How to Remove Hem Tape From Fabric

Written by katharine godbey
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Hem tape is a fusible adhesive used to secure garment hems by placing the tape in the hem fold and ironing the fabric layers. The iron's heat melts the glue, causing the tape to stick to the fabric and seal the hem. Hem tape is useful when you need to keep a hem in place but can't sew it. However, if you have to alter the hem later, or want to put in a permanent sewn seam, you need to remove the hem tape from the fabric.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Electric steam iron
  • Terry-cloth towel
  • Acetone nail polish remover
  • Cotton balls

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  1. 1

    Heat the steam iron to the highest setting safe for the fabric. In small sections at a time, iron the hem-tape-sealed area of the garment until it is thoroughly heated.

  2. 2

    Pull apart the layers of the seam to expose the hem tape. Quickly pull up the seam tape from the fabric before it cools and re-sticks.

  3. 3

    Repeat Steps 1 and 2 on any areas in which the hem tape cooled before you could remove it. Make sure to keep a layer of fabric between the tape and the surface of the iron so the tape doesn't melt onto the iron.

  4. 4

    If any hem tape remains stuck, lay a terry-cloth towel over the areas with pieces of tape until thoroughly heated. Heat the towel and the fabric with the iron's steam turned on, then pull the towel up and away from the fabric. The texture of the terry-cloth will attract the seam tape and excess glue.

  5. 5

    Remove any of the glue left behind by rubbing a cotton ball soaked in nail polish remover over the glue. Test the remover on a small area of the garment first to make sure it won't damage the fabric. Work in small areas along the seam line until all the glue is removed.

Tips and warnings

  • The residue left by hem tape shows up more on darker fabrics.
  • If the area where the hem tape was removed can be hidden inside the garment, you may not need to remove the leftover glue after pulling off the tape.
  • Hem tape sticks more effectively to fabrics that contain a high percentage of cotton and is more easily removed from cotton blends.
  • Be careful not to scorch the fabric when using the iron.
  • Never leave a heated iron unattended.
  • Use nail polish remover carefully; it can damage synthetics, such as acetate and polyester, as well as natural fibres such as silk.

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