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Do LED Light Strips Damage Walls?

Living in rented accommodation can be challenging to put your mark on a place without permanent damage to fixtures and fittings.

Modern leasehold law empowers landlords to deduct money from tenants’ deposits if they create holes, cracks, or chips.

Of course, nobody wants to lose money, so renters often feel restricted about the customizations they can implement in their homes.

LED strip lights offer a viable solution to this problem. They’re powerful enough to transform a room, making it feel homelier. In addition, their adhesive, semi-permanent nature means they can easily be removed when it’s time to move out.

Are LED strip lights too good to be true?

LED strip lights are unlikely to damage walls, but this depends on various factors, including adhesive strength, surface durability, and climate. For painted walls, latex paint works best. Otherwise, work carefully to remove them with a gentle heat source.

If you’re thinking about purchasing LED strip lights but are worried about damaging your walls, listen up!

In this blog post, I’ll be talking about the type of adhesive used on LED strips, when LED strips are most likely to damage the paint, and my fuss-free method for removing LED strips.

What Adhesive Material Is Used On LED Strip Lights?

Whether your LED strips are single-color, multi-color, 1 meter, or 10 meters, they probably all have one thing in common: they’re backed with 3M adhesive.

3M is the gold standard for adhesives – it’s known as the most durable tape on the market. This is because it’s made from high-performance acrylic.

Put simply, this acrylic is multi-faceted. It behaves like both a very viscous liquid and an elastic solid. This property is known as viscoelasticity.

Viscoelasticity allows the 3M adhesives to glide into irregularities and unevenness on the surface it is applied to and form a very strong bond.

The result?

Durable LED strip lights can be fixed to a whole range of surfaces.

But, of course, 3M adhesive isn’t completely faultless.

Over time, it loses stickiness and doesn’t adhere well to glossy or oily surfaces. In addition, it doesn’t respond well to humidity and moisture. So 3M has its fair share of problems.

These flaws encourage people to take matters into their own hands. That is, by applying their own adhesives to LED strip lights.

I’ve seen people adopt all sorts of methods – foam tape, double-sided glue dots, hot glue, and Gorilla tape, to name a few.

Also read: Everything You Need To Know About LED Strip Lights

What Type Of Wall Can Strip Lights Damage?

Let’s face it, interior design is ever-changing. Your style and choices today are not the same as those of 1, 5, or even 10 years ago.

Does anyone else remember begging their parents to let them paint their bedroom a vivid color? How would you feel about that decision today?

You’ll probably want different LED strip lights in various positions for a while. So how easy is it to remove them once they have been stuck down?

The answer depends on the type of surface you adhere to.

If your wall is tiled, wooden, or plastic, you should have no problems. The strips will be relatively easy to peel off and will cause no damage to the wall.

If anything, there may be some leftover adhesive residue that needs to be wiped clean.

Problems may arise if your surface is bare drywall, coated in paint, or wallpapered. These surfaces are made up of several fragile layers, so they are more prone to damage.

Ultimately, wallpaper is just paper. If you apply strong adhesive to any paper, it will form a good bond. That’s why we use sellotape when wrapping presents!

But when it comes time to remove your LED strips, you’ll struggle to separate the two components. As a result, your wallpaper will likely tear, rip, or ripple.

This will be particularly frustrating if your wallpaper is patterned because any gaps will become extremely noticeable.

Similarly, you can’t just cover the wallpaper with paint to disguise the damage because the wallpaper is patterned.

Ever wondered if your strip lights affect your pets aside from walls? Find out in my article about dogs and strip lights.

How To Stick LED Strip Lights Without Damaging Paint?

mounting led strip lights

If you’re dealing with painted walls, you’ll want to know how to minimize the risk of damaging the paint when you hang your LED light strip.

Even if you follow these tips, you aren’t guaranteeing that when you remove LED light strips, there’ll be no damage. However, these ideas will help to reduce the risk.

How LED light strips affect painted walls depends on the paint you’ve used, the job done, and the adhesive you opt for.

Paint is not invincible, it ages and becomes more fragile over time. So paint on the wall for several years is more likely to peel off with your LED strips.

Frustratingly, new paint isn’t the best option either. Although fresh paint may feel touch dry in around 24 hours, it usually takes between 2 and 4 weeks to fully cure.

If you apply LED strips to a newly painted wall, they will become part of the curing process.

Essentially, the bond between the LEDs and the paint will become stronger than the bond between the paint and the wall.

Unfortunately, that’s not all. The quality of your paint job will also have an impact. For example, if you applied to paint on dusty, rusty, unprimed, or dirty walls, your paint would be compromised.

