Installing reflective tape is a very simple process.
It is basically a peel, stick and press process. However, some preparation must be done beforehand to insure a long lasting application. Adhesive performance depends almost entirely on surface preparation.
Before beginning an installation there are a few factors to consider.
- First, it is up to the installer to determine whether the surface that the tape will be applied to is able to accept adhesive type tapes. For example, some plastics are non stick and difficult to apply to. Also, rough surfaces are difficult to apply to because the tape does not touch the entire surface.
- Second, newly painted surfaces should fully cure before tape is applied. Otherwise the gases from the curing paint will deteriorate the adhesive and cause the application to fail.
- Third, do not apply tape in freezing weather or allow the tape to freeze. This will damage the adhesive. Once installed, the tape needs to cure for at least 48 hours before it is subjected to sub zero temperatures.
- Fourth, when installing “Flexible Engineer Grade Tape” keep in mind that it is temperature sensitive during installation. (after installation the temperature does not affect it) When the tape is cold it is stiff. When it is hot it is very flexible. The recommended temperature for applying is 59 – 77 degrees. (see special instructions for this tape at the bottom of this page)
Instructions for Applying Reflective Tapes
The surface should be clean and dry and it should be dry outside. Do not apply in the rain or moist environments. A sunny day is optimal. Air temperature should be between 32 and 100 degrees. Also, it helps to apply a small piece first as practice.
The surface that the tape will be placed on needs to be clean, dry and free of any contaminants such as dirt, grease, oil, etc.. Hand washing the application area with soap and water will accomplish this.
Also, to insure that the area is clean, a cloth soaked in isopropol alcohol can be used to wipe the surface down. Before the alcohol dries wipe it down again with a separate rag. This will also help dry the surface and will insure that the adhesive on the tape is able to penetrate the surface and form a good bond.
APPLYING THE MATERIAL
Peel the backing off the the material as you apply it. Do not peel off more than you can work with at one time and do not let it stick to itself. Also, avoid touching the adhesive side of the tape since the oils on your hands can contaminate the adhesive and reduce its effectiveness.
Lay the material down using your fingers to press it onto the surface. Try to avoid laying the tape down and then pulling it up and laying it down again since this tends to degrade the adhesive. TIP- We have a picture below of a hinge application method that can help keep the tape straight during application.
Using a squeegee or similar object, press the tape onto the surface. Gently at first and then with more pressure. This will force the adhesive into the pores of the surface. If neccessary, wrap the squeegee in cloth to keep from scratching the material. If a squeegee is not available use a cloth to press the tape firmly to the surface. When you come to a seam, cut the material with a razor blade. Go over rivets and then after application cut around the rivets with a razor blade or exacto so that the material lays flat all the way around the rivet. NOTE – Our flexible engineer grade will conform over the rivets in most cases.
Our Flexible Engineer Grade and Flexible High Intensity tapes WILL go around corners and fold around the edges of doors, however, our other reflective tapes are stiffer and WILL NOT stretch and are not designed to wrap around sharp corners or be folded over 90 degree edges. If you go around a sharp corner cut the tape and begin a new piece around the corner. The edges of the tape should be kept about 1/4″ from the edge of the surface that you are working on. If you bend the stiff tapes around a sharp corner they will stick at first but will eventually come up. The material is designed to be applied to generally flat surfaces. As stated before, for complex curves use our Flexible Engineer Grade or Flexible High Intensity Grade Tapes.
Special Instructions for Flexible Engineer Grade tape – Application Temperature – 59 – 77 degrees fahrenheit. In this range the tape performs like standard adhesive vinyl. When the temperature is above this range the flexible engineer grade material becomes very soft and pliable. When the temperature is below this range the material becomes stiffer. (The material is designed this way so that if necessary it can be heated with a hair dryer during application to make it conform to complex curves, rivets, etc..) The material can be installed in temperatures above and below the recommended range, however, it is easier to install in the recommended temperature range.
If installing outside in hot or cold temperatures it helps to keep the tape inside an air conditioned or heated vehicle until you are ready to install it. In the summer, installing in the shade is helpful and in the winter, installing in direct sun is preferable. Also, we have posted some pictures of how a masking tape hinge can be used to position the tape and apply it. In warmer weather this method will help in the installation of the flexible engineer grade tapes.
Service Temperature – Once installed the tape can handle temperatures from -22 to +176 degrees fahrenheit.
Removing Reflective Tape
Some reflective tapes are easier to remove than others. However, the process for removing them is the same. First, heat the tape with a hair dryer or heat gun. If you use a heat gun be careful not to use so much heat that you damage the substrate. As you heat, try to gently peel the tape off. Some tapes will come off whole and some will come off in pieces. You can use a razor blade if you wish but just be careful not to dig into the substrate. If you use a razor blade I recommend you lubricate the area with WD40. Once the tape is removed coat the area with an adhesive remover like Goo Gone or Goof Off. Wipe or scrape off all residue. Then clean with soap and water or any other cleaner.
Steven Cole (Economics, MBA – University of West Florida , Business & Innovation – Stanford University) 22 years of experience in the reflective safety business. Specializing in vehicle accident and rear end collision reduction through increased visibility.