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I have made several batches of jam over this summer and would like to label the jars.

I am printing the labels on my laser printer for a more professional look. Also, I want to reuse the jars, so getting the labels off again is a requirement. This rules out the usual sticker-type paper labels, as they are a pain to get off.

Until a few years ago, paper labels with some kind of water-soluble adhesive were the norm on store-bought jam (and other) jars in Europe (but are now increasingly being replaced by those pesky self-adhesive labels), and one approach I looked into was to replicate that.

Some folks out on the net have suggested gelatin: mix ground gelatin with water (1:1 by weight), heat it and apply it to the back of the label, then place it on the jar. I have tried that, and while it initially sticks well, most labels come off again once they dry.

Another option might be self-stick labels made of plastic rather than paper, which are less prone to tearing and can thus mostly be peeled off in one piece. However, they would need to be laser-printable, i.e. resist the usual temperatures found in the process and come in a size I would be able to feed into the printer.

A cheap hack would be to print the labels on regular office paper, and attach them with transparent tape, but that ends up looking cheap.

Has anyone found a feasible way to attach labels to jars so they can be peeled off easily, or come off in the dishwasher?*

*) While some self-stick labels do come off in the dishwasher, the adhesive gets into everything and is impossible to get rid off, ruining your dishwasher in the long run. I’m speaking from my own experience.

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  • Paste is water plus flour, sometimes heated slightly. But I have no idea how well that sticks to glass
    – Joe
    Dec 8, 2022 at 13:07
  • 1
    Have you tried using any of the labels marketed as "removable"? (Search: "removable label paper"?) Dec 8, 2022 at 17:46
  • You can get waterproof removable labels for laser printers, e.g. these (I have no connection to them, and have no experience of the labels). Dec 10, 2022 at 15:47
  • At DiY the question would be (what solvent to use to) remove sticker from glass. Not how to make a substandard label for a less professional look.
    – Mazura
    Dec 10, 2022 at 20:33
  • Permanent markers on the glass doesn't work? Once dry, you can only remove it by making the marker dissolve again. Any alcohol works as a solvent. No labels required and glass is really good at keeping marker.
    – Mast
    Dec 10, 2022 at 21:20

10 Answers 10

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The classic solution some homebrewers (and possibly others, but that's where I learned about it) use is...

Milk. The animal sort. (Vegan milks are less likely to work well, but vegans can make a similar glue out of flour.)

As glue. No need to bother with actual casein glue made from milk. Straight up skim milk, (non-skim should also work) on regular paper holds well, and then soaks off easily. Just a few drops spread on the back of the label to barely wet it, and smooth the label in place on the glass. Let dry.

So long as you don't get the jar wet before you're ready to remove the label, works well, looks good, takes very little milk, so it's cheap and easy if you have milk around at all.

I would suggest sticking to soaking the label off before the dishwasher, rather than dumping a bunch of paper into your dishwasher.

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  • Depending what type of jar/lid you use, I also do the "labels on the lid" method, since the lids (for the type of canning jar I use) are not supposed to be re-used. Not so handy to read on the shelf, admittedly.
    – Ecnerwal
    Dec 8, 2022 at 14:38
  • Depending on the type of paper, your dishwasher pump will thank you for removing the labels first.
    – Stephie
    Dec 8, 2022 at 14:50
  • I wonder: would egg white work similarly?
    – spuck
    Dec 8, 2022 at 17:33
  • @spuck Never tried that, seems more likely to stink (thicker than milk, so more glop to go bad.) At a guess it costs more, too.
    – Ecnerwal
    Dec 8, 2022 at 17:47
  • 2
    We have a related question over on Vegetarianism & Veganism - vegan milk glue substitute recipe included :)
    – Zanna
    Dec 10, 2022 at 11:22
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Print to normal paper and use white (Elmer's, casein, "school") glue. It dissolves easily with water.

EDIT: Rubber cement might also be an option to add just enough tack to regular paper.

Liquid laundry starch or a slurry of corn starch and water would also work, but may be too easily removed.

Or, there are labels designed to dissolve in water. For example: https://www.avery.com/products/labels/4224

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On my homebrew beer bottles, I have printed my labels and glued them on just with regular office glue stick (UHU stick in my case, but probably any good brand will work). I haven't had problems with it peeling off by itself in storage, and the labels come off easily just by soaking in water, without any residue.

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The producers of jar-specific labels know of this, and formulate them such that they come off easily, without smearing up the dishwasher.

The usual ones (e.g. by Weck) are meant for handwriting, but with some search, you will be able to find removable or water-removable labels that can be printed. I have seen (but not yet tried) some for the Brother brand label printers, so I would expect them to exist in office printer format too.

