Exactly How to (Legally) Remove a Security Tag When a Store Forgets

After coming back from your shopping excursion, you’re eager to flaunt your newest find for the night. However, as you twirl before the mirror, akin to Cinderella, your excitement dwindles abruptly. Your heart drops when you spot it hanging from your shoulder — an unattractive plastic security tag.

Shoppers frequently encounter this dilemma more frequently than one might imagine. Clothing security tags are sometimes deactivated before removal, allowing the possibility of departing the store and arriving home before realizing the oversight. Alternatively, online retailers may overlook clothing security tags before dispatching merchandise.

Regardless of how the tag ended up there, it’s likely irritating. Nonetheless, it’s important to refrain from hastily removing or damaging the clothing security tag. Avoid following online advice advocating for aggressive methods like stabbing it with a screwdriver or setting it on fire, unless you intend to ruin the garment and risk injury.

Instead, let’s tackle the challenge of removing security tags equipped with some knowledge, finesse, and patience. Let’s take a moment to gather ourselves before we begin.

Before we proceed, a brief reminder about retail theft: Shoplifting is illegal, and it goes without saying that it’s something you should never engage in. The techniques discussed here are strictly meant for items you’ve legitimately purchased.

Different Types of Security Tags and How They Work

Before removing a tag, it’s essential to identify the specific type of clothing security tag you’re handling. Various types exist for different merchandise categories, which you can explore further if desired. However, we’ll primarily address the most prevalent security tags typically encountered at major clothing retailers.

EAS Clothing Security Tags

Image: Amazon

When you think of a “clothing security tag,” you’re likely picturing Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) tags. These tags utilize radio-frequency or acoustic-magnetic frequencies to interact with an antenna connected to alarms. Essentially, EAS tags are the small plastic buttons affixed to merchandise that trigger the detectors by the door to beep.

Ink Security Tags

Image: SecurityTags.com

Ink security tags are prevalent within a category known as “benefit denial” tags, designed to safeguard clothing items. These tags are engineered to ruin the merchandise if tampered with. Attempting to forcefully remove or damage an ink security tag can result in the rupture of an internal capsule, releasing a permanent dye that stains the clothes irreversibly, and human skin to some extent. While some ink security tags come with clear warnings, others may not be as conspicuous, making visual identification unreliable.

Additionally, certain clothing security tags combine attributes of both ink security tags and EAS tags. When uncertain, it’s prudent to treat them as potential miniature indelible ink bombs.

This entails wearing gloves and conducting any removal attempts in an area where potential ink spillage won’t damage belongings irreparably (perhaps outdoors).

Fake Security Tags

Image: eBay

Certain tags mimic clothing security tags in appearance but lack the mechanisms to trigger store alarms or dispense inky substances. They serve only as a deterrent to shoplifters visually. Due to the uncertainty about their contents, we must proceed under the assumption that they are genuine, unfortunately.

How To Remove Security Tags From Clothes at Home

The most optimal way to remove security tags is also the most straightforward: return the item to the store and explain your situation. Store employees are best equipped to remove security tags without causing any damage to the item. If you made your purchase from a major chain store, it’s advisable to visit the nearest location, even if it’s not where you originally bought the item, and bring your receipt with you.

However, there may be circumstances where this approach isn’t feasible for you. For instance, if you bought the item online, you might prefer to avoid the lengthy process of returning it. Alternatively, if you’ve misplaced the receipt, there’s a risk of store employees at the return counter becoming suspicious of your intentions. Additionally, if the store is far away or you purchased the item while traveling, you may not have the time to make the trip back in person.

So, let’s take a look at some other options ….

1. Contact a Professional

The next most reliable method to safely remove security tags without harming your clothes is to seek assistance from a skilled professional in fabric manipulation. Consider contacting a nearby tailor or seamstress to describe your situation. With luck, they’ll agree to assist you in safely removing the security tag, reducing the risk of damaging your garment by tearing or staining it with ink.

2. Use a Security Tag Remover Magnet

Image: Amazon

Many clothing security tags can be detached using a magnet, but not just any magnet; you’ll need a powerful rare earth magnet akin to those found in computer hard drives. These robust magnets, like the Neosmuk Fishing Magnet ($9.98) with 300 pounds of pulling force available on Amazon, are essential for the task.

To remove the security tags, place your magnet on a flat surface, then bring the base of the tag close to it. You’ll hear a distinct click, signaling that the process has begun. Gently wiggle the tag until the pin disengages.

Exercise caution when handling such high-powered magnets as they can cause severe injuries if any body part gets caught between the magnet and an attracted object.

3. The Household Hacks

If you find yourself unable or hesitant to invest in the aforementioned methods, you might consider taking a somewhat riskier route by exploring various internet “hacks” for removing clothing security tags with more force.

Keep in mind that these methods pose a higher risk of damaging your garments, either through tearing or ink stains. Nonetheless, they do present the undeniable advantage of making use of common household items you may already possess.

The Freezer Method

You may have encountered online suggestions advising you to freeze ink security tags, which supposedly solidifies the liquid ink inside, preventing it from leaking. However, it’s unlikely that your freezer can reach the necessary temperature to freeze the ink within clothing security tags.

Unless you have access to frozen nitrogen, a more viable (though not flawless) option might be to tightly wrap the ink security tag in a plastic bag before attempting to remove it.

The Rubber Band Method

Credit: 737mechanic

A widely-used online method for detaching security tags involves utilizing a sizable, dense rubber band. Just wrap the rubber band around the pin (nestled between the fabric and a side of the tag). Continue winding the band until the elasticity causes the locking mechanism to release. If it doesn’t disengage with one band, you can attempt gently twisting it or employing an additional rubber band.

Here’s a video of this hack in action.

Two Forks Method

woman holding two forks between security tag
Credit: Anahi

Yet another widely-used technique for removing security tags involves utilizing a household staple — forks. Similar to the rubber band approach, you can insert one fork firmly between the fabric and the security tag, followed by another fork inserted in the opposite direction, positioning them back to back. Proceed to gently pry and wiggle the forks until the two sides of the tag separate.

If you require further clarification, a step-by-step video demonstrating this method is available [https://youtu.be/nywi9NR7gMo].

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