How to remove security tags: guide for all types of tags

how to remove security tags

Outlines how to remove security tags from clothes when the store has forgotten to remove them, the different types and how to open each one.

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It’s happened to us all at least once. You buy an item of clothing and then when you get home, you find the store assistant has forgotten to remove the security tag — and you certainly can’t wear your purchase with the tag still atttached! Or, as happened to a friend of ours last week, you order something online (in this case from Macys) and it arrives with a security tag. Now, given our friend lives about 100 miles from the closest Macys, the customer service’s solution to “bring it into the store and we’ll remove it” just doesn’t work.

This is where you need to know how to remove a security tag from clothes — without ruining the garment.

How to remove security tags: what kind of tag is it?

Mechanical security tag

These are usually secured with a pin or similar mechanical fastening. These are the easiest ones to remove as you can try several different methods without damaging the garment.

Magnetic tag

These can be more difficult, as they have to be demagnetised to remove them. However, this is not impossible if you have a large magnet.

Ink tag

This is usually a mechanical tag with with ink in a small glass tube that breaks if the label is opened with force. Since this security is expensive and also involves the risk that a large amount of goods will be spoiled if it is accidentally triggered, these types of security tags are rarer than the other kinds.

Many ink tags will have small coloured windows showing the ink — or in some cases, colored powder — but there are some that don’t have the windows. It’s best to treat the tag as an ink tag if in doubt, and follow the precautions outlined in the removal section below to protect the garment from the pigment.

Ask the store what kind of tag it is

If you still can’t work out which kind of tag it might be, you can ask the store — as long s you have not thrown away your receipt. You can take a photo of the receipt and then phone customer service and email the photo to them while you are on the phone (they are usually quite happy to give you the email address). Or you can contact them via live chat, if they have it, and upload the photo of the receipt while you are talking to them. Also take a photo of the security tag, so they can identify which type it is — it is not unknown for stores to use more than one type.

How to remove security tags: the best methods

If under no circumstances can you take the garment back to the store, try these methods for how to take off security tags from clothes.

Cut off the label

Sometimes the security label is attached to the cleaning label. If you are lucky, this is the case with your item… take a pair of scissors and cut off the cleaning instructions.

If the label is attached to the sleeve, use nail scissors or a quickunpick sewing tool to carefully cut the stitches of the seam. Remove the label and then sew the garment back together. If the anti-theft protection is attached in a place that cannot be cut open under any circumstances, the removal becomes much more complex. 

How to remove security tags with magnet

It’s worth trying with a magnet first in case it is a magnetised tag. Since it is sometimes impossible to tell with the naked eye what type of label it is, you must first prepare also as if the tag is an ink tag.

Freeze ink tags first

Freeze the garment for 24 hours to freeze the ink solid.  After 24 hours, take it out of the freezer compartment. But that doesn’t help very mcuh with colored powder.If you think it might be a coloured powder tag, it is best to also protect the garment from the powder. The best way to do this is to put the garment in a plastic bag and TIGHTLY close the neck of the bag off between the tag and the garment. A rubber band can be good for this, and is also a good tool for removing some tags (see instructions below).

Let a second person assist you in the subsequent attempt, with this method for how to take off a security tag. One person moves the magnet over the security label, the other tries to open it with pliers at the same time.

In another method with a magnet, place it on the table and position the tag bottom side down on the magnet. You should hear it click. Manipulate the pin up and down, and it should come out.

How to remove security tag ink type with heat

Freeze the garment and protect it with plastic as described above. Then add a second protective layer of aluminium foil over the plastic. Use a lighter or kitchen torch CAREFULLY to melt the top part of the cone on the ink tag. It should take about 15 seconds.

Scrape the melted part of the cone off with a knife. Then use the knife to pop out the first ball bearing. Carefully pop out the rest of the ball bearings. After the first one comes out, the others should easily pop out. Then slide apart the two pieces of the security tag. Once the ball bearings are gone, the tag should come apart easily.

Opening magnetless systems

If the experiment with magnets fails, the security tag is probably a magnetless one — a mechanical one. You can only do something here with mechanical force… 

The rubber band method

Using a large rubber band, find where the pin is on the inside of your clothing next to the ink-cartridge part of the security tag. Wrap the rubber band around this pin several times until it is tight. Add a second rubber band if the first one doesn’t pop the two pieces apart.

Use a screwdriver…

Try prying open the tag with a screwdriver without damaging the fabric, or at least break the plastic pieces with a hammer or vise. The smaller the remains of the anti-theft device, the better you can get it out of the fabric. 

… then use a hacksaw

You can usually saw through the remaining metal part with a hacksaw and thus remove the security tag. Sometimes it is better to clamp the wider metal part and pull out the thinner one with pliers.