Find yourself in a bit of a sticky situation? All gummed up with nowhere to go! Yes, you’ve guessed correctly, it’s an article about the glamorous and exciting world of label removal.
Our store has a reputation for having clean and very gently used books. This is largely due to the beautifying ritual that we put them through. Each book that comes through our doors is examined for any possible flaw that we could improve, and any that need work are set aside to have the necessary treatments applied to them. One of the most glaring flaws is old labels.
At The Book Man, we have a strict label removal policy – we always remove labels from other bookstores, thrift shops and the like. It not only helps us present all books in their best possible condition – it also shields both customers and staff from unpleasant conversations involving price discrepancies.
We set aside all books with labels, or label residue on them, and tackle them all at once. This enables us to set up your work station, don gloves, and save time by doing a mass soak & remove cycle. Our tools for the job include disposable surgical gloves, cotton pads (preferably with a “scrubby/rough” side – dollar stores are great for cheap ones), Kleenex, Goo Gone, a pen knife, our thumb-nails, and our Scotty Peelers.
Some labels can be removed without much effort at all. Simply slide your thumbnail, Scotty Peeler or pen knife under the edge of a corner and peel. Getting a whole “side” of the label with your peeling tool often improves the likelihood of removal in one nice piece. We then distribute a tiny amount of Goo Gone on a cotton pad and rub off any residue. If not removed, this residue will still feel sticky, as well as attract dirt and grime over time.
Any books with label residue simply get a firm, circular scrubbing motion with a cotton pad and Goo Gone, and a swipe with a Kleenex to remove any extra product.
Now it’s time to spread out our books, offensive label side up (double-side offenders get put together in one area), put on our gloves, and load up a cotton pad with a healthy amount of Goo Gone. Soak all labels thoroughly with a gentle rub/press, and throw the soaked cotton pad out in a sealed garbage can.
Now leave the product to do its work, and go do something else for about ten minutes. You’ll be tempted to come back sooner, but trust me, it’s not worth it – impatience just leads to ripped covers.
Coming back, take out your pen knife, or one of your Scotty Peelers and work it under the corner/edge of the offending label, and then work it underneath and across until it gently peels off. Assuming that it’s a “nice label” all you’ll need to do is take a little Kleenex, perhaps another cotton pad with a TINY amount of goo gone on it, wipe off the residue, and your book is good to go.
Nasty labels require a little more patience (and depending on your personality type, perhaps a little more colourful language as well). Try to get the top off of particularly shiny labels, exposing their tender papery underbelly, which can easily be soaked with goo-gone and removed as per the above instructions. Some labels have a security feature (ie – they come apart in about ten little fragments, and leave a thick, greasy, sticky residue underneath). These have to be eked off – the Scotty Peelers are good for this, a strong thumbnail bit by bit. Patience and technique will usually get them off without marring the cover too much, then it’s just a matter of melting off the thick gooey residue they leave behind. More clean pads with more goo gone, swiping them with a tissue afterwards, and holding it up to the light to make sure it’s actually clean is the ticket there.
Very absorptive books (older paperbacks without that glossy finish, papery dustjackets, and the like) cannot handle Goo Gone. It will stain them. These require more love and care – peeling the labels off VERY slowly using your tools, sometimes a hairdryer set at high heat can loosen the gum as well.
Goo Gone Warnings: I often throw caution to the wind (don’t tell my mother) and don’t wear gloves, but it is safer to wear them and not have contact with Goo Gone. Goo Gone, while effective, is also poisonous, so I always make sure that it is capped between usages, and that I don’t expose myself unnecessarily to its fumes. I have tried “natural” products that were much less poisonous but sadly, also much less effective. Goo gone has recently opted to “save money” by changing the distribution method on their bottles. Instead of a nice little plastic top with a tiny hole in the middle, they arrive with a skimpy piece of plastic covering the neck, which you are supposed to remove for use. These cause you to use way too much product. Luckily I had some old bottles, which I popped the tops out of and transfer into new bottles. You can get around this by putting a pin-hole in the new lids yourself, or by finding a more appropriate bottle and transferring the Goo Gone into that.