Skip to Content

How to Completely Remove Labels from Plant Pots

Spread the Word!

Plant potters, when bought from the store, in most cases, comes with a sticker bearing either a barcode or some other information regarding the plant pot. Removing these labels may be tricky, and we have found a tested solution for the different potter materials.

Labels can be removed from terracotta, plastic, and glass containers by using solvents such as oil, baking soda, and other organic compounds. These compounds can penetrate and dissolve the sticky adhesive material found on labels, making them easy to be removed without any residue remaining on the plant pots.

Different solvents can be used to remove this sticky residue from different materials without damage. Solvents that work with glass may not be as effective with clay pots or plastics.

We will discuss the various ways to get this sticky residue out and find out what’s the most effective solvent to use when removing stickers from glass, plastic, and terracotta plant pots.

Removing Labels from Terracotta Pots (Clay Pots)

Removing Labels from plant pots

Peeling the label off a sticker from any material in some cases may be easy.

In other cases, the paper or plastic sticker material may tear, allowing only the coated superficial layer to be peeled off.

What you are left with is the sticky residue on your plant pot.

This can eventually turn dark or even black over time as the stickiness holds dust and other particles to its surface.

The sticky layer forms a waterproof coating which will prevent water from moving out of the clay pot as it is known. 

Terracotta plant pots are made of clay material, formed into a plant pot, and then baked at high temperatures in a kiln.

The baking at high temperatures gives the clay its porousness as the water molecules expand and exit the material. 

When placed under a microscope, the surface of the clay material is seen to be very rough and jagged, which is mainly due to its high mineral composition.

However, this does not help when it comes to the sticky residue left behind from labels.

The rough surface gives the sticky resin multiple inlets and crevices to grab onto, making it difficult to remove.

Popularity of Solvents Used to Remove Labels from Clay Pots

For terracotta pots, you should use a solvent that would easily dissolve the sticky resin holding on to the side of the pot.

From chemistry 101, we know that like dissolves like. This means that as the resin is made up of organic material, we must also use an organic solvent to remove it.

Organic solvents are carbon-based substances capable of dissolving or dispersing one or more other substances.

Many classes of chemicals are used as organic solvents, including aliphatic hydrocarbons, aromatic hydrocarbons, amines, esters, ethers, ketones, and nitrated or chlorinated hydrocarbons. (source)

What this means is that you cannot use water to remove the sticky residue from clay pots.

One of the easier, more organic methods for removing sticky residue from clay pots is by soaking the area in baking soda.

  1. Mix a tablespoon of baking soda in a half cup of water
  2. In a open, flat container, pour the baking soda mixture
  3. Place the clay pot with the sticker flat on the mixture
  4. After 15 minutes remove the clay pot and begin removing the label.
  5. Allow the pot to dry and compare results before use

Using rubbing to remove the label may not be recommended as the sticky residue can coat the surface even more and go deeper into the pores of the clay pot.

There are other easily available chemical solvents that are also effective. 

The only downside is that they have a smell so it is recommended when using them to be in a well-ventilated area with a glove to protect your hands.

These are discussed further in this article (Go to Solvents)

Popularity of Solvents Used to Remove Labels from Plastic Pots

Removing Labels from Plastic pots

Plastic containers are also a popular type of plant potter used as it is durable, nonporous,  very rigid and will not break easily.

Removing labels from plastic is easier when compared to of clay pots.

Plastics are much smoother on the surface and are also not porous. This eliminates the case where the sticky residue grips itself to the surface of the material which makes it difficult to remove.

Additionally, as with the clay pots, the sticky residue can also attract dust and become dark over time.

A very simple method for removing labels from plastic containers is as follows –

  1. Soak a paper towel in cooking or olive oil
  2. Dab the oil soaked paper towel over the label until the oil soaks into the paper
  3. Allow the plant pot to sit for at least a day
  4. Gently remove the label 
  5. If the label does not come out the first time (repeat steps 1 to 4)
  6. To remove any remaining residue coat the area with some additional oil
  7. Allow to sit overnight
  8. Wipe the area clean for the final result

Care must be taken when attempting to remove the label from plastics. In the event that the label does not come off completely, do not attempt to scrub the sticky residue off the surface.

