Wednesday, April 15, 2015

How to Get Library Labels Off Books

I love buying second hand books, but I always have to pause when I'm looking at the book sale shelf at the public library. Sometimes they have really great titles that have been deleted, not because they're worn out, but because the library has too many copies. And they're ridiculously cheap, much cheaper than any other second hand store. That sounds like a steal, right?

There's just one tiny problem. They're covered with spine labels and other library paraphernalia. 

Call me shallow, but I want my books to look pretty on my bookshelves. I want my books to look nice, clean and not like I stole them from the library! Luckily, my library doesn't use marker or stamps on the sides of pages, so the only real issues I have are the spine labels and the barcode on the front cover. Sick of letting good books pass me by, I learned how to get rid of those ugly spine labels and I want to share my (extremely simple) technique with you.

Step 1:
Remind yourself to be very careful with all of the following steps. Books can tear and removing labels is a delicate process.

Step 2:
Gently rip off as much of the label as you can. Pick off all of the exterior tape, so you're left with sticky residue and a bit of the paper label. See picture below.

Step 3:
Use rubbing alcohol to wet a paper-towel or rag. For this book I just used a paper-towel, but I noticed that sometimes the paper-towel balls up and gets stuck in the stickiness. If you have a particularly sticky label, use some type of cloth rag.

Rubbing alcohol dries uncommonly fast, so you will have to keep adding it to your cloth. Do not apply directly to the book, because there's a danger of it leaking into the paper pages. Keep all moisture on the shiny cover part.

Step 4:
Start by getting rid of the sticky residue on the front and back covers where the tape was. Depending on the level of stickiness, this will take some time; do not be discouraged. In order to get it completely clean you have to scrub at it. I used my fingernail to scrape at it through the paper-towel, but you can use a Popsicle stick.

Step 5: 
Start by wetting the entire paper label with rubbing alcohol. See how much you can rid of by using your cloth to rub over the entire surface to wear down the paper. The best approach is to start at one of the edges. Using the same method as step 4, start to scrap away the paper label, until all that's remaining is sticky residue. Repeat step 4 and enjoy your label-free book!

There's a slight fading from where the label was, but other than that there's no trace of the library!

What not to do:
-Don't try using a craft knife to scrape the label away. You just end up with slices in your book and nicks on your fingers
-Don't try using heat from a candle to loosen up the glue. You'll burn the book. I'm not speaking from personal experience. Nope, no burnt books on my shelf...
-Don't break through the plastic seal on the cover of your book or try this method on cloth or paper books with an unsealed cover (aka it's not shiny)
-Don't use this method to steal book from the library or any other nefarious purposes

The real trick to making this method work is to use your elbow grease and lots of rubbing alcohol. It takes a bit of time to get the book looking perfect, but I was really happy with the result. This method also worked on the barcode. Let me know in the comments how you remove those pesky labels! Do you even bother with buying book from the library or removing the labels? Thoughts and comments always welcome!

Reading: Defy by Sara B. Larson
Listening: The Weepies
Watching: Gilmore Girls
Previously on A Splash of Photography: Frozen Beach


  1. "Don't use this method to steal a book from the library or any other nefarious purposes." <--- This is perfection!! XD

    I have actually never tried to remove the library labels from the books they get rid of... It has caused issues because we kept trying to return them!! Lol! :) I might need to test this method. <3

    1. Haha, I'm glad that you liked that little comment.

      I work at a library and it's remarkable how many book-sale books get accidentally returned. Removing the labels does tend to help with that.

      Good luck!

  2. Those library stickers and the "used" stickers too, they are not at all pretty. Great tips, thanks!

    1. Oh yes, used book stickers are awful. The stickers that my university uses for used books are huge and very ugly.

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. "don't use this method to steal book from the library or any other nefarious purposes". Darn it, Sunny. YOU'RE ONTO ME. That's the first thing I thought of when I opened this post. BUT NO, CAIT, NO. YOU ARE A GOOD PERSON. *cries because books*
    So yes, after just confessing to my villainous intentions...I actually really needed this! I've just gotten a whole bunch of books from a 2nd hand story and while they don't have a library sticker, they have HORRIBLE PRICE STICKERS that just won't come off. It makes me cry. But it's better than having the price written in permanent marker on the cover, which has happened and I haven't bought really really epic books because of it. GAh.

      Ugh, that make me squirm to even think about it. It's like the seller purposely wants to not make sales. Also, all the pretty books ruined!

      And yes Cait, when it comes to villainy, I always suspect you, haha.

  4. YES! YES! I have been wondering how to do this for so long. I wanted to experiment and find my own way but that's too risky with my favorite books. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I'm glad to help you out! I would definitely recommend trying this method out on a less important book first, though. Although it's a simple method, it does take a bit of finessing to get the label off without damaging the book.

  5. This is so handy! I've too encountered this problem. Thank you so much for the tip! I've also given you a follow and I love your banner. ^ ^ Peacocks are so pretty. I'm actually wearing a pair of peacock socks today lol.

    Stori Tori's Blog

    1. Awww, thanks for the compliments! I love peacocks; they seem so beautiful and elegant. Welcome to SOI and thanks for commenting!

  6. The only book I ever owned that had a library barcode on it also has a plastic protective cover on it. But this is GREAT advice for ones that have extra barcode stickers on the back that don't want to come off :) Thanks for sharing!

    ~ Liza @ Classy Cat Books

    1. Those covers are so annoying. If I buy a hardcover with a library added dust jacket, I tend to cut it off.

      Your welcome! Thanks for visiting A Splash of Ink!

  7. Both eucalyptus oil and tea tree oil will remove sticker/sticky label residue. Apply to a cloth, e.g. chux, and semi wet/soak the label with the cloth and oil of choice. Then they not only come clean, but smell lovely, too.


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