No pressure removing pressure sensitive tapes


No pressure removing pressure sensitive tapes


Traditional methods of pressure sensitive tape removal will have included a heated spatula, or tacking iron. Indeed, this method can still be effective, however, sometimes the very application of the heated iron can make the task more difficult, stay with me, I’ll explain!

Sticking things together is something humans are pretty good at, and we’ve developed a range of solutions to help us over the last thousand years or so. There is one keeping conservators around the world busy; the use of pressure sensitive tape. blog image

Why remove tape?

There are various forms of pressure sensitive tape (or Sellotape as some may refer to it) with various carriers and adhesive formulas used in their manufacture. Tape was, and still is, commonly used to strengthen weakened works of art on paper, books and other paper artefacts. Unfortunately, and unwittingly, although the repairs are made with the best intentions, they can cause more problems than the initial tear or damage they set out to repair. Common signs of oxidation and deterioration include discoloration, and eventually embrittlement leaving behind damaging residues from the adhesive which can leech into the paper. It’s clear that any non-archival pressure sensitive tape should be removed from valuable papers before they can cause irreversible damage (if possible). Older tapes, where the adhesive has already separated from the carrier, could have already caused irreversible damage.

So how can we make this all-so-common job easier for ourselves?

There are multiple advantages in using a hot air pencil as opposed to a heated spatula when removing tapes. Applying heat without direct contact allows access to gently work on the re-activated area of adhesive. The heated area can then be easily worked upon with a scalpel or tweezers while maintaining the required temperature. When using a heated spatula, direct pressure is applied to the tape, this could in some instances re-activate and adhere the carrier to the paper even more securely. Conservation work StationThe nature of using an iron to heat allows the activated adhesive to start cooling immediately as the iron needs to be removed before you can work on the area.

What we've developed that could help with tape removal

After significant research, we have developed the Conservation Work Station which combines both a heated spatula, and a hot air pencil to provide the ultimate tool for tape removal. Operating from 30°C to 200°C, both the heated spatula and hot air pencil can be heated to a precise temperature to suit your requirements and minimise any potential risks to the object. Many other devices available on the market operate at much higher temperatures, some were originally designed for use on solder, not delicate and valuable paper.

Watch the Conservation Work Station in action

Here is a video produced by Nick Burnett of Museum Conservation Services Ltd showing the Conservation work station in action as he removes some pressure sensitive tape from a Russian Poster.



Subsequent removal of the adhesive can involve mechanical means, i.e. a crepe eraser, or may require a solvent. This would be dependent upon the risk to the object and the composition of the adhesive that requires removal. The Conservation Work Station can also be used in consolidation of flaking oil paintings, indeed, it may be used in many conservation practices which require gentle or precise heat.

We always recommend seeking the advice of a trained conservator, please see our 'useful links' page in the footer below.

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