Doing so will scuff and scratch the surface leaving permanent and unsightly marks. An ironic fix for this is placing another sticker or decal over the scratched area.

Another effective method for removing labels from plastic is to use a 

I have used Goo Goo Gone from amazon multiple times to remove these sticky mess time after time and it never failed. You can find it by clicking here.

Goo Gone Adhesive Remover Spray Gel - 2 Pack

Removing Labels from Glass Containers

Glass potters provide an easy way to recycle and repurpose used glass products.

One such application is reusing a candle jar to plant succulents

Candle jars can be reused when the candle has burned out or the candle has lost it’s once enticing aroma.
Small plants and succulents are great for repurposing old or used candle jars as planters as they create an aesthetically beautiful home for these small plants to grow.

These glass containers may also contain labels on the side of the underside of the container.

However, glass containers are the easiest when it comes to removing those sticky labels. 

All you have to do is fill the container with hot water and allow the heat to penetrate through the sides of the container.

Eventually, the label itself will become heated and both the label and its stickiness will come out with just one gentle pull.

What to use to remove labels?

Homemade solutions –

These homemade solutions are readily available and don’t produce any nauseous fumes when used. You also don’t have to use any personal protective equipment such as gloves or glasses when handling.

You are already accustomed to using them in the kitchen and around the home, so they come as no stranger when used in the removal process.

Solvents –

  • Rubbing alcohol/ methylated spirit 

    Rubbing alcohol is either isopropyl alcohol or ethanol-based liquids which contains between 60% and 90% alcohol. 

    This is a staple in any household which is used as a universal cleaner for many substances.

    It is relatively cheap and can be found in any pharmacy.

    Rubbing alcohol can dissolve organic residue making them easy to remove.
  • Baking soda

    Baking soda is a leavening agent used in baked goods like cakes, muffins, and cookies. Also known as sodium bicarbonate, it’s a white crystalline powder that is naturally alkaline. 

    Baking soda mixed with water can dissolve labels and its adhesive when soaked.
  • Vinegar

    Vinegar is an aqueous solution of acetic acid and small quantities of other additives. Vinegar typically contains 5–8% acetic acid by volume.

    It’s acidic nature allows it to penetrate into labels and adhesives loosening it from whatever it was stuck to.
  • Lemon juice

    Lemon juice goes hand in hand with Vinegar and since it contains a weak form of citric acid also used to soak into and remove adhesives.
  • Vegetable Oils, olive oil

    Vegetable oils are a very common ingredient used when cooking and is very common. 

    These oils can soak into the paper easily making easy work of removal.
  • Mayonnaise & Peanut Butter 

    Mayo is essentially made of oil and other ingredients such as eggs. As it is oil based it follows the same concept as using vegetable and olive oils.
  • Hair Dryer

    Now, here is an easy fix which is also easily accessible and user friendly.

    Using a hairdryer applies heat without having to soak the Clay or glass material in water and is quick and effective.

Best Store Bought Adhesive Removers

  • Goo Gone

    The surface-safe formula removes the goo without harming your surface, so you don’t lose the finish, strip away the paint or incur damage while removing a sticky mess.

    It is made for sticky adhesive removal and is specifically formulated to cling to goo on vertical surfaces giving the product time to break down the adhesive
Goo Gone Adhesive Remover Spray Gel - 2 Pack
  • WD-40

    WD-40 is known for eliminating squeaks and lubricating sticky mechanisms for easy movement. 

    It also works well for removal of adhesives as it is an organic compound that will dissolve other other organic compounds.
  • Lighter fluid

    Lighter fluid is a very thin and volatile organic compound which is very flammable. 

    Because of its organic, volatile nature it can make easy work of adhesives. 

    Extreme caution is advised when using lighter fluid.

Caution must be taken when using the store-bought adhesive removers as they are very volatile and flammable. 

Because of their volatile nature, they can produce a lot of smelly fumes which can cause nausea.

As a result, you should always use them outside or in a well-ventilated area.

If all else Fails –

Simply paint the area where the sticker was. A thin strip around the pot covering the area will also add an accent color to the pot and help it stand out adding a conversation piece to your decor’.

You can also place another decorative decal over the area to help cover any blemishes left from the removal process.

Spread the Word!

Free Plant Care & Gardening Guides