Shake well to combine.

2. Hold the glass jar with the sticky label over the sink, and drizzle your oil mixture over the label to saturate it.

3. Let it soak for 10-15 minutes, and the label should come away easily when you rub it with a damp rag. If the company who put the label on your jar was really enthusiastic about glue, repeat steps two and three until the label is history.

Have you guys run into other challenges with preparing your reclaimed glass jars for crafting? Share your questions and tips in the comments!

{Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by jgh_photo}

17 thoughts on “How-to: Prep Reclaimed Glass Jars for Crafting”

  1. One word of advice about washing jars w/labels in the dishwasher: Don’t! All label glues are made with chemicals , and when washed with our dishes & glasses, come into contact with them. Granted, the heat of the water and soap should rinse them away, but I’m not willing to risk it. Not to mention the potential for pieces of labels clogging up the dishwasher filter screen (happened to me), and washing unknown toxic chemicals down into the drain! Even removing them by hand, I’d wear rubber gloves; do I want my skin to come into contact with chemicals I don’t know?…See Beth Terry’s PlasticFreeLife blog for a really good, informative article about this.

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  3. I have a ton of baby food jars my sister gave me. I’m using them for organizing my craft room.
    I tried spray painting the lids, but a coats later, they are easily scratched, and the sides were not well coated.
    I don’t have the patience to decopage or fabric cover (WAY to ADD), so painting is an option I like best… Any advice about the best way to paint the lids, or otherwise quickly cover the lids?

  4. I have run into a label that is kicking my butt… a clear plastic label that came right off, but the adhesive wont come off!!! Argh…
    Most labels i put in a microwave safe dish with water and heat the water that way.. once the labels are soaked they usually rub right off, then a scrubie sponge takes the glue off…
    As far as painting the lids, use primer first!! Then paint! Let each coat dry thouroughly!!

    1. Those clear plastic labels are THE WORST! If I’m picturing the right thing, it’s clear, and the entire back is coated in the strongest adhesive known to man. Julie’s suggested soaking your jars in oil – maybe try a mix of vegetable and orange oil and let it soak for a full day?

    2. I am having the SAME problem with a coconut oil jar. I have tried hot water, hot soapy water, olive oil, and even nail polish remover. It’s still as sticky as ever.
      I am about to give up on this one…

      1. Man, I can’t stand those labels! πŸ™ Another idea I thought of was soaking the jar in strong booze – like Everclear. Alcohol can help dissolve adhesive.

        You could try using a razor blade to scrape the label off, too. Just be so careful and don’t cut yourself, if you do this!

        1. Maybe I should just drink the booze and recycle the jar? πŸ˜‰

          The ironic part is that it was the jar of the high-quality, unrefined, certified organic, eco-friendly, blah blah, coconut oil that has the awful label. I was thinking “Okay, so the stuff in the jar is all natural, good for the planet, but what the heck are you putting in your adhesive??!”

          1. So interesting! I wonder if the company would be responsive if you wrote them an email about the excessive glue. It might just not be something on their radar, and we could put it there! What company is it?

      2. Roberta Carichner

        When I have a few jars with labels available, I soak them in a dishpan full of water. Some labels will slide off after one day, some take a week. On rare occasions I have to toss the jar in the recycle bin.

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  7. My problem is with removing the smell from jar lids … especially pasta sauce jars. The little rubber strip adhered to the lid seems to retain the smell even after I’ve soaked in hot water and a little bleach.

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