How to Remove and Reuse LED Strip Lights | No Damage to Wall

Installing LED light strips is an easy way to transform the energy of a room. Wrap some around your TV for an epic backlight, or line the underside of your boxspring for comfy light that soothes you to sleep. 

LED light strips adhere easily to walls, cabinets, and other surfaces. Removing them, on the other hand, is more of an effort. If you are moving LED strips around, or your LED light strips break, you might be wondering how to remove LED strip lights without damaging walls? 

I have explored various online sources, read through user reviews, and have experience installing and reinstalling LED light strips throughout my home. Continue reading for practical options on how to remove and reuse LED strip lights without damaging the wall. 

How Can LED Strip Lights Damage Your Wall?

LED strip lights damage your wall by removing paint, leaving behind a hard-to-remove adhesive, and peeling off the plaster. I will discuss each of these in detail below. 

LED Strip Lights Remove Paint

LED strip lights remove paint from walls. When you pull at the sticky backside with force, certain spots along the LED strip will pull paint off if the adhesive is stuck on firmly. In cases where LED strips do not remove the paint, they may leave behind sticky residue from the glue on the back of the tape. 

Use a heat gun or hairdryer to avoid removing paint when taking down LED strip lights. The heat from the hairdryer will cause the adhesive to soften, making it easier to remove without damaging walls. 

Adhesive From LED Lights Stuck on Wall

LED strip lights have 3M double-sided adhesive tape on their back. Over time, heat from the light melts the adhesive, causing it to stick firmly to the wall. 

You can remove LED light strips by pulling at them. That said, users who pull their LED lights down using only force report a sticky residue from the glue left on the wall. Do not paint over this adhesive. It needs to be removed before the wall is ready to paint. 

Remove the adhesive from LED lights stuck on a wall using a dry cloth and WD40. Wipe the surface down and gently scratch at the sticky residue until it is removed. 

Will LED Strip Lights Damage Plaster?

LED strip lights damage wall plaster, especially when adhered to the wall with a heavy-duty adhesive. Similar to how LED light strips peel paint off the walls, LED strips damage wall plaster by pulling layers of plaster off when torn down without preparation. 

To avoid damage to plaster when removing LED strip lights, follow the directions below. 

Apply heat before pulling the LED strip lights off. If there is residue from the adhesive left behind, use a product like WD40 to clean it without damaging the plaster on the wall. 

How to Remove LED Light Strips Without Damaging Your Walls

Removing LED light strips without damaging your walls requires some preparation and work. However, do not let this discourage you. Removing LED light strips correctly will help keep them in good condition and allow you to reuse them for years to come. 

When I removed my old set of lights, I used the following equipment: 

  • Heat Gun or Hairdryer
  • An Old Credit Card
  • A Clean Dry Cloth
  • A Scraper 
  • WD40

1: Unplug the LED Light Strip

Before removing, cutting, or pulling your LED strip lights, ensure that they are unplugged and removed from any power source. Leaving LED light strips plugged in when trying to remove them could result in electrocution. 

2: Heat the Adhesive Strip in Sections

Use a hairdryer or heat gun to warm the adhesive backing along the LED light strips as you remove them section by section. 

Hold the hairdryer with one hand while gently tugging at the LED light strip, encouraging it to come off the wall. The warmth from the hairdryer warms up the adhesive. The heat from the hairdryer helps you peel the LED light strips off with ease. 

You might notice the plaster or paint peeling as you pull. If this happens, warm-up and pull at smaller sections at a time. 

3: Peel LED Strip Lights Off From the Corner

Continue to use your heat gun or hairdryer in the corners as you peel the strips off their sticky surface. Hold the heat gun over corner areas for longer, especially if you have applied additional double-sided tape for reinforcement.  

Corners often need extra adhesive to hold LED light strips firmly in place without sagging. When installing LED strip lights around a corner, use a corner connector or loop the LED strip. The downside of both options is that corner connectors and creating a loop in the corners add weight to those areas. Additional weight requires additional reinforcement. 

4: Use Credit Card to Remove LED Strip as You Heat

While the adhesive is still warm from the hairdryer, use an old credit card or a scraper tool to remove adhesive pad residue. The credit card will help scrape away the 3M double-sided adhesive from the wall or mounting surface. 

You may not have completely removed the LED light strips from pulling alone in some areas. Use a credit card to lift off stubborn sections of the LED light strips. 

5: Remove Residue LED Strip Light Adhesive

Use WD40 and a dry cloth to gently remove adhesive tape residue. WD40 helps loosen the adhesive bond, preventing damage to your walls when removing LED light strip adhesive. The soft yet uneven texture of the cloth helps to remove the sticky residue, gently scratching it off of the painted surface without removing the paint. 

Can You Reuse LED Strip Light After Removing?

You can reuse LED strips after removing them from the wall, especially if you removed them with care. The 3M adhesive backing on the LED light strips will not maintain its stickiness after removal. To reuse your LED light strips, you need to reapply a double-sided adhesive. 

Cutting LED Strip Light for Reuse

When installing LED light strips, you cut the strip to the length of your project. People ask me often, what do I do with the leftover roll of LED light strips? 

When I installed my LED light strips, I had a lot leftover that was unusable because I cut the strip to the length of my bedroom. I have frequently been asked and seen user comments asking, what do I do with my leftover roll of LED lights?

