Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Internet wisdom fails label gunk

Once again, I turned to the wisdom of the Internet to solve a problem. I always try to keep an open mind when I try a method I learned on the Internet, even if I’m sceptical, but this time it turned out my scepticism was well-placed.

Recently, I emptied a plastic—what’s the word? Jar? Container?—that used to hold fish oil capsules (photo at right). It’s reasonably tall and has a screw-on lid, so I realised it would be perfect for storing things in the garage, like nails or screws or something like that. I know that it’s always a good idea to first try using what’s already around rather than buying new when organising things—the Internet didn’t teach me that, it’s just common sense (though I see it repeated all the time on Pinterest).

To reuse this particular container, I wanted to remove the label and a sticker on the lid (promoting the fact it was an “economy” size). I wanted to do that in order to put on another label later, or maybe to just write on it. The original label was in the way.

First, as I usually do, I soaked it in hot water with dishsoap, and that allowed me to remove the outermost layer only: A mushy papery layer was still stuck to it with the glue underneath. The label on the lid wasn’t moved at all.

So, I turned to the Internet, and found many places that suggested rubbing it with a mix of equal parts baking soda and cooking oil (any variety). First, I soaked the container again, as before, then I tried rubbing the mixture on the container and rubbed it some more. It did nothing. I used the oily mix with a scouring sponge. It still did nothing.

Next, I took one of those plastic tags used to close the bag a loaf of bread comes in and used that to gently scrape the papery residue off. Basically, this is in place of using my fingernails: It’s stronger, has a square edge, and doesn’t let gunk get under my nails—a win all around. Once I had the papery stuff removed, then I tried the oil mixture again to remove the adhesive residue, and it still didn’t do anything to the adhesive gunk. I grabbed a scouring sponge and again tried the oily stuff with that: Still nothing.

Finally, I washed the oily stuff off with dishsoap, then got out rubbing alcohol and used it to remove the adhesive, using a scouring sponge in particularly bad areas. Then, I washed it all with dishsoap again. It’s now label-less and not sticky—ready to re-use, in other words.

The lid was much more difficult to clean (the label was an entirely different sort—more like a really strong sticker. Even so, the procedure was exactly the same, with two differences: Using the bread bag closer to scrape off the label was much harder to do, and even after all those treatments there’s still a little adhesive residue on the lid, something I noticed only after I’d washed it and it had tried. I’ll have another go with rubbing alcohol later.

So, I’d rate the cooking oil and baking soda method an utter failure. I think that baking soda with undiluted dishsoap would have had exactly the same effect (little to none, on other words), because the baking soda is a mild abrasive and the dishsoap, like the oil, could help make it easier to rub the container than, say, plain water would have. But, in the end, it just didn’t work.

I may try another, different method in the future, but I know that soaking off what I can of a label, using a bread bag closer to scrape residue off, and following that with rubbing alcohol to clean off the remaining adhesive gunk is an effective method most of the time.

Sometimes, clearly, the Internet does not know best.

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