JAIC 1984, Volume 23, Number 2, Article 3 (pp. 101 to 113)
JAIC online
Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 1984, Volume 23, Number 2, Article 3 (pp. 101 to 113)


Merrily A. Smith, Norvell M. M. Jones, Susan L. Page, & Marian Peck Dirda


THE CONSERVATOR SHOULD be familiar with a variety of tape-removal methods—immersion, poultice, rolling, suction table—so that the most appropriate one for a given artwork can be selected. In addition, the safest and most effective treatment may involve the use of several techniques on the same object. Flexibility and the use of the many available alternatives, then, are as important in tape removal as in any aspect of conservation.

6.1 The Tape Itself

It seems preferable to take adhesive tape off paper by first removing the carrier, then removing the adhesive layer. Removal of the carrier can be accomplished either mechanically or with solvents. Mechanical techniques are preferred, where possible, because they expose the entire adhesive layer and enable uniform access to it during subsequent operations in which solvents may be involved. One effective method of separating the carrier from the adhesive mechanically is to place the paper on a hard, flat surface, grasp a microspatula so the blade is parallel to the place of the tape, and gently work the edge of the blade under the carrier. One must proceed slowly, as aggressive movement will result in skinning of the paper. Sometimes the carrier will lift more easily if forward motion of the spatula is combined with a very slight waggling of the blade. Other techniques for mechanical removal have been suggested that involve the use of dry ice, of a hand-held heat gun, or of a tacking iron, or shaving with a scalpel.

If mechanical removal of the adhesive carrier is not feasible, and immersion is not contemplated, the carrier can be separated from the adhesive layer with solvents. A mild solvent is painted on the verso of the paper leaf in the area that bears the tape. The solvent penetrates the paper and swells the adhesive layer. With the paper turned so the tape is face up, the carrier is lifted away from the softened adhesive with tweezers. At the same time, more solvent is painted between the carrier and adhesive layer along the peel line.

Once the carrier has been removed, as much as possible of the residual adhesive layer remaining on the surface of the paper should also be removed. If the paper surface is hard, the most efficient technique is to remove the adhesive from the nondesign areas with a crepe square, often described as a “rubber cement pick-up square.” It is useful to drag the crepe off the edge of the artwork onto a blotter. The sticky adhesive picks up the blotter fibers, and the whole mass is periodically cleaned off the crepe so the adhesive does not redeposit on the artwork.

Copyright 1984 American Institute of Historic and Artistic Works