How to Remove Tape from Trading Card Top Loaders

One of the biggest pet peeves in the trading card hobby is the so-called “tape loader” — a perfectly-good trading card top loader that has clear tape stuck to the top of it. This is done to keep a card from sliding out of the top loader when sent in the mail. While that seems courteous of the sender, the problem is that it pretty much ruins the top loader. Peel off the tape and it leaves behind a sticky residue that will transfer to other top loaders that it is stored with. Leave the tape on and it becomes a trading card supply that you don’t want to look at. Either way, it’s pretty much useless. Price tags adhered to top loaders also cause a similar conundrum. 

Many times, I’d just throw out a sullied top loader. That made sense when a 25-pack of top loaders cost $4 or $5. Who wants to spend time trying to salvage something that could be replaced so cheaply? 

But now, standard-sized top loaders cost upwards of $10 per pack — if you can find them.  Top loaders for jersey and game-used cards cost more. Top loaders are too expensive to throw out these days and are actually worth cleaning and re-using. 

Here is how you can get rid of tape and tape residue from top loaders and make them as good as new.

Step 1 – Gather Your Materials 

Get everything you need together in one place: 

Some taped-up top loaders you want to clean
A bottle of Goo Gone goo & adhesive remover 
Two soft, lint-free towels
A dish sponge with a “scrubby” side
A razor blade 
A dishrack 
And just a little patience, mmmm-yeah, as Axl Rose would sing.

Goo Gone does a fantastic job of removing tape and sticker residue from top loaders. You will want to work near running water. I recommend using your kitchen counter and sink for this little project. 

Step 2 – Peel Off the Tape

This is the hardest part of the process. If you are lucky, you can just pick at a corner of the tape with your fingernail and then easily pull off the tape. It is sometimes easier to pull the tape from the top edge of the top loader. Standard price tags from a price tag gun are usually pretty easy to pull off, but other price stickers — like the price tags used for garage sales — sometimes tear when pulled on and don’t come off too neatly. 

If you can’t easily remove the tape or price sticker, then you will have to put in some effort. This is where the sponge comes in. Use the scrubby side of the sponge (usually green and with an abrasive texture) just enough to rough up the edges of the tape. Then use your fingernail, the razor blade, or both to peel and pull the tape. Be patient. You might have to repeat this process a few times until all the tape is fully removed. 

Step 3 – Apply Goo Gone

Spray or dab some Goo Gone onto a soft, lint-free towel, and then rub in a circular motion on the tape residue. This should remove the sticky stuff. You may need to do this two or three times in an area to fully remove the residue. Be sure to use a soft towel so that it does not scratch the top loader. The Goo Gone will give the top loader a bit of an oily feel and a slight citrusy smell. Those will be remedied in the next two steps. 

Step 4 – Rinse the Top Loader

Put the top loader under running water with the opening facing down — you do not want water getting inside of the top loader — to wash away the Goo Gone. 

Step 5 – Dry the Top Loader

Use your second soft, lint-free towel to wipe down the top loader. Then place in a dishrack to dry. Try to stand it up with the opening pointing down so that if any moisture did get inside of the top loader, it can drain out.

By the way, if a few drops of water do get inside a standard-size top loader, you can stick the corner of a paper towel that has been folded to try to absorb the water droplets. If this happens to a thicker top loader, you can use a corner of your lint-free drying towel. Be careful, though, because if you stretch the top of the top loader too wide, it can crack. 


Step 6 – Wait

When washing top loaders, let them dry overnight so that any moisture can evaporate before you put cards inside of them. 

And that’s all there is to it. It’s not rocket science; just a little time and effort is all it takes. The top loaders that you clean are now free of unsightly tape or sticky residue and can once again be used to protect your favorite or valuable trading cards. 

Do you clean taped-up top loaders? What advice do you have to share? Leave a comment and let me know. 

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Author: Sal Barry

Sal Barry is the editor and webmaster of Puck Junk. He is a freelance hockey writer, college professor and terrible hockey player. Follow him on Twitter @puckjunk

2 thoughts on “How to Remove Tape from Trading Card Top Loaders”

  1. Any advice on getting scratches out? lol

    Rubbing alcohol works wonders getting the tape residue off Top-Loaders as well. Of course you get the residue off using “the old caveman method” of just using your thumb to rub it off, lol… I’ve done it before, it works.

    What I recommend doing to avoid this entire process – just stop using Scotch Tape. Obviously painters tape is the preferred method to keep cards in their holders, but painters tape can be quite pricey – especially if you only ship cards on occasion – so a cheaper solution can be garage sale tags/labels. they can be found at your local dollar store, and if you don’t have one they’re not very expensive at all and can be found at any store that carries office supplies. And of course you may say “those ‘dot tags’ are just as bad, if not worse” – that is indeed true if you leave them on the holder for years – but if it’s only temporary, they should come right off leaving little if any residue.

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