Why Adhesive Tape Doesn’t Stick – Use This Checklist
The ancient Egyptians made an adhesive from the connective tissue of animals and used it to build coffins.
Native Americans waterproofed their canoes with tree resin.
And today, building contractors use double-sided adhesive tape to overlap the seams of vapor barriers ; stucco tape to mask windows; and duct tape for every kind of possible repair.
Still, no matter what the application, “it won’t stick” is the single largest complaint we hear about any adhesive. And the tape gets all the blame.
But over the four decades we’ve spent investigating tape complaints and perfecting sticky formulas for many applications, we’ve found that the problem is rarely the tape alone.
“Nine out of 10 times, when customers say, ‘Your tape is not working,’ the problem is not the tape,” explains Risa Edelstein, ECHOtape Director of Marketing. “Usually, the wrong tape is being used – be it one that is not engineered to adhere in extreme temperatures or remove easily from stucco. Temperature, weather, surface conditions, chemistry and application all play vital roles in sticky success — or failure as the case may be. Which is why we’ve created a checklist to help you troubleshoot your sticky issues.
Why Your Tape Doesn’t Stick – A Checklist
- Has the same tape worked before? Then consider what, if anything, has changed. Are the conditions different – colder, wetter, hotter? Is it a new packaging? Did you apply it differently?
- Was it a new use? If so, it could be the wrong tape for the job. (Visit The Complete Technical Guide to Adhesive Tape to find a downloadable infographic on the subject.)
- Was the surface clean? Ideally, the surface must be clean, dry, and dust and oil free. When in doubt, washing the surface with rubbing alcohol and drying it thoroughly with a soft cloth should adequately prepare most surfaces.
- Was it the surface texture? Did you have a flat, smooth surface that makes good contact with the tape’s adhesive? Or do you have a rough surface that leads to very little contact and requires a thick adhesive? Try testing the tape on a flat, clean surface (metal or glass always works well), and see if your tape adheres well there. If so, your problem may be a rough surface.
- Could it be chemistry? Some surfaces like polyethylene or PVC or concrete are especially hard to adhere. A tacky tape will help, but if not, try a different roll and see if the trouble still persists. Or as described above, try the tape on a flat, clean glass or metal surface. If it sticks well, chances are the problem is the surface and not the tape.
- Are you trying to stick to cardboard? If so, remember that cardboard is sometimes made from recycled material, which tends to have many small fibers on the surface that break away very easily. You may need a tape that is specifically designed for recycled card.
- Could the tape be too old? Like most products, adhesive tapes will deteriorate over time and lose their adhesive properties as they do. Does your problem disappear when a fresh roll of tape is used?
- Could it be the temperature? Most tapes won’t stick if the roll or the surface is too cold. (Learn more about cold weather issues here.)
- Was it installed properly? It may seem simple, but knowing how to apply tape properly plays a huge role in whether or not the adhesive sticks. As the name ‘pressure sensitive adhesive’ implies, there needs to be an application pressure across the entire width to get the contact needed for a good bond. If you don’t have good pressure, you won’t have a good bond.
- Could it be you? Are your hands clean, or could you be inadvertently causing the contamination? For example, if you recently worked on a car engine or used hand cream, you could be adversely affecting the surface.
Last, but not least, our motto at ECHOtape is: When in doubt, test it out! Start by simply use a different roll of tape – preferably the same kind, but from a different batch – to determine if the problem persists. Then move through the checklist. You can find more information about adhesive tape by visiting our post The Complete Technical Guide to Adhesive Tape.
If you still find that your tape won’t stick, then contact us. We love solving tape challenges!