How to Remove Sticky Labels From Cardboard Boxes

Updated on March 12, 2018

Recently, I've had to solve a fairly common problem, yet in a unique way. On the job, our warehouse received two rejected pallets of perfume. Long story short, the two pallets were rejected from going on an airplane because of improper labeling. 60 boxes from each pallet were going to have to be torn off and new labels put on the same boxes. That's 120 boxes that we had to relabel.

Originally, each box had at least 5 different labels attached to it. And the labels had been attached for well over 1 month, giving the label adhesive ample time to firmly affix to the box surface. Even worse, some of the boxes had flammable components inside (remember it's perfume); so we had to be careful with giving these boxes any significant heat exposure. Oy Vey! What were we going to do?

Luckily, with a help from the internet and my local Home Depot we found the answer. And now I just wanted to share our methodology with all of you just in case it helps anyone else in desperate throes.

Item Checklist:

Let's just briefly go over what we need.

  1. Heat Gun. Primarily used for melting the glue adhesive so that the label is easy to peel off. In this tutorial I am using the Wagner HT 3500 Heat Gun. A very versatile heat fun for DIY projects. We will be using it at the lowest heat setting (250 degrees F). You could also try a blow dryer provided it can reach a high enough temperature to do the job to remove labels from a cardboard box. Also, you could use your heat gun without a nozzle but a nozzle is helpful. Specifically, you could use flat nose nozzle of the pin point nozzle.
  2. Goo Gone. This is a very popular degreasing solution sold both online and in popular retailers like Walmart and Target. Specifically, we are using the Goo Gone Original 8oz Spray On. Information on how to purchase can be found near the end of this article about removing stickers from cardboard boxes.
  3. Cleaning Rag / Old T-Shirt / or Cotton Balls. This is to be used to apply the Good Gone with minmal staining.
  4. Gloves. Plastic / Vinyl gloves are ideal for this application. Goo Gone is a synthetic chemical that I would not trust with my skin, so I wear gloves while handling it. Also, the gloves will provide some protection if you are using the heat gun to remove price stickers from boxes, remove glue residues from boxes, etc.

Since I am handling some boxes that contain flammable goods inside, I am first showing you how to use goo gone to remove labels and adhesive paper from cardboard. I will later cover the technique on using the heat gun.

1. Apply Goo Gone to Your Cleaning Cloth

First and foremost, put on your gloves. (I did not have them on in the picture because I'm a moron). Next, thoroughly soak a section of your rag or old t-shirt with the Goo Gone product. Or if you are using a cotton ball like me (see picture), then soak that cotton ball entirely.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

2. Soak the Label With Goo Gone

With your damp medium (cotton ball, cloth, etc), coat the label or labels you intend to remove from the cardboard box. Be especially sure to catch the edges of the label, as this will be very helpful later on.

  • If you are worried about staining on the box, Goo Gone will stain the box temporarily. But the staining will disappear within a day or two.


3. Wait From 90 Minutes to 3 Hours

The timing is not arbitrary. Because I had so many boxes to go through I timed every ten minutes whether the labels were loose enough to tear off with my hand.

  • It seems that thin labels and labels without any lamination are easy to tear off once you reach the 1 1/2 hour mark.
  • The tricky labels are the ones with lamination (i.e. the flammable number 3 label in the pictures above). Even with additional soaking, it required about 3 hours of wait time before I was able to remove the label with any kind of ease.

If you want to be absolutely sure you gonna get the label completely off, waiting three hours is your best bet.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

4. Tear the Label(s) off Slowly

Now the fun part. Pick up a loose edge of the label with your nail (or pen/pen cap). (If you soaked the label edges properly, they should be loose enough to do this now.) Now slowly peel the label off of the box. Please peel slowly, it is a paper label after all and is still subject to tearing. The more tearing that occurs...the more chance you have of leaving glue residues on the box itself. Yet, even with "slow" removal of the 120 labels we had to deal with, each one took about 15 seconds to remove on average.

And there we have it. We have removed labels and some adhesive paper from cardboard boxes with very little residues. Of course, we were dealing with flammable substances so the whole process took us at least 3 hours. Let's explore a more fast and reckless method of removing labels from cardboard boxes.

The Fast & Reckless Method

1. Set Your Heat Gun to the Lowest Setting

Plug in your heat gun and start it up. Now heat guns can spew out some pretty intense...uh heat, so I would advise putting your heat gun on the lowest setting. For me, that is 250 degrees Fahrenheit (pretty typical for heat guns). Putting on your gloves at this point is also a pretty good idea, as your hand will get pretty close to the nozzle of the heat gun and you could get burned a little ( pain to label removal).

Speaking of nozzles now is a pretty good time to attach either the flat nose of the pinpoint nozzles that I referred to earlier in the article. In this demonstration, I am using a flat nose nozzle for my Wagner HT3500 Heat Gun.

2. Start Heating One Edge of the Label

Just like in the last method, you want to create a loose edge on the label from which you can remove the entire label and its adhesive off of the cardboard box. To do this, concentrate the nozzle of your heat gun on one edge of the label for a few seconds (move it up and down the edge of the label if you have to).

The adhesive underneath that edge should have weakened from the heat and now you have a loose edge.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

3. Remove Label Slowly

Now the home stretch. While pulling on the loose edge of the label, use your heat gun to melt glue on the underside of the label that is keeping it attached to the cardboard box. This will allow you to pull more of the label off. Keep repeating this process until the label is completely removed.

  • This method is very fast. It took me about 8 seconds to remove a thin price label from 1 cardboard box.

And there you have it. The quick and dirty way to remove a label from a box. I hope this tutorial has been of help to all of you. I will now leave you with one of my favorite pictures floating around the internet. It also just happens to be vaguely relevant to our topic. (See below)



    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image

      Arctic Blond 

      19 months ago

      Hi Justin: Thanks so much for posting this! Another site recommended using rubbing alcohol and that was completely useless. I wanted to remove the sticky residue from a pretty chocolate box so I could reuse it as a gift box. My previous attempts had removed the top layer successfully but I still had a layer of sticky stuff. Goo Gone applied with a cotton ball did the trick with no damage to the box. Because the top layer was gone, I only had to wait a few short minutes and the residue lifted up in one piece. Now we know - Goo Gone works on cardboard boxes!

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      2 years ago from Texas

      Wow! This is just too much work for me Justin. I remove some labels, but that is just boxes that I intend to use for myself personally.

      Interesting article.

      Blessings friend.

    • Justin Muir profile imageAUTHOR

      Justin Muirhead 

      2 years ago from New York

      Thank You Straya

    • ozthruslittedeyes profile image

      BitCast - The Daily Bitcoin Forecast Challenge 

      2 years ago from Melbourne

      interesting life-hacks


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)