How to remove bottle labels and caps without damaging them

So here’s the situation.  You’ve found this awesome beverage bottle.  And you think that the label – for a wine, for a beer, for some super-tasty beverage – would look awesome in your scrapbook or in an art project.  Heck, you might even want the bottle cap for something else.

Problem.  That label is stuck to the bottle.  Stuck like glue.  Of course it’s stuck like glue, because the label’s glued on.  If you try to peel the paper label, you’ll most likely tear the precious label to bits.  And then your project is scuttled.

Second problem.  If you try to remove the bottle cap with a bottle opener, you’ll most likely bend the precious cap, rendering the cap an ugly mess.  And unless you have some specialized chisels and stampers, you’re not going to remove that bend in the soda cap.  And these caps are old caps, they’re not twist-off caps.

Fear not, friends.  In working on various art and upcycling projects over the years, I have learned some awesome techniques for removing the labels from bottles while still preserving the paper labels; and removing crimped-on bottle caps without bending the precious topped treasures.

Walk with me on this.

Here we have a Saratoga Geyser mineral water bottle.  Saratoga Geyser water, along with two other bottled water products – Saratoga Hathorn and Saratoga Coesa – were capped and sold by the State of New York as tonics and elixirs for nearly forty years.  The bottling plant was manufactured in 1935, and sold all three types of bottled water until 1971, when the plant closed.  The plant today is now the home of the Saratoga Automobile Museum.

But check this bottle out.  That’s a waycool brand on the bottle.  And there’s a New York State seal on the bottle neck.  And … this is the best part – there’s a New York State branded bottle cap.

Oh yeah, and there’s 60+ year old bottled water inside this bottle.  Want a sip?

Okay, first things first.  We want to get the paper labels off the bottle.  And to do this, we’re going to soak the bottle.

Fill your kitchen sink with hot water and a packet of OxiClean.  You can get the proper portion size of OxiClean from your local laundromat vending machine, one packet for one dollar will work nicely.

Once the sink basin is filled with water and OxiClean, submerge your bottle in the water.  If your bottle is empty, fill the bottle’s insides with water before submerging it in the sink.

Wait for about ten minutes.

Here’s a thought … if you’re soaking a mineral water bottle, does this count as a mineral bath?  Ha.

If you’re fortunate, the labels will slide right off after a ten-minute soak.  Place each label on a paper towel and let them air dry.

If, after twenty minutes, the bottle still won’t give up the label, you should be able to gently wedge the edge of a credit card or a plastic gift card – anything plastic that has a nice, straight edge – and slowly slide the card under the label.  Most bottles have two strips of glue on the label, holding the label’s left and right edges securely to the bottle.  Just be patient and don’t rush the procedure.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised as the label slides off.

Also, be careful when you hold the bottle.  Hot water plus OxiClean makes for a very slippery bottle surface.  You don’t want to drop this bottle.

Okay, now it’s time to get that sweet bottle cap off.  You’ll need a bottle opener, for sure.  Get a bottle opener that has a ring at the end.  Place a paper napkin or a paper towel on top of the bottle cap.  Then put a quarter on top of the napkin.  When you use the bottle opener, the quarter will keep the middle of the cap from bending or creasing, and the napkin will keep the bottle cap free from scratches or gouges.

Again, take your time.  This is not a race.  That cap’s been on the bottle for sixty years or so, another few minutes won’t hurt anything.

And … after all your hard work …

Look what you did.

You can place this label in a scrapbook or use it as part of an art collage.  If you want the label to dry completely flat, place it between two paper towels and then press the label in the pages of an old, heavy book.

Oh, and the bottle cap?

Look at how swank it is when it’s not attached to the end of a bottle.

Completely removed, safe and sound.  And if you have an art project that involves old bottle caps, you’ve already got a sweet technique to remove the crowns and retain their original beauty.

See, it’s one thing for me to work on various art projects and techniques.  But I’m also open to showing you some of my skills and techniques, if it helps you with art projects of your own.

Have a great one!