74 Bottles of Wine on the Wall…

And on the tables and on the floor and anywhere else I can think to put them!

Like I said, after our planning meeting I felt way more confident about proceeding with our DIY decoration list (that is rather long and involved, I must say). Since most of my centerpiece and decoration ideas involve wine bottles, I first needed to sit down and figure out just how many we were going to need to get everything done.

Grand total: 74 bottles.

After I tallied everything up it occurred to me that there will be more wine bottles than guests at this wedding. And that’s not counting the ones we’ll be bringing to serve during the reception. For whatever reason this fact still makes me giggle. Perhaps these wedding plans have me a bit punch drunk?!

Now, I’d been stock-piling empty wine bottles for a while and they were hanging out in my home studio for years (making a few moves with me and everything) but even I wasn’t sure if I had enough saved up or if we’d need to get to the boozing pqd! Never fear, I had plenty of all sizes, shapes, and colors, the only thing they needed before we could start to cut (about 25 of them are going to be used in parts) and decorate them was to get all those labels off!

A smarter Road Trip would have been removing labels as each bottle was emptied, but I kept putting this task off thinking that I wanted to save all of them for craft projects. Save, schmave, it was time to clear these bottles and we were going to get them all done in one fell swoop!

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Step 1: Commandeer a couple of extra-deep storage totes from the garage and bring them out to the back deck. A bit of regular dish-washing liquid in the bottom and then I loaded in as many bottles as would stand up comfortably in the space.

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Step 2: Just add water! If I were doing this for only a few bottles I could have used a smaller container and hot water, but for the sake of time and volume, I just went with whatever temperature came out of the hose. Which was cold. I know this because filling up the tubs wasn’t enough–to keep the contents from playing bumper bottles (and, therefore, not keeping the labels submerged) you have to also partially fill said bottles and that tends to cause some blow-back. I was just shy of drenched after this step.

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Step 3: Now here’s the fun part. Once the bottles have had a chance to soak a bit, choose one and try to lift off the label. Sometimes the angels will sing and it will come off easily. Most of the time, no matter how long you let them soak, that’s not gonna happen. After a few reluctant labels I went and hunted up a putty knife and that helped quite a bit. I also had some steel wool handy as even the easy labels tended to leave a bit of residue that the steel wool made quick work of. After a quick rinse I put them into the recycle bins (emptied the day before, how convenient!) to dry off a bit.

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Step 4: Repeat as necessary, starting with fresh soap and water for each batch. I ended up doing 2 1/2 batches of bottles over the course of 4.5 hours. I also found myself incredibly sore for the next few days from the odd positions I found myself in trying to get those Bacchus-forsaken bottles cleaned. Once they dried outside for a while I dragged them inside and (eventually) boxed them all up by size and shape.

All in all I ended up cleaning 96 bottles and only sorta broke one of them while cleaning because one bottle slipped out of my hands and landed on the neck of another. But even then I was able to salvage the chipped one–I need a few that will be cut down to the bottom half only with the tops unaccounted for (as yet).

Some labels (Jones soda, this side-eye is for you) were incredible pains in the ass as they used a heavy-duty adhesive that just seemed to spread like the blob when scrubbed. Those will require Goo Gone or something similar to really get clean (and, yes, I have some smaller bottles in the mix for use in certain decoration configurations). The winner for easiest labels to soak off, though, goes to Perrier–they were an absolute dream to lift off in one piece.

A couple of other things I learned while fighting the upcycled decoration battle:

  • Champagne/Sparkling wine-style labels will fight you. Why? The bottlers know you’re going to likely set them into an ice bucket, etc. and don’t want the labels to be a peeling mess in the middle of your evening. Most of these labels have a water-resistant coating on them, therefore, and will take more work to remove. Consider yourself warned. White wine bottles come in second-hardest for many of the same reasons. (I don’t remember buying so many bottle of Oak Leaf Chardonnay in my life but I know I cleaned about a half dozen of them!)
  • Any labels with metallic foil (common on liquor bottles, but some wine labels used them, too) will be less prone to peel and more prone to disintegrate into a mealy, pulpy mess but only once due force has been applied.
  • It might be a good idea to remove any foil wraps left on the neck of the bottles before they get all wet and soapy, otherwise you’ll need to let them dry before you can cut them off. They usually aren’t glued, just heat-shrunk into place.

Mama Leadfoot asked why I insisted on doing them all at once and, honestly? If I’d planned on only doing half of them that day I don’t think I would have done the rest of them. It was better to get them over with!

Did you tackle any projects at one go that you knew you’d never finish if you parceled them out?

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