Since getting into wine, I’ve started collecting wine bottles.
You eat and drink with your eyes first, as the saying goes. This is why packaging puts its best foot forward: with so many competitors, you need extra incentive to reach forward and pluck a product off the shelf. While I keep the labels to decorate my kitchen counter with, you may find yourself wanting to peel them off for a personal art project.
Adhesives are not always kind to wine. Learn how to remove wine labels below, then read up on a few artistic tips on different kinds of projects you can start for the holiday season.
1. Determine The Type Of Label
Learning how to remove wine labels means accepting not all labels are created equal! Don’t jump straight into the peeling process unless you want to end up with a torn-up sticker.
The most common type of sticker out there is the good, old-fashioned paper and adhesive. These are often the hardest to remove because of how thin they are: when they’re not prone to tearing outright, they’re prone to sticking and leaving little white spots. I’ve had to learn this the hard way when trying to remove stickers from some of my wine bottles and coffee bags. Plastic labels are a little easier to peel thanks to their thicker, stiffer material. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it right the first time, as you can always just buy another bottle.
Once you’ve narrowed down the type of wine label, start off with a simple method to stay on the safe side. Learning how to remove wine labels properly means giving each purchase a unique (and patient) approach.
2. Try A Simple Method First
There’s no need to dive into the hard science yet. Many wine labels can be encouraged to part with their glass home with a few simple nudges.
Hot water is an easy tool that will loosen up the adhesive from within and without. Remember to warm the bottle first before filling it up with hot water so you don’t risk a cracked glass. If you don’t want to get the label wet running it under the faucet, heat up a rag and wrap up the bottle for ten to fifteen minutes. You can also fill the bottle with warm water for a few minutes, then dump it out and switch to hot. The methods you use later will also depend on whether or not you want to keep the bottle itself, as chemicals can change the color or wrinkle the font.
If hot water doesn’t work, baking soda is a readily available household ingredient that has the side-effect of smoothly separating one element from another. Speaking of which…
3. Double-check Your Household Cleaners
Don’t touch that knife! You may just have some tools ready to help you peel and part that wine bottle perfectly.
You can break down the label, literally, with several readily available household cleaners. Soaking your wine bottle in a baking soda solution or hot water is a reliable method for most paper-and-glue stickers. More stubborn labels, though, will need a heavier touch. OxiClean isn’t just a late-night infomercial meme, but a genuinely useful tool for a variety of situations. Soaking your bottle in a diluted solution for a half-hour or so is considered powerful enough for even the most stubborn stickers.
Once your label starts to separate and peel, go slowly and stop if it starts sticking again. If your nails don’t work, it’s important to use a blade specifically designed for peeling or scraping, such as a sticker remover or a sticker peeler. A chopping knife is far too unwieldy and could lead to you cutting yourself by accident.
4. Learn How To Protect Your Wine Labels
Learning how to remove wine labels is only half the battle. Whatever you decide to use them for, you need to make sure they don’t wrinkle, fade, or get torn.
Former painters will have an advantage here. Add a bottle of protective gel medium to your arts and crafts set: used for acrylic paintings and scrapbook projects alike, a thin coating of gel will ensure your labels are protected from the elements. They come in matte and glossy, able to be diluted with water depending on the finish you want. Dick Blick is today’s leading art supply site and one I turn to whenever my traditional painting set is running dry. Gel medium also doubles as an effective and long-lasting glue.
Figuring out how to remove wine labels also means taking good care of them the second they’re off. They’re beautiful memorabilia that can be gifted to a friend or passed down the family.
5. Create A Wine Flower Pot
Let your creativity flow. There’s so much you can transform your wine bottle into once you’ve removed the original label and returned it to its basics.
Wine bottles come in a variety of luscious and romantic hues, the perfect compliment for a loving flower arrangement. Flower symbolism hasn’t died in the age of the Internet, as much as it may seem, and you can consider reviving the art for family or a loved one. Almanac has a drop-down list of flower symbolism and a dash of history to help get you started. You can also order a flower arrangement from a local boutique (bonus points for supporting small business) and pair them with a bottle. A carnations bouquet could fit a blushing bottle of rosé, while jasmine or lilacs could make a dark malbec bottle pop.
If this all sounds like a little much, add a simple Christmas spin with cinnamon sticks or a knot of little pinecones around the bottle stem. This could even double as an aromatic decoration, as seen below…
6. Try Your Hand At Wine Potpourri
If a flower arrangement is too temporary a gift, last a little longer with potpourri. The fall and winter season is just ripe for lovely scents to fill up the home and imbue it a cozy touch.
Potpourri is an old-fashioned natural perfume recipe, used to both add color to a space and a pleasant smell. They’re often floral and a little spicy, though you can add a dash of dried fruit for a juicy tang. You can make homemade potpourri by following a grocery store-friendly recipe, such as this step-by-step by Julie Blanner, or buy a premade bag. The average potpourri mix will last for a month or so before losing its scent. You can help your potpourri’s personality last a little longer by adding a few drops of essential oils
Decorate your wine bottle further to transform it into a showstopper. Wrap a silver or gold ribbon to compliment the colors with a more solid neutral. It’ll be a personal gift your loved one won’t soon forget.
7. Craft A Wine Label Collage
This is a project I’m considering myself! I’m already collecting specialty coffee bags to decorate my walls with, making wine a close runner-up on the arts and crafts list.
Crafting a collage means getting in touch with your inner child. The goal isn’t to create perfection, but a splashy and fun decoration to herald your wine journey with. Etsy has a bevy of collages to take inspiration from, including corks in the shapes of letters and repurposed labels for custom wrapping paper. A regal decoration you could try your hand at is a wine collage painting: this would merely involve a backing (cardboard or wood), a nice frame, a hanger, and a little glue to put it all together. You can add a glass covering or a protective gel medium glaze to keep your collage lasting a long time.
When’s the last time you busted out those old art supplies? Learn how to remove wine labels, then blow off the dust and spend a few hours crafting.
8. Write Down A Wine Diary
If a wine label collage painting is too much work and you’re not a fan of aromatic potpourri, revisit the classics with a wine diary. These are updated on a rolling basis and make a great conversation starter…if you feel like sharing, that is.
There are more than enough sketchbooks and leather-bound journals for you to choose from. Each page can be supplemented with the wine label and a plethora of notes detailing your thoughts, your recipes, your criticisms…even where you were and what you were doing at the time of drinking. Consider buying a handmade or custom journal to personalize an already personal act. Turn one of your wine labels into a bookmark or use one of them to fancy up your cover.
Wine brings out your artistic side. From cork to glass, it’s designed to help your creativity flourish. Your wine diary could even part-time as a recommendation list for a friend who wants to learn more about the craft.
To reiterate: hot water is good for many paper-and-glue adhesives, while plastic or heavier glues may require a household cleaner to loosen up properly. OxiClean and baking soda are your best bets, though remember to get an additional gel medium so you can protect your wine labels in the long run.
If you know someone who wants to get creative in quarantine, link them to this list. In the meantime: do you use your wine labels in your art projects?