Cleaning Bottles with a Paper Label:

If you are wondering if you can clean bottles with a paper label, the answer is yes, with caution. There is a full procedure that you should try to follow as closely as possible because if you do it correctly, there should be little or no damage to your label. This procedure is adapted from an article by Jack Stecher. Before you clean your bottle, make sure that it is safe to do so. Make sure that if your bottle has contents or remnants of contents, you do a quick search to see if the contents could be dangerous, such as poisons or things that may cause bodily harm. Once you do this, and you have determined that it is safe to proceed, you are ready to start the cleaning process. First, completely wrap the bottle with a thin plastic wrap, such as “Saranwrap”, up and into the neck area. Make sure the plastic is stretched tightly over the labeled area, and leave some excess at the bottom. Fold over the bottom plastic area and seal it with tape. In the neck area, tightly stretch a rubber band over the wrap for form an acceptable water-tight seal (you could tape it too, but a rubber band works well enough). Once you do this, you are ready to clean the inside. Be extra careful and never submerge it! Remember, the water can work itself underneath the plastic, but, if wrapped carefully, leaks are usually minimal and localized wet-spots will dry leaving the label unharmed. Things that are typically used in cleaning bottles are water, automatic dishwasher detergent (i.e. Cascade), and a mild abrasive (kitty litter - - unused preferably). To clean the inside, fill the bottle about a third to half full of luke-warm water (a small funnel helps), add a tablespoon of detergent, a few spoonfulls of kitty litter, and shake vigorously for several minutes. Wait, and do it again. Sometimes, a soaking with the detergent for 24 hours beforehand helps dissolve unwanted contents. This process removes most dirt of discolorations, except permanent stain or sickness, in which the bottle cannot be cleaned. If your bottle is sick, there is most likely a kind of rainbow sheen on it, and this means that the glass is breaking down, and the only way to remove it would be to melt it down and remake it. After rinsing, and to aid drying, use a small amount of rubbing alcohol to dissolve the water droplets and leave the inside without water residue. Once you are done, carefully remove the plastic wrap and discard it. Alcohol and cotton swabs are also useful in removing dirt on the bottle’s outside, especially in labeled areas. If you would like some extra protection on your label, you can use new plastic wrap to protect the labeling. Here, it is best to use acid-free wrap, if available.


Cleaning Bottles without a Label:

Before you clean the inside of your bottle, you need to check carefully for a few things before continuing. Does your bottle have a paper label? If it does, see the article about cleaning bottles with a paper label. Does your bottle have contents or remnants of contents? If it does, you need to be much more careful, as you don't know for sure what was or is in your bottle, and it could end up being something dangerous. If your bottle has a painted label or embossing (letters in the glass itself), read it carefully to see what it most likely contained. Do a quick search to see it any of these ingredients are dangerous and even if it says that they are not, since bottles could be used to hold just about any powder or liquid, treat it as though it could be dangerous anyway by using gloves and possibly even a mask when opening and/or cleaning the bottle. If your bottle is safe to clean, you can go ahead and soak your bottle in warm water and dish soap to get the dirt and such off the bottle and try to get it out of the bottle. If there is still dirt on the inside of your bottle after soaking it, and shaking the soapy water around in it does not remove it, you may need to get a bottle brush to clean the inside. Bottle brushes can be found in places that sell baby supplies, bottle cleaning supplies, or supplies for cleaning scientific glassware. If your bottle has a stopper, you must be extra careful when cleaning, as you could end up breaking the stopper or cause more damage to it. If you do all of this and the bottle still looks dirty, there is a chance that it could be stained and there may not be a way to remove it. If you are very careful, and follow all of the directions, you could try using CLR (calcium, lime, and rust remover) to clean some of the staining inside of your bottle. We do not know whether CLR would damage any paint on the outside of the bottle; so if possible, avoid getting it on any painted label. Please note: CLR is extremely caustic and could result in burns or other bodily harm. If you do use CLR, remember to wear gloves, safety goggles, and a mask if possible since it could be dangerous. If you do this correctly, the CLR will not harm the glass, and will also not harm you. The National Bottle Museum is not responsible for any injuries sustained while trying to clean your bottle.


Dangerous substances found in bottles - Read labels carefully

Some Dangerous Materials

Common or Latin Name Chemical Name Hazard
Nux Vomica Strychnine Poison
Natur, Natrium Sodium VIOLENT CAUSTIC, POISON!
Aqua Natur Sodium Hydroxide, Lye Caustic, Poison
Aqua Fortis Nitric Acid CORROSIVE, POSION!
Aqua Nitre Nitric Acid CORROSIVE, POSION!
Aqua Regia Sulphuric Acid CORROSIVE, POISON!
Aqua Chloris Hydrochloric Acid CORROSIVE, POISON!
Aqua Chloris Sodium Hypochlorite Poison
Oil of Bitter Almond Hydrogen Cyanide DEADLY POISON!
Oil of Cherry Laurel Hydrogen Cyanide DEADLY POISON!
Oil of Nutmeg Varies Narcotic, Poison
Oil of Rue Menthyl Nonyl Ketone Poison
Oil of Turpentine Varies Poison, Irritant
Laudanum Tinture of Opium POISON, Narcotic
Morphia, Tincture Morphine POISON, Narcotic
Corrosive Sublimate Mercury Chloride POISON
Plumbium, Litharge Lead Oxide POISON
Carbonyl Carbonyl Chloride DEADLY POISON, (Phosgene)
Phosphorus Phosphorus Flammable, Poison
Oil of Digitalis Digitalis Poison
Potassia Potassium Hydroxide Caustic, Poison
Saltpeter Potassium Nitrate Explosive, Poison
Chamelon Potassium Permanganate Caustic, Poison
Sal Soda Sodium Carbonate Irritant
Sal Amoniac Ammonium Hydroxide Poison
Prussate of Soda Sodium Ferrocyanide Poison
Soda Nitre Sodium Nitrate Explosive
Picric Acid Picric Acid Explosive, Poison
Fulminates Metal Nitrates EXPLOSIVE!
Water Glass Sodium Silicate Irritant
Spirits of Sweet Oil Ethyl Nitrate Irritant, Poison
Spirits of Goinin Nitro Glycerin Poison
Spirit of Ants Formic Acid Poison, Corrosive