Published on March 19, 2021

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Photography by Alexandru Magurean/Getty Images

No matter how many times I’ve moved to a new apartment and broken out the paint rollers, I always make the same mistake: the painter’s tape. The application is a breeze—before the cans are opened and the drip cloths spread, the molding, walls, and ceiling get lined with a papery blue trim meant to keep any hint of pigment in its place. The whole point of the product is so a little paint can cross onto it as you cover the whole wall—the pressure is off for perfect lines. But the tape comes off in pieces, inch by inch, rather than in one pull, because the latex in the paint ends up being more durable than the blue tape itself. When you see it on DIY shows, peeling off painter’s tape looks just as easy. All of us back here in reality, however, know that’s simply not the case. Luckily I recently discovered there’s a way around this problem. 

Before you remove it, cut through the tape where it meets the edge of the surface you’re working on, which will release the hold on the paint so it comes off neatly. You don’t want to use a kitchen knife, because the blade is too long to wield precisely (and I don’t keep a box cutter in my apartment). A straight razor is way too sharp to use when you’re a few feet high on a wobbling ladder. The best option is a small tool that’s in almost every household—a wine key. Specifically the back-end knife of one—you know, the part used to cut the foil off of bottles. It’s short enough to maneuver but big enough to keep a firm grip on. 

First, make sure it’s as sharp as possible—if you have a sharpening block, give the knife a few swings through it. Handle the key so the curved blade is pointed out, the way you would hold dining cutlery (your index finger should be on top). Place the knife at the corner of where the wall meets the ceiling, which is likely covered in a full coat or two (a lovely Calke Green by Farrow & Ball for me). Somewhere under there is the blue tape. Pull the key along the edge, keeping gentle pressure on it. (You want to loosen up the tape without tearing excess paint off with it.) This should reveal the white color on the ceiling, since you’re stripping everything else off. The tape might shred a little; just dust the bits off with your hand. 

Now when you go to peel the whole strip of tape off, it should release freely and in one long piece. That leaves more time for you to use the other half of the wine key to open a bottle of red and take in your hard work. 

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