Where do I begin? Everyone who’s ever torn down (torn off) old fabric from a piece of furniture has their favorite staple and tack lifter. This is one of those things, like your Starbucks, that has to work for you. Personally, I’ve stuck with the yellow handled Osborne ‘snake tongue’ lifter throughout the years.  I made that name up because the end looks like a snake tongue. The bent handle provides leverage, but only when you get the pointed ends down under the tack or staple.  If the wood is too hard, use a hammer or mallet to wedge one end under the tack or staple.

Using a mallet or hammer with the staple lifter is  general practice for many, if not most, upholsterers.  It eases up on wrist and hand fatigue. The stylish leather ‘trucker’s’ glove above is a relief after you’ve worn the skin clean off your hands.  A better idea would be to wear a glove from the get go. If you do this long enough, you’ll get lovely callouses on your hands.

The Berry Lifter-This is the favorite of my friend Jeff. Personally, I don’t use it because the wooden  handle is too big for the palm of my hand. He swears by it,  I give it a PASS for regular use, but it’s handy to have one just in case.


Here’s a deluxe lifter I’ve never owned, but one of my Bootcamp students brought with her and I fell in love with it. It’s like the Dyson of staple lifters. It’s easy on your hands and wrist and you can slide it down under to get a hold of stubborn staples. It’s simply called Upholstery Staple Remover , available on Amazon.  Since I’ve not owned one of these, I can’t give it the stamp of approval on its’ durability, whereas the Osborne tools can be  willed to your children-they’ll never wear out.

Great profile, don’t you think?


Now here’s one more that I’ve not owned, but it looks quite handy in deep dark grooves. Staples in a groove are nearly impossible to remove without damaging the show wood. You could try this, if you have one, but better yet, a long handle, very small flat head screwdriver works pretty well in grooves.  I once saw a tool an upholsterer made out of a piece of metal that was designed specifically to get down and pop staples out of a groove. I wish I would have taken a picture of it. It was the size of a metal can opener, but he had fashioned the ends just right. Years of frustration probably drove him to the bench grinder.


No matter how you dice it up, removing staples is a big fat drag!! It’s the punishment before the reward. Keep BandAids nearby and settle in with good music, an audio book, or good conversation with friend. It’s mindless work , yet much is learned about upholstery during the teardown process.

And finally, The Staple and Tack Removing Award goes to these two, the Osborne Staple Lifter and the “Maxi” Staple/Wire Cutter with an ergonomically shaped handle. (Available from the supplier I’ve used for over twenty years,  Sunshine Foam   in Cincinnati. No, I am not required to say that.)


If you have no upholstery specific tools, yet you’re ready to get started, grab a hammer, a flat head screwdriver, a pair of needle nose pliers and you’ll be ok.

There are a few good wrist motions that will ease staple removing anxiety and stress.  We’ll be learning all the tricks in Upholstery Knockouts.