How to Remove Security Tags From Clothing

It was the night before her birthday. She was finally in bed asleep (i.e. reading), and that meant it was time to wrap the presents. Turning 9 doesn’t happen every day, so there were some good gifts stashed away in our secret gift location. When I got to the end of the pile, I came upon a pair of black pants. She never seems to be able to find any pants, so this had seemed an ideal present. There was only one problem; the security tag was still attached.

So that‘s why the alarm had gone off when I left the store. I had looked back and offered to return to the counter, but I was waved through as though it were no problem. Well guess what, it IS a problem! Now there is a security tag stuck on my daughter’s birthday present! And the store is closed! And I want to wrap it up and give it to her! There was no other choice. I had to get that tag off myself. And so I turned to the internet which, as usual, was a helpterriful idea.

The first video I came across told me that all I had to do was take all of my refrigerator magnets, put them in a stack to make a “super-magnet” and then rub them on the top of the security tag, thus releasing the mechanism and popping the bottom right off. This did not work. At all. Possibly because most of my refrigerator magnets are weak and coated by pictures of Minions or Baymax or something. I could barely get them to stick to each other, much less join forces to create a super-magnet that would yank the pin out of a clothing tag! But then I had another, even more terrible thought/plan. Here at the co-op we are always posting notices on each other’s metal doors for some reason or another, so all of my neighbors have powerful magnets stuck to the outsides of their doors! Grabbing the pants and my handful of magnets, I walked outside.

I took the dog with me, so I could pretend I was taking her for a walk if anybody happened to, you know, see me skulking around multiple doorways at 11 o’clock at night. I walked from door to door, attempting to form some sort of magnetic tag opening device, but eventually I gave up, partly because I was afraid of being arrested, and mostly because it was not working in the slightest.

The next video I tried told me that I could easily just snap the back off with a flat piece of metal such as a knife or screwdriver. I tried my best to jab some stuff in there and wiggle it around, but as you know that is not the best way to go about things. I started to notice the pants fabric stretching, so I gave up on that plan as well. I didn’t want to ruin the clothes in my attempt to free them.

The third video I watched told me that if I just took a heavy piece of metal and banged it in a certain way against the top of the tag, it would jar the ball bearings loose inside and the thing would just pop free quite easily. I jammed those things into my lap, but after 10 minutes of heavy banging I realized that I was not getting anywhere. I had tried banging one way, and I had tried banging another. All I got was tired and sore. No, banging was not going to get this off.

Now, I was not entirely honest with you earlier. The magnet video was not the first video I watched. The first video I had watched I had discounted immediately due to the perceived insanity of the plan. This video told me that I should light the tag on fire. As the plastic literally took flame and filled the air with noxious smoke, the person in the video jammed a knife into the gooey inferno and somehow rocketed a spring out of there and across their kitchen. This then released the garment and the video ended. Now, I realize that I am me, but that seemed too crazy, even for a Tenor Dad to try out. At least, it seemed too crazy at 11 PM. At midnight it seemed like an excellent idea.

The first thing I needed to do was to find the matches. We had brought them out for the Jungle birthday party over the weekend, and they had not been put away in their proper location. So yeah, they were like everything else in my house. I did find them eventually though and, taking a deep breath, I struck a match and brought the pants over to the sink. Except the match broke in half after about ten tries. I am not good at lighting matches I guess. But once I got that second match going, it didn’t take long for the plastic to start burning. I decided too late that I ought to have turned on the hood fan over the stove, and I prayed that the smoke alarms/sprinkler systems would not come on, waking up my family/ruining everything we own. When enough of the plastic had become black and molten, I stabbed a knife down into the seething, burning goo, and a little black spring did indeed fly out and across the room. I put the fire out quickly, and went to remove the tag. It did not come off.

So returning the pants to the store in hopes that they would remove the tag now seemed out of the question. The tag was smoky black with a gaping melted hole in the middle of it and some of the pieces were missing. How it managed to stay together I have no idea, but I started whacking at the pin inside with the knife, trying to get it to come out. No dice. I got a lot of icky plastic out, but it was not working. At all. So I decided to light it on fire again and melt the whole thing away. Hey, what could go wrong? It had kind of worked earlier!

The fire caught even more quickly this time, and I suddenly realized that I had made a huge mistake. The pants were probably not fire proof. Seizing what I saw as my last chance, I dug the knife into the conflagration and starting wrenching it around like crazy, trying to create the largest hole possible through the flames. I mushed the opening in the decaying security tag as far to the sides as I could, and then waited as long as I felt I could possible wait before extinguishing the small kitchen fire in my hands. Staring down into the gaping black maw of evil that now rested in my palms, I once again began banging away at the innards, trying to loosen the grasp on that damn pin. It did not work.

With half a security tag left, a blackened kitchen knife, and a room full of smoke, I decided to break open the tool box and get out the pliers. Jamming their needley noses into the guts of the tag, I grabbed at whatever I could get a hold of and starting twisting like we did last summer, pulling bits of charred tag out, but still unable to break the vise grip of the inner magnet. Finally, I began to grasp the magnetic plate itself, using knife and pliers both to wedge it free from its toxic prison. In a surprising instant, something snapped; the pin flew out below me and a whole mess of ball bearings flew out toward my face, over my shoulders, and onto the faux tile floor, where they presumably rolled everywhere and will not be found again until we move. If then.

Gasping with exhaustion (or smoke inhalation), I pulled the pants free from the watchful eye of their plastic warden at last, and threw the broken security tag onto the counter, defeated once and for all. Ruby got her pants. I saved myself a trip to the store. It was a huge success. And that, my friends, is how you remove a security tag from department store clothing. You’re welcome.

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Posted in Bad Parenting, Birthdays, Clothes, Misadventures, Pants, Parenting, Ruby.


  1. Rubber bands work also if you have strong thumbs. Or if it a clothing item just razor blade it out and the sew up the hole when you get home. A good thief should know how to sew if they want to dress nice.

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