Does anybody have any solutions/suggestions for removing a paper label, whole and undamaged, from a metal can?

About the only thing I can think of is heat to try to soften, if possible, the glue. (What is that adhesive, anyway?) I think any chemical would be out of the question, unless it's fairly "volatile" or evaporative, like acetone/nail polish remover. Is there something I may be missing?

  • 3
    @Elmy, we do have this question, asking the exact some thing about bottles, but mentioning in addition that bottles are a "great base material for many crafts". Since cans can be used in similar ways, and the OP doesn't disclose their reason, I think we can assume good intentions.
    – Joachim
    Commented Oct 16, 2021 at 0:26
  • 1
    Hector, please chose one SE site for your question. Cross-posting the identical question is frowned upon on the SE network.
    – Stephie
    Commented Oct 17, 2021 at 13:37
  • @Stephie So that was what the OP was talking about in an answer I deleted - they weren't able to delete it since they are unregistered. Thanks for pointing it out :) Based on this Q&A on Meta, however, I'll keep it here as well.
    – Joachim
    Commented Oct 17, 2021 at 17:29
  • Duplicate question on Life-Hacks: lifehacks.stackexchange.com/q/25145/12132
    – Joachim
    Commented Oct 17, 2021 at 17:33

2 Answers 2


There probably isn't a universal solution because different manufacturers attach the labels in different ways and with different adhesives. If you are dealing with very old cans, there may be additional differences.

I would start with steam. There's a good chance that it will release the glue holding the label to itself in a loop. Unfortunately, steam will also soften the paper, so it will likely tear if you try to pull on it. Just keep applying steam at the seam until the paper separates on its own.

Assuming the label is also glued to the can, the steam will likely also release that. It will penetrate paper and it will warm the can, both of which will help, but the fastest release will happen if you can direct the steam into the seam between the label and can. As the paper releases, let gravity pull the paper away, exposing more seam as you work your way around the can.

If the paper is glued to the can only at the seam where it is glued to itself, and if you can sacrifice the seam, you could just use a hobby knife to cut the label off on both sides of the seam.


I always understood that soaking in water overnight did this. But I haven't tried it for a few years

  • If you don't need to preserve the label, this will work. Even if the glue doesn't dissolve, the paper will turn to mush for easy removal. In the case of this question, the objective is to salvage the label intact, so this isn't a good solution for that.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Oct 21, 2021 at 13:27
  • This might work if the glue dissolved during the soak and then the paper was allowed to dry before disturbing it. The paper will be very fragile while it is wet though.
    – rebusB
    Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 16:32

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