Painter’s tape is one of those incredibly useful inventions that everyone is familiar with and no one is using to its fullest potential. Sure, painter’s tape—when used properly—can make painting (or caulking) with crisp, clean lines effortless. But pause for a moment and think about the triumph of painter’s tape: It possesses this ideal level of stickiness that allows it to grab hold of most surfaces with a reasonably reliable persistence, but it’s not so sticky that it requires a hammer drill and some sweat equity to remove it.
Add in the ability to write on it, and you have a recipe for something that is useful in a lot more situations than just painting. Everyone should have a roll of painter’s tape in their toolbox and/or kitchen utility drawer, because you can get a lot of mileage out of that stuff.
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First, a quick extra paint-related use for painter’s tape: keeping your cans of paint clean. Yes, you can buy a plastic pourer for your paint can, but why bother when you have a roll of painter’s tape? Just attach two strips of tape in an arrow shape on top of your can and you can pour all the paint you want without getting a mess into the grooves or drips all over the label.
The most obvious non-painting use of painter’s tape is as a temporary label. Professional cooks use tape like this all the time to label containers of ingredients, and so can you. Cut a piece of tape to label leftovers in plastic containers, to organize your refrigerator, to label jars of loose screws or other tiny things, to mark your lunch at work—just about anything. This avoids having to cross out permanent marker or scrub off the sticky remnants of other, stronger adhesives with almost zero downside.
Whether you’re moving into a new apartment or trying to figure out how to arrange pictures on your walls, painter’s tape is a perfect tool for creating geometric patterns on flat surfaces. Measure your stuff and mark it out on the floor to get an idea of how everything will (or won’t) fit and what the usability issues might be. Similarly, you can mark out your picture frames on the wall to see what the final result will look like without having to put a single hole in your wall.
If you’re hanging pictures—or anything—on your walls, lining up nails, hangers, or mounting brackets on a wall can be challenging. Sometimes it seems like you can get everything level but the screws miss the slots in the back, or you can get the bracket on perfectly but it turns out slightly crooked. Painter’s tape is your answer: Apply a strip of tape to the back of what you’re trying to hang and mark out the slots for mounting screws or nails. Then transfer the tape to the wall, make sure it’s level, and drill your holes or drive your nails.
If you’re working on a project that requires the use of spacers, it can be maddening trying to get the spacers to sit in place while you manipulate other pieces. Painter’s tape can be used to hold pennies, scrap wood, or plastic spacers in place temporarily while you drill or wait for glue to set. This is especially useful if you only have one or two clamps and need to hold something in place that you’ll want to remove easily once you’re done with that phase of the project.
Sawing anything with a finished edge can be maddening. You mark your line, you use the correct saw blade, you work deliberately and carefully—and the sawed edge looks like something took a bite out of your wood or tile, with a billion tiny chips in the finish. Painter’s tape is your solution: Putting a strip of tape down over the section you’ll be running through a table, jig, or circular saw will greatly reduce the number of chips and rough edges in the finished cut.
Emergency lint roll
Lint is the most ubiquitous material in the universe, and somehow knows precisely when you’re rushing to get to an important event and don’t have a lint roller on hand. If your final visual check before leaving the house reveals that you’re covered in three different shades of dog hair, some painter’s tape reversed and wrapped around your hand is a perfectly usable lint roll that will quickly lift all the cruft off your clothes and get you on your way.
Hold screws and small parts
If you’ve ever put together a piece of furniture or disassembled a small appliance to clean or repair it, you know how easy it is to lose tiny screws or other small parts. Watching a small, unique fastener roll into the gap between deck boards or vanish down a drain can add gray hair to your head, but there’s a simple solution: A piece of painter’s tape will hang onto tiny screws and such until you need them again, and can even be folded and hung on the wall for easy access, or doubled over to form a receptacle that can then be attached to the disassembled appliance for future reference.
Staying at a hotel or a childless friend’s house? Or suddenly playing host to a family with small children in your totally, 100% not-baby-safe home? Painter’s tape is a quick and effective way to mask power outlets and other things you don’t want tiny fingers poking into, creating quick virtual “fences” children can be instructed not to cross (in order to keep them away from hot stoves or out of forbidden areas), and mark off sharp corners so no scream-prone toddlers slam into them.
Whether you’re trying to see what your room would look like with wallpaper or renting and don’t want to risk that security deposit, painter’s tape can be used to temporarily hang wallpaper. Create a grid of painter’s tape on the wall, then attach double-sided tape or carpet tape to that painter’s tape. Then hang your wallpaper by pressing it against the taped-up walls. This won’t result in perfect wallpaper, and it probably won’t hang forever, but if you’re just trying to vibe-check your wallpaper choice or don’t intend to keep it up forever, this will allow you to remove it later without any damage to your walls (or days spent weeping in frustration as you try to steam off wallpaper glue).