How do you remove a store sensor?

Removing a store sensor can seem daunting, but with the right tools and knowledge, it’s possible for anyone to accomplish. Store sensors, also known as security tags or EAS (electronic article surveillance) tags, are devices attached to merchandise in retail stores to prevent theft. While sometimes a nuisance, they serve an important purpose in loss prevention. This article will walk through the common types of tags, the best tools to remove them, and tips for getting them off safely and effectively.

What are the most common types of store sensors?

There are a few main varieties of EAS tags you’re likely to encounter:

  • Magnetic tags – These tags have a magnetic strip inside a rigid or flexible housing. They will set off an alarm if carried through a gate/pillar detector.
  • Acousto-magnetic (AM) tags – Also known as radio frequency (RF) tags, these contain a metal strip and circuit. An alarm sounds if disturbed by radio frequency waves.
  • RFID tags – Contain a radio frequency identification chip and antenna. Can be detected from up to 20 feet away.
  • Ink tags – Filled with a permanent dye that stains merchandise if the tag is tampered with or removed incorrectly.

Magnetic and AM/RF tags are the most prevalent. Ink tags are occasionally found on high-theft items like electronics or designer clothing. RFID tags are becoming more common for inventory control but currently less widespread in retail stores.

What tools do you need to remove store sensors?

To safely detach store sensors, you’ll need a few key devices:

  • Magnet – To open magnetic tags and disable the internal locking mechanism.
  • RFID tag detector – Identifies which tags are present on an item. Necessary for finding non-visible tags.
  • Hook knife – For cutting internal cords on magnetic tags or detaching adhesive RFID tags.
  • Ink tag remover – Essential for getting ink tags off without breakage/dye release.

Bonus tools like pliers, wire cutters, and bottle stoppers can also help in tag removal. When possible, it’s best to use dedicated, specialized tools.

How do you remove magnetic tags?

Magnetic tags require a strong magnet to unlock and detach. Here is the process:

  1. Locate the tag housing. This may be under fabric, attached with adhesive, or threaded onto clothing.
  2. Place the magnet directly on top of the tag, matching polarity markings if present.
  3. Leave the magnet in place for 30-60 seconds. This disables the internal locking mechanism.
  4. Gently tug the tag apart using your hands. Do not pull too hard or use tools prior to unlocking.
  5. If the tag does not detach, the magnet may need more time to work. Leave it in place and check again after a few minutes.

For flexible magnetic strip tags adhered to packaging, a magnet can be waved over the surface until it separates from the item underneath.

How do you remove AM and RF tags?

AM/RF tags can simply be cut off clothing or merchandise once identified. The steps include:

  1. Locate the tag using an RFID scanner. Visual cues include plastic housing, antenna coil, or warning text.
  2. Isolate the tag housing from the item. This may require unfolding sewn-in tags or running packaging under water to find hidden tags.
  3. Once accessible, use wire cutters or a hook knife to snip any internal cords or cut the tag off its adhesive backing.
  4. Cut slowly and carefully to avoid leaving pieces behind or damaging the merchandise.
  5. RFID adhesive tags can also be removed by gently scraping off the tag with a hook knife.

Caution should be taken not to tear clothing or packaging in the process. Only detach what is necessary to remove the tag portion itself.

How do you remove ink tags?

Ink tags require specialized devices to disarm the dye mechanism and allow safe removal. The basic steps are:

  1. Locate the tag, typically found on high-price merchandise like handbags or coats.
  2. Acquire a compatible ink tag remover tool such as the TagBandit Master Key.
  3. Insert the probe end fully into the ink tag hole and twist gently until resistance is felt.
  4. Maintain the turning pressure while pulling the tab away from the merchandise.
  5. Continue twisting the remover tool until the ink tag is completely detached.
  6. Check for any dye residue and clean the merchandise as needed with alcohol.

Ink tags should never be cut or forcibly removed. The dye will stain clothing, skin, or surfaces, making cleanup difficult if not impossible.

What are some tips for removing store sensors safely?

