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How to clean tape off of a metal filing cabinet

Updated April 17, 2017

Adhesives from different types of tape have an affinity for metal. If left in place for more than a few days, the glue dries and sticks so tightly that it becomes almost impossible to remove. Fortunately, there are several methods to try before throwing up your hands and admitting defeat. Try all of these to see if you can remove the tape and its attending residue from your metal cabinet.

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  1. Soak small areas of the tape with water. Dissolve the top layer of the tape if it is water soluble, and rub that away with a paper towel. This exposes the dried adhesive. Use acetone to soften the adhesive. Keep the adhesive as moist as possible to penetrate the dried glue.

  2. Wrap the edge of a plastic putty knife with paper towelling and start to remove the sticky adhesive. Do not use the exposed edge of a metal putty knife because it will scratch the metal surface. When most of the easy glue has loosened and wiped away, try Methyl Ethel Keytone. It is a primary ingredient in adhesive strippers and effective against dried glue. Goo Gone is another commercial adhesive remover that is usually helpful.

  3. Heptane, a petroleum derivative, will definitely dissolve the glue if all other methods fail. Never use this indoors because it is a highly volatile solvent. However, when used in a properly ventilated area, away from all flammables, it is the last best choice to remove stuck on adhesive without dulling the metal surface.

  4. When the residue has been successfully removed, wipe the metal with cooking oil to buff away the chemicals and restore the surface to its normal lustre.

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Things You'll Need

  • Plastic putty knife
  • Paper towel
  • Water
  • Acetone
  • Methyl Ethel Keytone
  • Goo Gone
  • Heptane
  • Cooking oil

About the Author

Pat Olsen has over 35 years of experience as a professional journalist in California. She attended San Francisco State and Pacific College. Olsen has several published books, is a staff writer for Mill Creek Living Magazine, and currently writes for Demand Studio. She is a retired educator who still teaches twice a week.

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