What techniques are people using to remove labels?
I was kind of hoping that the V4 team would make this a topic, but in the meantime, let’s collect some ideas.
In the picture below, the two labels on the left (paper on HDPE) I usually remove by starting a corner with a heat gun and the slowly peeling the label off (cold). If I am patient, especially with the pill bottle, peeling at right angle to the surface will pull off the adhesive with the label. There is usually some residue that I wipe off with paint thinner (mineral spirits). For the laundry detergent label (plastic on HDPE), I’ve had zero success. For both types of labels, I’ve tried hot water, and soaking them in cold water for a week without success. For the laundry labels, right now I just cut them off and set them aside. In the future I’ll try melting them with the labels on and see how it affects the results. It is a shame because the laundry bottles provide some of the nicest colors (thank you marketing dept.) but have huge front and back labels.
So what are some of your techniques for labels?
This is kind of an interesting result. With all the machines out there in workspaces producing products for the bazar. Are there no techniques other than the ones I mentioned and the beltsander approach (thanks @pex12 ). Are people just cutting the labeled plastic off and not using it? Are people just including the labels in the melt?
For HDPE milk bottles and motor oil bottles, I find filling them with very hot water will usually soften the glue enough to peel the label off. Then I use the label to dab away any remaining glue. The hot water is also a great first pre-wash.
@pex12 , Thanks, some of those made me laugh. I use peanut butter in rodent traps. Maybe I can put some on the bottle and have the mice lick them off.
@timberstar The large motor oil jugs I have seem to have similar tough labels to the laundry bottles, I’ll try heating them. How do you get the oil bottles clean enough to use? How clean do they need to be?
@s2019 I’m not at a stage to answer that yet I’m afraid, I don’t have any machines yet so I haven’t started using any of the plastic I’ve been collecting.
However it makes a lot of sense to me to clean the plastic as much as possible before shredding. With motor oil bottles I have found that leaving them upside down in the sun for a few days allows most of the oil to slowly drain out. Then I fill them with hot water to loosen and remove the labels, drain, then part fill again with hot water and a drop of washing-up liquid, and shake with the top on. drain and repeat 2-3 times. I have not tried yet but I wonder about adding a spoonful of sand to the water to give some abrasion.
I don’t know if this will get them clean enough to use, my plan is that after this i will cut the bottles in half length-ways and put them in for a cycle in a dedicated dishwasher, with mild detergent. If anyone has any experience recommendations of detergents I would love to know.
Of course the problem then is how to deal with the contaminants in the waste water, I plan a series of mesh screens followed my a sand/charcoal filter.
I see motor oil containers as one of the most promising sources of HDPE for recycling if these issues can be properly addressed.
Another way to remove oil is to use aerosol brake/clutch cleaner, which does a great job for occasional very oily items, but it’s not very nice stuff and not really in tune with our broader environmental concerns.
Edit to add: some info about brake cleaner: https://envirofluid.com/articles/tetrachloroethylene-a-deadly-danger-in-brake-cleaner/
@timberstar, @offtopic : Not knowing your budget and I guess you already know but Stan made excellent work in the desktop injection topic which provided enough input for me to create a getting-started page (in progress); aka ‘PP mini workshop’. More or less a drill-press (min. and basic tool ) which can act as injection and a 200-300 $ paper shredder does magic. I don’t know the prices in the UK exactly but I know there is good bang for little buck to get in the stores. Other than that; small toast ovens and a some clamping/20$ vices have also excellent outcomes. Youtube as always covers this entry level very well.
Around here, getting oil into waste water is a big no. I like your sun baked slow drain. After that I would cut the bottle open and wipe with a rag, perhaps with some dish detergent. The injection temperatures are not far from the flash point of some of the oils so I wonder how clean is clean enough.
The thought of cleaning up waste water sounds hard. I think I would rather burn the rag or put it into the landfill (which should be well designed in our area).
I do like motor oil and laundry detergent jugs for the colors they provide.
Had an idea earlier: HDPE detergent bottles sometimes have small amounts of leftovers inside, maybe this could be used to clean the motor oil bottles?
@s2019 Yea a paper towel is great to get most of the oil off and not really a big deal to burn; I also have no idea what the effects of traces of oil would be on reuse. However I do know that there are some plastics which are deliberately impregnated with oil for reduced friction applications.
thanks; I have looked carefully at different options for injection, but for the product I want to produce, I think the best method will be to make solid blanks or billets using a compression-type machine, and then turn them on a lathe to create the final shape. It is important for my product to be exactly round (yes it’s a wheel).
@timberstar; interesting; evtl. you can get more options by opening a dedicated topic. I’d say a drill-press (always buy them big and old as possible) can be converted in an injection but also into a lathe; otherwise a cheap servo driven 4th axis and a cross slide vise may do the job too:-)
@pex12 yea great idea, never thought of using a drill press like that and there’s a huge old one sitting in the barn next to me. Maybe injection could be on the cards one day. For now I’m gonna just go for it free-hand on a wood lathe, I only want to make a set of wheels as proof of concept at this stage, though I would go like to along the CNC route eventually. But this is all off topic…
@s2019 Another thing I use is acetone which can help to get the glue off from the labels. It’s cheap and easy to find, and as chemicals go it’s relatively benign as far as I’m aware.
Yeah, acetone will work. But now I’m thinking, since I’ll have that oily rag anyway, might as well let it sit on the adhesive and wipe it away.
I watched a video with different homemade solutions to removing adhesive labels and the one that I tried works. Just mix vegetable oil and baking soda then apply a little to some adhesive and let it set for 5 minutes then wipe it off.
A much more accurate description of what we do is to remove the label as best as possible, which can sometimes be done cleanly by filling your plastic containers with warm water, then apply the oil and baking soda solution to the adhesive. I usually scrape as much of the paper or plastic labeling off as possible before application so it’s easier to wipe the remnants clean. Using a little soap to remove the oil and baking soda is also advised to remove any oily residue left behind.
I took another try at the laundry bottle labels (they are desirable because of the bright colors) . The plastic labels didn’t loosen with hot water, but a hot air gun will loosen them (the bottle plastic starts getting soft as well) and if peeled slowly they will come off in one piece without residue. I’ll do some experiments to see what temperature is needed. A hot box of some sort (solar?, air fryer?) will be useful to process a bunch of these.
Has anyone tried using a pressure washer to remove paper labels from containers made from HDPE? With the right accessories, the water could be captured, filtered, and reused. You would need to re-pressurize the stream to reuse the water for label removing.
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