The short answer is to reuse it. Strip the wires and keep on shining. You do not have to be an electrician to do this safely and correctly. I have outlined what you need to do below.  

Where do you cut an LED strip?

Cutting LED strip lights is user-friendly, as long as you have a simple understanding of where to cut and what to do. 

Cut LED light strips on the indicated markings at the end of each circuit. LED light strips are labeled exceptionally well. Circuits are indicated by exposed metal or copper wires that look somewhat like the impression a fork leaves. 

Each of the exposed metal prongs has a label indicating if it is red, green, blue, or black. Black is the power indicator, and R, G, B are the colored lights. Combinations of red, green, and blue light produce a spectrum of colors. 

There is a thin black line between the exposed metal, and this is where you cut. In addition, some LED strip lights have a small scissor symbol on the line to further indicate where to cut.

can you cut led light strips
Cut Along The Designated Cut Line

You will also notice where to cut because the circuit is visibly different from other strip sections. Each light has a small R, G, or B label next to it. If you cut within this section, you need to remove that piece. Luckily, there is not much waste because LED light strips have small circuits. Usually, after three lights, the circuit closes and begins anew.

How to Cut LED Light Strips 

Now that you know exactly where to cut, I’ll cover how to strip the wires and connect two LED light strips together. 

Before you begin, have these supplies on hand: 

Pro tip: Do your research before buying connector pieces for your specific set of LED light strips. Some connectors are for waterproof LED lights, but if your set is not waterproof, the connector piece will not work. So make sure your set is compatible before purchasing.

Unplug your LED light strips from the power source before starting. Use a sharp knife and a cutting board to carefully remove the adhesive backing to expose the metal pieces. Flip the strip over to remove any coating or plastic that is covering the topside of the strip lights. 

Be gentle not to cut into the wiring. Use the knife to pry off any coverings to expose the metal pieces on both sides. Once this is completed, take your connector piece and open the clip. 

The connector piece will be labeled with an arrow or RGB indications. Insert the metal prongs to the associated spots on the connector piece. Close the clip and do this on the other side with another set of used lights to get the most out of each roll. 

Plug the lights in and test the connection. Use your remote to scroll through different color variations. If the lights do not illuminate for certain colors, it is likely due to loose wiring. Unplug the light strips and check that each metal piece of the light strip is touching the metal piece in the connector. 

I had to sacrifice a circuit as I learned, but I hope that you get it on the first try with these directions.

How to Restick LED Light Strip

After removing your LED light strips, you will notice that the backing is not sticky enough to reattach to a vertical or upside-down surface. This has a quick, easy, and cheap fix with a 3M double-sided adhesive. 

3M Double Sided Adhesive

3M double-sided tape for LED strip lights is a heavy-duty mounting tape that is inexpensive to buy in-store or online. 

3m Tape
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When installing LED light strips upside down, I recommend attaching the double-sided tape to the mounting surface and then pressing the lights upwards. If you apply strips of double-sided adhesive to long stretches of the light strips, they end up sticking to each other during installation. 

Alternative Ways of Hanging LED Lights

One of my favorite things about LED lights is how creative I can get with hanging them up. LED light strips are reasonably durable and can even handle hot glue guns. 

Some alternative ways of hanging LED lights include using mounting channels, mounting clips, or Loctite Fun-Tak. 

LED Light Channel Mounting

LED channel mounting requires installation, which takes more time but keeps them hanging for longer than double-sided tape. Mounting channels are pleasing to the eye, so I recommend them for kitchens or areas where you entertain. 

LED channel mounting
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LED light strips slide into the mounting channels easily. 

LED mounting channels evenly disperse the heat generated by the LED lights. The channel cover evenly disperses the light produced by the strip. There is no way your LED strips are falling down with channel mounting. It looks professional and prevents sagging or the risk of adhesive deteriorating with moisture or dust ingress.

The two most popular mounting LED channel mounting options are:

  • V-shaped channels
  • U-shaped channels

V-shaped channels are suited for corners, while U-shaped channels are ideal for flat surfaces.  

LED Mounting Clips

LED Mounting Clips are one of the best ways to hang LED lights. Mounting clips attach to a flat surface with an adhesive backing. For even more longevity, screw the mounting clips into the mounting surface. Slide the LED light strip into the mounting clip to keep it held up for a long time. 

LED Mounting Clips
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Loctite Fun-Tak

A semi-permanent way to mount LED light strips is using Loctite Fun-Tak. This sticky-tak adds adhesive and is perfect for grooved surfaces like stipple or popcorn ceilings.

Loctite Fun-Tak is an easy and inexpensive way to smooth out surfaces. However, in my experience, it is not as effective as mounting clips or heavy-duty adhesives for mounting LED strips on a ceiling.

FAQ Remove and Reuse LED Strip Lights

Verdict: Can You Reuse LED Light Strips

LED strip lights are an inexpensive way to redecorate a room. When you move, you will want to take your LED strip lights with you to set up in your new home. 

LED strip lights take some work and preparation to install and uninstall correctly and with minimal damage. The work is worth it, though, because LED strip lights are reusable and, for most users, last for years.

Now you know how to remove LED strip lights without damaging walls, how to cut LED strip lights like a pro, and alternative ways to hang LED lights.