If you insist on going a homemade route, then you can try attaching them with milk. I believe that you have to get all the conditions right though, so they don't come off at unexpected times. A maltodextrine or methylcellulose based glue might work well too (buy it rather than make at home), but it will likely wrinkle office paper before attaching the label - you may have to test a few paper styles. The maltodextrine glues are also quite dark and prone to shining through thin white paper.

There also exist re-writable vinyl "blackboard" labels, which get permanently attached to the jar. You will need to exercise a bit in calligraphy if you use them, but the esthetic value is high. They have the side effect of smudging easily, so the jars should be kept undisturbed in the pantry until used.

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  • 1
    I had Kilner brand labels that pealed off well. For printers "low tack" labels are the ones to go for, though they can come off too easily
    – Chris H
    Dec 8, 2022 at 10:13
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You are likely to find that provided that it's porous, i.e. made of paper rather than plastic film, wiping a dry label over with turpentine and leaving it a few minutes will allow you to peel the paper and adhesive off together.

Note that I specifically mean turpentine here, I can't speak for "turps substitute". For professional use, it's often packed as a cleaner specifically made for removing grease and adhesive residue from e.g. electrical cables, although in this case it might turn out to be a citrus derivative rather than "genuine" turpentine.

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  • Nail polish remover is similar enough and can be found in many houses already. (For the less home improvement - inclined readers here.)
    – Stephie
    Dec 8, 2022 at 14:52
  • @Stephie I really wouldn't know: it's certainly not part of my wardrobe. Also I suspect that turps (these days used by artists, not decorators) would be substantially cheaper than your suggestion since you need enough to properly soak each label, and I'm saying- from experience- what works for me without any "probably/good-enough" suggestions. Dec 8, 2022 at 17:47
  • Even wiping cooking oil over the label and waiting a few minutes softens some label glues. Then scrape with a not quite sharp knife (like a thin butter knife).
    – Chris H
    Dec 8, 2022 at 18:04
  • @ChrisH with turps, the label and glue come off together: there's no cleaning up and in many cases the label can be applied to something else after a few more minutes. I believe that this has in the last been exploited by shoplifters, with news reports carefully obfuscating what they were using. Dec 8, 2022 at 18:14
  • Fair enough @MarkMorganLloyd. That also holds for citrus-derived label removers I've had in the past (though both attack some plastics - not an issue on glass preserving jars). I'm fairly casual about non-culinary products in the kitchen but would still be very careful with cleaning up after those solvents; using actual food as a label remover might be more appealing to some people
    – Chris H
    Dec 8, 2022 at 21:20
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3m makes transparent double sided tape that comes off very easily you could just stick a paper label over that

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Two additional options for water-soluble glue:

  • Mix some flour and sugar in cold water, briefly boil it - that gives you a water-soluble glue. May take some tries to get the mix right, but the ingredients are cheap.
  • Just buy wallpaper paste. It is cheap, easy to mix, non-toxic and usually water-soluble (check to make sure, there are non-soluble pastes, too).

I have used the first option - labels are almost impossible to remove when dry, but easily come off when soaked in water for a few minutes (or in the dishwasher).

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Leave a tab for removal.

  1. Use laser-printable laminated labels. This means using some kind of dedicated label printer device, because regular laser printers cannot do the two-stage print & laminate the way label printers do. Even a handheld label printer will work for this.

  2. Then, when you cut the label, make sure to leave 1cm or so of whitespace on one side.

  3. When you attach the label, fold over that whitespace so it sticks to itself instead of the jar, forming a 1/2cm tab.

  4. When you're ready to wash the jar for re-use, pull the label off using the tab.

A good friend does this for all her various pickles, and has us remove the labels and bring back the jars. Works quite well.

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For labeling a batch of same-size jars for spices, I wrote labels on "Post-it Note" paper cut to proper size, attached them to the jars, then slid a transparent plastic sleeve over the label (and passing around the jar). The paper's tacky adhesive keeps the label from sliding up or down, while the sleeve holds it against the jar.

The sleeves were 3 inches long, cut from a roll of plastic-bag poly tubing, as used for making plastic bags of any desired length. This is widely available — eg at uline or Amazon — albeit expensive. For small batches of labels one could make do by cutting up plastic bags of appropriate size.

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  • Cut paper circles that fit under the cap and over the lid of a mason jar.
    – Mazura
    Dec 10, 2022 at 20:29
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Another solution for which you probably have everything at home already: laser-printed paper labels on top of duct tape. Instructions:

  1. Print your labels on self-adhesive laser-printable paper label sheets.

  2. Attach the labels on top of duct tape, and trim both to size at the same time.

  3. Apply to your glasses.

The duct tape makes sure everything stays in one piece when removing the label.

Make sure to use good quality tape which can be removed without residue even after a long timer. In Germany, use original Bundeswehr Panzertape, for example. In other places, quality tape used by event technicians and concert musicians ("gaffa tape") is also a good choice.

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