Removing labels, Cleaning and Sterilizing jars

Removing labels, Cleaning  and Sterilizing jars

Recycling jars is a must in the Preserved Kitchen when pickling and preserving. So we want to share our how to best practices for removing labels, cleaning and sterilizing jars in the oven. You can follow this DIY method on jars for canning and glass bottles, mason jars, kilner jars, plastic containers, even wine bottles including the best ways to sterilise kilner jars. Also follow the method to ensure lids are also clean.

TOP TIP: Utilize the oven heat when sterilizing. I will often wait until I’ve finished cooking in the oven, then reduce the heat to sterilize. Or whilst drying herbs or chillies as the oven temperature is also low heat. – See our instructions on drying herbs and citruses here.

Best tips on how to remove labels, clean & sterilizing jars

I will save up multiple jars and remove their labels in a large batch in the sink as it is the same method for glass or plastic. I find hot water and dish soap works well for removing labels however for the glue, using vinegar and scrubbing works like magic.

It is really important to ensure your containers are fully cleaned before reusing, I will add some boiling water to the sink to really see the steam coming off and killing any bacteria. However it is important to take care not to burn yourself here!

When sterilizing plastic containers, I would always use the microwave. There is some science behind having some moisture on the plastic and the microwave which ensure the container is sterilized so once you have rinsed the container it is ready to be straight away sterilized.

Sterilize Jars in the Microwave

You can also sterilize jars in the microwave. To do this, place the jar in the microwave then warm for 20 second intervals until dry. Remove all packaging and cap material before putting in the microwave as it may catch and spark the microwave. Use oven gloves or tea towel when handling.

Sterilize Jars in the Oven

The best way to sterilize glass is in the oven. I often will put the jars in the oven and then switch the oven off and leave to fully cool. This is because my oven takes over 10 minutes to cool down so I can walk away and forget about the jars and come back once it is fully cold to remove them.

Removing Labels

How to best remove those stubborn labels from your old jars so you can reuse.


  • Fill the sink or a large bowl with piping hot water (I will add a kettle full of boiling water too). Add in some dishwasher soap and your containers. Ensure the containers are fully submerged.
  • Leave for at least 20 minutes, will just wait for the water to cool.
  • At this point some labels will peal off fully using your hands. Peel away as much of the label as you easily can.
  • Using a metal scourer or scrub sponge, add a few drops of vinegar to the cloth and use some elbow grease and scrub away. The remaining labels and glue should come. 
  • If you have some stubborn labels which are being difficult, repeat the whole process until they are completely off. 

Cleaning Jars and Containers

It is really important to ensure your containers are fully cleaned before reusing, see our best practices on how to do so here.


  • Ensure the containers and lids are rinsed and washed out so there are visible remains. Also remove any labels prior to this final cleaning.  
  • Wash the containers in a washing bowl or sink with hot soapy water. I add a bit of boiled kettle water to ensure it is really hot. If you do this, wear gloves and be careful not to burn yourself. Scrub the container to ensure it is thoroughly clean.
  • If you have a dishwasher, put the jars and lids through a cycle on hot wash and when the cycle is finished, allow the containers to air dry.
  • If you don't have a dishwasher, after washing in the soapy water. Rinse the containers and wash again in a bowl or sink of hot water without using soap. Again use some kettle boiled water if possible but be careful! This ensures the soaps are fully rinsed and washed away.
  • Once the containers are cleaned, leave the lids to air dry on a rack and once the jars are rinsed they are ready to sterilize. 
  • Do not manually dry the container or lids using a tea towel as this may risk transferring bacteria back onto the container/lid.


Tips for Sterilizing old jars to reuse like mason jars, kilner jars, glass bottles like beer bottles and wine bottles, plastic containers without damaging them.


  • Ensure the container is cleaned and any material from the cap for example is removed.
  • For glass, place the jars in the oven on a tray and put into the oven on a low heat 150°C for around 10 minutes, to kill off any remaining bacteria and to dry out fully.
  • For plastic containers, ensure they are slightly moist first for the reaction between the microwaves heat and the container to fully sterilize. Place in the microwave for 2 minutes on a high heat.
  • Carefully remove with tea towel or oven gloves and leave to cool before using.

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