How to Remove 3M Adhesive Tape

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The company 3M makes everything from painter's tape to packaging tape as well as tapes used for industrial and commercial purposes. The stickiness of the adhesive varies greatly among the thousands of tapes they manufacture, but generally speaking, they're easiest to remove by pulling them slowly off the surface. Heat works well to loosen the adhesive on any 3M tape that's tough to remove.


Here are the best general techniques for removing 3M adhesive tape and any left-behind adhesive residue.

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Lift and Peel the Tape Slowly

Removing 3M adhesive tape is easiest if you're able to lift the corners or edges in one area. Use your fingernail to lift the tape at or near a corner; if that doesn't work, carefully use a thin blade, such as a razor-blade-based paint scraper or the edge of a craft knife. Be careful not to scratch the item that has tape on it.


Once you've lifted enough of the tape edge to grab it, 3M suggests peeling it as slowly as possible, which helps loosen the adhesive bond better than a fast pull. This slow-peel method often results in less gummy mess to clean up afterward. If the tape breaks as you peel it, start the slow-peel process again from the opposite edge or from any area that has a large enough piece to grab.

Remove Gummy Adhesive Residue

If the 3M adhesive tape leaves behind a gummy residue similar to rubber cement, rub it with your finger to make it stick to itself in one mass. Continue until it's easy to pull the wad of adhesive gum off the surface. If the adhesive is a bit sticky, apply painter's tape over the entire sticky area, rub it down with your finger, and then peel off the painter's tape. In some cases, the old 3M adhesive sticks to the painter's tape, cleaning up the project surface. Feel free to try a slightly stickier tape, such as packing tape, wrapping it around your fingers sticky-side out and dabbing the old adhesive over and over to lift it away.


If the area still feels sticky and you're having a hard time removing the residue or if parts of the tape backing are still stuck down, heat comes to the rescue. Warm the adhesive with a hair dryer set to a medium or high heat setting, holding the hair dryer a few inches from the project area. After a minute or so, turn off the hair dryer and either place more painter's tape over the area to peel away the goo or use a plastic scraper or an old gift card to scrape off the adhesive.


Use an Adhesive Remover

Products designed to remove adhesives, including the 3M Adhesive Remover for automotive use, are excellent at loosening adhesive residue. Choose a product suitable for the surface at hand; the label should state whether the liquid works on your specific project surface. Citrus-based adhesive and sticker removers are safe for many surfaces and don't emit harmful fumes. To remove adhesive residue with a citrus-based remover:


  1. Apply the adhesive-removing liquid as directed on the product label, which might involve spraying it directly on the adhesive or applying it to a dye-free cloth and then rubbing it on the affected surface.
  2. Let it sit on the adhesive residue as long as is recommended on the product label.
  3. Wipe it away with a lint-free, dye-free cloth.



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