Your paint job will be much weaker and more susceptible to damage from LED strip lights. The wall will be perfectly fine, but a chunk of paint will be missing.

Related: Are LED Strip Lights Allowed In Dorms?

Firstly, here’s how to prep a painted wall for an LED strip light:

  • Make sure the paint has been on the wall for at least 4 weeks, so it’s had time to fully cure
  • Use latex-based paint rather than oil paint if you can. Latex paint has a more resistant surface (and is good for wiping down stains/marks – so landlords, if you own a rented house, this is a good option to stop tenants from causing as much damage).
  • Check that the wall is clean and dry

With the wall prepped, here are your different options for hanging LED light strips onto a painted surface:

  • Use the regular adhesive backing on the back of the strip. The plus side to this is that it should create a strong bond with the wall, but the downsides are that it could lead to peeling paint in the future, and you can’t restick LED light strips once removed unless you add a new adhesive.
  • Use command strips. These are another good choice for uneven surfaces, as the strip creates a flat bond for the strip to stick to. Once pulled, the command strip should peel off without damaging the paint. Just carefully stick them onto the strip light and then push them onto the wall in place.
  • Use double sided tape. Tape tends to be weaker than an adhesive strip, so it may only support your LED lights with regular tape intervals. It can also leave a sticky residue, though you can remove it with warm water, rubbing alcohol, and maybe dish soap.

I’ve even seen one person suggest using magnets – because your drywall beneath the paint will be nailed into place, the theory is that you can glue magnets to your LED strip light and then hang them in place without any sticking onto the wall.

It’s an interesting theory, but the challenge of finding the nails in the drywall beneath your paint, then matching them to the positions on your strip lights, is going to be difficult.

Also, if the paint is too thick then it won’t work.

Never use super glue to stick your strip light to a painted wall. That will definitely damage the paint or the strip in the future.

How To Remove LED Lights Without Peeling Paint?

This process shouldn’t be too painful if you’ve followed the steps to ensure your LED light strip sticks to the wall without damaging the paint.

If your paint is latex-based, you can use a lacquer thinner to remove the strip light.

This will dissolve the adhesive, without soaking into the paint – initially.

You still need to work fairly quickly, because that latex surface won’t hold up forever, and if the thinner gets into the paint it’ll strip it from the walls.

If you’ve gone for the command strip option, you’ll want to carefully remove them by pulling on the tab in the indicated direction.

This will soften the sticking pad. Pull hard until it is completely free of the wall.

If you haven’t got latex paint on the walls and haven’t used command strip adhesives (or magnets), then you will need to follow the general steps to remove LED strip lights from a wall.

How to Remove LED Strip Lights From The Wall Safely?

Close up installing LED strip on kitchen furniture

You can see that there are no hard and fast rules.

Your LED strip lights are unlikely to damage if you apply them to a durable surface and rely on the 3M adhesive that most LED strips come with. But of course, nobody can be 100% sure.

Follow this easy step-by-step tutorial to remove your LED strips while minimizing the risk of damage.

  1. Unplug your LEDs from their power source. Unless you know what you’re doing, you should never play with live electricity.
  2. You can use a hairdryer to heat the adhesive layer on the LEDs. This will make it softer and easier to pull off. Remember, with LEDs, excessive heat can speed up lumen degradation. So with that in mind, use the hair dryer for a maximum of two minutes.
  3. Starting at a corner or edge piece, insert a flat, dull object (such as a butter knife or a credit card) under the LED strip.
  4. Wiggle the flat object to gently pry the LED strip from the wall.
  5. At the same time, use your other hand to slowly pull the LED strip off the surface.
  6. Continue until the LED strip is fully released. Remember to take your time.
  7. If there is a leftover tacky adhesive residue on the wall, gently rub your thumb over it in small circles. Most of the time, gentle pressure is enough to collect the residue.
  8. If this doesn’t work, apply a citrus-based hand cleaner or WD-40 to a rag and rub back and forth until the adhesive is gone.

Be careful with heat sources if you’re working with a painted wall. The paint should have cured fully, but blasting it with a hot hair dryer at point-blank range can weaken it.

Final Words

It’s true, LED strip lights are a dream come true for renters and people who enjoy frequently changing their interior design choices.
If you’re still unsure, you can always perform a patch test.

Apply 3M adhesives to your home’s inconspicuous area, such as behind a cupboard or in a small nook.

Leave it for a day or two, and then pull it off to see if it causes any damage to your paint or wallpaper.

Have you tried removing LED strip lights in the past? What products did you use? Let me know if you were successful.

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