Hem tape – a product that fuses layers of fabric together with just the heat of an iron – is very handy when you need to hem a garment without sewing it. The fusible tape usually works very well, holding a hem firmly in place and withstanding years of laundering and wear. That effectiveness becomes a problem, however, if you ever want to remove the hem tape from fabric. A strong adhesive bond makes it tough to remove fabric hem tape as well as the sticky residue it leaves behind on the fabric, but that doesn't mean it's impossible.
Use Heat to Open the Hem
Just as the heat from an iron activates the adhesive in hem tape when you apply it to fabric, heat can also loosen the adhesive bond when you want to remove hem tape. With a steam iron set at the hottest heat setting that is safe for the fabric, press the hem for 10 seconds so the fabric gets very hot.
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Carefully use your fingers, the edge of a credit card or a butter knife to peel back part of the hem, exposing the hem tape inside. If the hem won't open, try poking a toothpick or the end of a seam ripper between the fabric layers of the hem and sliding it from side to side to form an opening.
Keep applying heat with the iron and firmly pulling the fabric layers open until you've opened the whole length of the hem. Take care when pressing not to touch any exposed hem tape with the iron or the tape will leave a sticky mess on the iron. (If you do get any adhesive on your iron, let the iron cool and wipe it off with rubbing alcohol or an adhesive remover.)
Remove the Fabric Hem Tape
With the hem open and the hem tape exposed, you can now remove the tape from the fabric. First, try to pull the tape off firmly with your fingers or scrape it with the edge of a credit card or butter knife. You might also pull small pieces of tape off the fabric with tweezers. If you're lucky, the tape will come away from the fabric with ease.
If the tape is difficult to remove, heat it again with the iron but this time, place a piece of paper or scrap fabric between the iron and the hem tape. If the tape sticks to the paper or scrap fabric, try to remove it from the garment fabric by firmly ripping back the paper or scrap fabric. Otherwise, continue with the scraping and pulling until all the hem tape is off.
Remove the Remaining Residue
There will probably be some sticky adhesive residue left behind on the fabric after you remove the hem tape. If you are going to rehem the garment by sewing in a way that conceals the residue and the residue doesn't affect the texture of the fabric, you might just leave it in place. Otherwise, remove as much as you can by continuing to scrape the fabric and then treating any remaining sticky stuff with a fabric-safe liquid adhesive remover, such as Goo Gone or WD-40. Rubbing alcohol might also remove the residue.
Soak cotton balls or the corner of a soft rag with the rubbing alcohol or liquid adhesive remover and firmly wipe the fabric where any sticky residue remains. With a little time and continued rubbing, the residue should all come off. Otherwise, apply the product directly to the hem area, let it soak for approximately 30 minutes and then wipe away the loosened residue. After that, immediately launder the garment to wash away the product.