Wall hooks with clothes hanging

Ask Woodiwiss: “How do I keep paint from lifting off walls when removing a hook or tape?”

If you’re not careful, poster, masking, Scotch, and even painter’s tape can damage walls. Even those specifically formulated tapes and adhesives you pull down on to remove can cause the paint to lift or peel right off.

If you’re reading this, there’s a 90% chance it’s too late. You usually don’t know you’ll encounter peeling paint until you’ve started removing the adhesive. And many of the methods in this post about protecting paint are about preventing damage before you place the tape. But some ways can help recover a sticky situation.

Prevent peeling paint by properly preparing the wall surface first

This advice might be too little, too late, but it can be helpful to know for next time you hang something.

Consider a protective coating first

Consider applying a protective coating to your walls before hanging posters or strong tape. This could be a clear, removable wall decal or a temporary wall covering. This way, the adhesive sticks to the protective layer rather than the paint.

Choose the right tape, or just use a nail

Use painter’s tape or low-tack masking tape instead of regular adhesive tapes. These tapes are designed to be less adhesive and are less likely to damage the paint when removed. They’re not guaranteed, though — especially if you leave them on the walls for a long time.

We’ve also seen a lot of people over the years hang everything from mirrors to shelves with those removable hooks and mounts you see at hardware, convenience, and grocery stores. These can be handy for some things in some places. But a lot of the time you are better off with a small nail. 

A small nail on a dark wall might not leave much of a hole anyone notices anyway. Yes, the removable hook mounts promise they won’t damage walls, and they’re generally pretty good. But time, moisture, high humidity, and the surface underneath drying out over time aren’t stopping paint peeling magically. 

Apply the tape properly and carefully

A lot of people get in a hurry with those wall mount hooks and poster tape pads. Take the extra few minutes to follow the directions. 

  1. Clean the wall surface first. A little water on a paper towel or soft cloth is fine.
  2. Make sure the wall is dry completely.
  3. Don’t apply the tape or putty to a wall that’s already peeling paint. It’s a sign the wall paint is failing, or the primer was never applied, or some other issue.
  4. Apply the tape carefully, smoothly, and evenly without wrinkles. Wrinkles introduce air, and air presents a pocket where pressure changes — even from intense sunlight producing heat — can cause it to do odd things over time.
  5. Don’t apply too much pressure, lest you risk pushing it through the drywall. We’ve seen it happen!

We’ve also seen people apply removable wall mounts and hooks and then apply fresh paint around the area without removing them. Presumably, on the assumption they want the hook there anyway, so why bother removing it? 

But a fresh coat of paint will dry and that new paint will be like a bit of very subtle “glue” around the hook. So if and when you do have to inevitably remove the hook, you’re going to an obvious hole or mark in the painted surface. Just remove the hook, paint the walls, and buy another $7 hook mount. It’ll save you money and adhere properly.

How to fix chipped paint or wall damage after removing tape or putty

If you’ve removed the tape or adhesive and it lifted the paint right off, there’s no other solution here except repainting. And, most likely, you’ll need to repaint the whole wall unless you have a precise color chip match. 

Here’s the gist on how to fix flaking paint or paint that’s already peeled off:

  1. Scrape off any loose or damaged paint with a putty knife.
  2. Fill any holes or gouges with a spackling compound and allow it to dry.
  3. Sand the patched area smooth.
  4. Apply a primer to the patched area.
  5. Paint over the primer with the matching paint color.

How to remove putty or tape without damaging the walls

Every wall surface is different, so no guarantees here. But if you’re trying to remove poster tape, putty, or some other tape or adhesive without damaging the paint or walls, here are some tips worth trying.

Remove the tape or adhesive with heat

Heat can soften the adhesive and make removing strong adhesives or tape easier. Use a hair dryer or a heat gun on low heat to warm the tape or glue. And no, you should not apply an iron to the wall.

As the adhesive softens, gently peel the tape or poster off at a shallow angle.

Try floss or fishing line to remove tape

If you have a poster or tape that’s especially stubborn, you can use dental floss or fishing line to “saw” through the adhesive.

Slide the floss or line behind the poster or tape. Then gently — and we mean gently — “saw” back and forth while pulling the tape away from the wall.

Try a solvent or adhesive remover in stubborn cases

This should be the last thing you try, but some adhesive residues can be dissolved or lubricated to make removal easier. 

  1. Apply a small amount of adhesive remover, rubbing alcohol, or cooking oil to the sticky residue.
  2. Allow it to soften the adhesive for a few minutes, then gently scrape it off with a plastic putty knife or (old, unused) credit card.

Peel it off slowly and if you notice paint peeling, stop

To fix peeling paint isn’t much work, but it is work. You’ll be in for a trip to the store for paint at least. So if you start peeling away the tape, putty, or adhesive and you notice it’s lifting the paint: stop pulling!

Yes, you might have to finagle some other method listed here. But it’s a lot easier to prevent paint peeling than it is to fix it. Heat is your best solution, particularly if the walls are in wet or damp areas.

Don’t be afraid to consult a professional painter if the walls are sensitive

If you’re unsure about the best approach or if the tape or poster is on a particularly sensitive or valuable wall (e.g., textured or wallpapered), it’s best to consult a professional painter or wallpaper specialist for advice and assistance.

For most people, peeling paint might be inevitable. Even if you followed the manufacturer’s instructions, used high-quality paint, and did everything right, sometimes the tape is going to react with different surfaces over time in ways that will cause paint to peel. It’s just a risk of applying anything to your walls. 

Renters in short-term leases or apartments might be better off foregoing the tape entirely if you want your security deposit back. Even with a small bit of damage, a landlord is likely to paint the entire wall again simply because you have to. And that will cost them money.

We’re not saying you shouldn’t use those mounts or never hang anything on your walls. For a lot of small areas, they’re a smart use of space, affordable, and the mounts in particular generally work well much of the time. Likewise with tape, just don’t use the wrong type or apply to a dirty surface and you’ll be okay.

But if and when you are ready for a new coat of fresh paint, give us a call or send us a message for a quote. We offer professional painting (and patching!) services around the East Bay area, including Orinda, Walnut Creek, and more.