How to Remove Appliques

A seam ripper is a handy tool for removing appliques.
A seam ripper is a handy tool for removing appliques. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Appliques are an inexpensive and simple way to dress up everyday fabric, like pillows, totes, shirts and blankets. However, you may find yourself wanting to change the applique after a while, or just do away with the applique all together. Removing one isn't hard but it will require some time and persistence to thoroughly remove it while avoiding damage to the fabric underneath.

Things You'll Need

  • Seam ripper
  • Iron
  • Scrap of lightweight cotton fabric

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Rip the stitching from around the edges of the fabric applique. Slide the pointed part of the seam ripper between the thread and the fabric, starting anywhere along the edge of the applique. Keep sliding around the edge so the thread will rip. Continue until the stitching is ripped all the way around the edge of the applique. Work carefully, making sure you only cut the stitches and not the fabric.

Pull out all the cut threads using your fingers. Use the seam ripper to rip any thread that didn't get ripped the first time around or that becomes tangled as you remove the thread. If the fabric applique easily lifts off, then you are done. If the applique was adhered with a fusible webbing, take further steps to finish removing it.

Turn the item with the applique on it inside out. Iron over the part with the applique using an appropriate steam setting for the type of fabric you are working with. Iron over a small area for 30 seconds to a minute.

Turn the item right-side out. Try to carefully peel the applique off, including the double-stick fusible webbing used to adhere it. Keep going back and forth between heating the item with the iron and peeling the applique until you are able to remove the whole applique and the webbing.

Dampen a scrap of lightweight cotton fabric and place it over the area where the applique was. Iron over the top of the scrap of cotton fabric for 30 seconds to a minute to remove any sticky residue left between by the webbing. Repeat this process as many times as necessary to remove all residue.

Tips & Warnings

  • Rubbing alcohol is another product you can use to remove sticky residue from webbing, but you need to test a small patch of fabric for colorfastness before spreading the rubbing alcohol all over the item. Use the rubbing alcohol with cotton swaps or cotton balls.
  • If you don't have a seam ripper, use small, sharp embroidery scissors instead. Be extra careful to not cut the fabric.
  • A sticky lint roller is ideal for removing the cut threads.
  • Be careful when using an iron as they can cause burns if the hot plate of the iron comes into contact with your skin -- even if for only a second.
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