How to remove tape adhesive from painted walls

Written by tom king
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How to remove tape adhesive from painted walls
Tape left too long on painted surfaces can be tough to remove. (plastic tape image by timur1970 from

We've all had to remove tape adhesive from painted walls and surfaces. The trick to removing the tape goo without removing the underlying paint lies in the solvent used to loosen the tape and the care with which you remove the glue residue. Older, well-set adhesive residues can present more of a challenge to remove than more recent deposits. The proper solvent, however, can help you clear it off without damaging the paint below.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Bowl
  • Detergent
  • Cleaning rag
  • Naphtha (lighter fluid)
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Peanut butter
  • WD-40
  • Mineral oil
  • Single-edge razor blade
  • Goo Gone, Wilbond or Goof Off

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  1. 1

    Determine what type of paint is on the wall under the tape adhesive. If the paint is oil-based enamel, you can go straight to the oil-based solvents shown in later steps below. If the paint is latex enamel, it will tolerate lighter solvents without soaking up oils in the chemical adhesive removers. Flat latex paints will absorb oils and stain, so avoid using oily solvents to release the old tape goo.

  2. 2

    Fill a bowl with warm water and a capful of detergent. Dip the rag into the soapy water and rub the adhesive patch or tape with water and let it soak in. Rub gently with the rag to peel the goo away from the surface of the paint. If the goo doesn't come free, scrape gently with the edge of a razor blade. Don't rub so hard it peels the paint. Next try a light solvent.

  3. 3

    Soak the adhesive residue with an application of naphtha or denatured alcohol. Repeat gentle rubbing and scraping. If the paint has an enamel (shiny) finish, try WD-40 or mineral oil and repeat rubbing and gentle scraping. If the adhesive resists, try stronger oil-based solvents.

  4. 4

    Rub Goo Gone, Goof Off, Wilbond or other commercial goo remover into the remaining adhesive residue. If the material continues to resist, peanut butter works well as a slightly abrasive rub for removing the last of the goop. Peanut butter is oily, so if you use it for a flat-based paint, you'll need to reprime and repaint the spot.

Tips and warnings

  • Oily solvents and adhesive removers can prevent fresh paint from adhering or soak through a flat-finish paint. Be sure to apply primer over the repair..

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