Follow these best practices when getting rid of tags:

  • Use quality tools – Cheap tools may break easily or fail to work effectively.
  • Research the tag types – Know what you’re dealing with before trying to detach it.
  • Work slowly and carefully – Rushing increases the chance of damage.
  • Recheck for additional tags – Some items have multiple tags in hidden spots.
  • Clean adhesive residue – Sticky tag backing can ruin clothing or surfaces.
  • Dispose of tags properly – Recycle when possible rather than littering.

Patience and the right techniques will allow you to successfully remove tags with minimal fuss or complications.

Can you legally remove tags yourself?

While not outright illegal, removing tags from merchandise you have not purchased does count as theft or shoplifting. Stores prosecute self-removal and consider it tampering with property. It’s best to have associates detach security tags at the point of sale or leave them be until purchasing the item.

That said, if you legally own the merchandise already, removing the tags yourself is fine. Some stores offer detaching services, but it’s not required. Just take care not to damage the items in the process.

What other anti-theft tactics are used in retail stores?

Beyond EAS tags, stores rely on several strategies to discourage shoplifting:

  • Security cameras – Record activity for evidence and deterrence.
  • Undercover staff – Plainclothes loss prevention officers watch for thieves.
  • Dummy cases – Expensive items use empty boxes on display floors.
  • Spider wraps – Cables attach devices like cameras to display stands.
  • Item placement – Essentials are placed toward the back of stores.
  • ID checks – Purchasers may need to show identification for tagged items.

The combination of overt and subtle tactics aims to make theft difficult, time-consuming, and ultimately not worth the risk of prosecution.

Security Camera Networks

Security cameras provide visual evidence and support real-time monitoring throughout the premises. High-resolution digital cameras capture clear footage from multiple angles. Analytics can even detect suspicious behaviors to alert staff. The cameras act as silent sentries, letting thieves know they are being watched.

Undercover Loss Prevention Officers

Many large retail chains employ undercover loss prevention officers who walk sales floors quietly surveying for theft. Dressed in plainclothes, these officers blend in as ordinary shoppers. But they are trained to spot and apprehend shoplifters through surveillance techniques and safe detainment procedures.

Dummy Product Boxes

For products like consumer electronics, stores will display empty boxes on shelves rather than real merchandise. This reduces the number of accessible items that can be stolen. The products themselves are stored securely, with empty units used for bait. Trying to steal them proves futile.

Spider Wraps

Spider wraps use aircraft-grade steel cables to secure merchandise to fixed surfaces. Small, protected alarms units connect the cables to whatever they are wrapped around. Trying to detach items triggers extremely loud alarms. The tight, difficult-to-sever cables also delay and deter thieves.

Essential Item Placement

Grocery and retail stores tend to place essential, commonly stolen items toward the rear of the premises. For example, razor blades, baby formula, allergy medicine, and other easily resold products will be far from entrances. This forces potential thieves to walk through the entire store just to access them.

Purchaser ID Requirements

Some merchandise, such as spray paint or pseudoephedrine medication, cannot be sold legally without recording the buyer’s ID. Large stores also require identification for returns without receipts. Although inconvenient for honest shoppers, checking IDs and holding purchasers accountable discourages illegal activity.

What are common legal punishments for retail theft?

The penalties for shoplifting and retail theft vary based on state laws, value amounts, and criminal histories. However, common consequences include:

  • Misdemeanor charges and fines
  • Mandatory counseling or rehabilitation programs
  • Community service
  • Probation and parole monitoring
  • Jail or prison time
  • Felony convictions for higher value amounts

Stores almost always involve law enforcement for detained shoplifters. The costs and criminal records associated with retail theft make it an unwise idea despite low success risks from security measures.


Removing store sensors requires specific tools and techniques tailored to the different tag types. While possible for those who purchase merchandise legitimately, it becomes illegal when done prematurely to shoplift. Given the security measures and legal punishments stores employ, attempting theft proves inefficient and hazardous.

For legitimate purposes, take care to use quality tools and work patiently when detaching tags from your own goods. Seek help from store associates for tricky sensor locations or ink dye removals. With some finesse and the right knowledge, you can rid your clothing and items of pesky tags without damage.

Leave a Comment