We love to decorate our spaces. Hanging pictures, mirrors, or holiday decorations help us personalize our homes. The problems begin when you want to move things around. Unsightly holes from nails or missing paint from sticky tape, such as double-sided foam tape, marred countless walls for years until 3M developed Command adhesives. This system of hooks and strips allows us to decorate and organize without harming surfaces.
While most of us are just happy they work, others want to understand the science behind the adhesives of the handy little hooks and strips. What makes the Command systems work without damaging the wall surface is the level of both adhesive and cohesive strength. The sticky part of the strip has adhesive strength that holds the strip to the surface. That sticky part also has cohesive strength. The cohesive strength has to be greater than the adhesive strength so that when you stretch the adhesive it will come off cleanly.
The picture-hanging strips have a two-piece hook and loop system center core. One side adheres to the item you want to hang and the corresponding half is stuck to the wall. The hook and loop system joins the two strips together. Hooks have the adhesive strip on the back of the hook and attach directly to the wall surface.
Now that you know more than you probably ever wanted to know about how the strips work, how do you remove them correctly even when the pull tab is broken off? Fortunately, it takes only a couple of household items to get the adhesive off the wall without leaving a trace.
Equipment / Tools
- Handheld hair dryer
- Dental floss
How to Remove Command Strips and Hooks
Just in case you didn't save the instructions and don't have another pack of strips on hand, here's how to remove Command products from a surface.
Remove the Hanging Picture or Item
When you're ready to change things around and remove the Command adhesive, take down the picture or decorative item so that the adhesive part of the strip or hook is exposed. For pictures hung with strips, grasp the bottom corners of the frame and with an upward movement, peel the picture frame away from the wall. This will release the hook and loop component of the Command strip.
Stretch the Tab
Grasp the exposed tab of the adhesive and slowly stretch it in the same direction as the strip. It may stretch up to 15 inches before it releases from the wall. Always pull flatly in the same direction as the strip. Never pull at a ninety-degree angle.
How to Remove a Command Strip With a Broken Pull Tab
Things happen! Sometimes the exposed pull tab gets broken off and you can't get a good grip to remove the adhesive without damaging the wall. Here's what to do.
Cut the Floss
Measure out a piece of uncolored dental floss about 12 inches long. The piece of floss needs to be long enough so you can wrap each end around your hands several times to make a "dental-floss saw."
Warm Up the Strip
Turn on a handheld hair dryer to the medium or medium-high setting. Holding the dryer about three or four inches away from the strip, move it back and forth over the strip for about 20 seconds. Touch the Command strip. It should feel warm. If not, move a bit closer and use the dryer until the strip is warm to the touch.
Slide and Saw
Once the strip is warm, wrap each end of the dental floss around your hands so that you have a taut piece between them. Slide the floss under the top of the Command Strip and gently and slowly saw back and forth as you move down the strip. The strip should slip off the wall when you reach the bottom of the strip.
Remove Remaining Adhesive
If any adhesive remains on the wall, use your fingertips or a clean microfiber cloth to rub the surface gently. The adhesive should peel away.
Tips for Better Results From Command Strips
- Take time to read the directions before installing or removing the strips.
- Choose the proper hook or strip for the job. There are weight and humidity limits specified for each product.
- Be sure the wall is free from grease, dust, and grime. Clean the area with a bit of isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol on a lint-free microfiber cloth.
- Do not attempt to use the strips or hooks on freshly painted walls (wait at least seven days after painting), wallpaper, fabric, or textured surfaces like brick.