What Conditions Make Tape Fail?
When it comes to tape, you may think you can’t believe everything you read. Upon review, a tape’s specification sheet can indicate that its adhesive properties are good, but when you use it, the resulting adhesion is poor.
Of course, when this happens, the tape tends to get the blame. But it isn’t always your tape for example that is at fault. In fact, it may be the surrounding conditions or even the surface that you are trying to stick the tape to.
If you’re facing this challenge, carefully consider every condition that could affect your tape. These can include several variables:
Carefully factor in the temperature. Are both the tape and the surface at least 18ºC/65ºF? The tackiness of the adhesive tape is very temperature-dependent, and the colder the conditions, the poorer the bond will be. If you must work at lower temperatures, then use an adhesive tape specifically designed for colder climates.
Related: Why Tape Doesn’t Stick in the Cold
Surface: Is the surface clean? Traces of dust, dirt, grease, and even the slightest trace of moisture will contaminate the adhesive surface and act as a barrier between the two. To best prepare, the surface, give it a quick wash with rubbing alcohol and dry it with a clean cloth.
The typical adhesive tape has a very thin, flat smooth layer of adhesive. Is your surface also flat and smooth, so that the two can uniformly contact one another? If your surface is rough and full of micro “hills and valleys,” the tape can only make contact at the high points – which will result in a weak bond. With a moderately rough surface, you will need a tape with a much thicker adhesive that can fill these valleys, thus providing a major improvement in contact. If it is too rough, then you may need a foam tape with enough deformation to make a good bond.
Is the surface you are working with a plastic or other material? Is it covered with paint or another coating that has a naturally low adhesion or even release quality? Regular adhesive tape won’t stick to waxed surfaces, Teflon®, or silicone, and will even have difficulty sticking to polyethylene. A very tacky tape will help, as well as tapes with an adhesive that is based on natural rubber, but you may need to turn to an adhesive tape specifically designed for your specific surface.
As a very last resort, you may need to change the character of your surface to get an adhesive tape to stick to it. This could mean roughening it with an abrasive or even treating it with a prime coat that is compatible with both the surface and the adhesive.