Tape has been around for thousands of years.
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 the situation, “it won’t stick” is the single most common complaint we hear about any adhesive.
And the tape gets all the blame.
But after four decades of investigating tape complaints and perfecting sticky formulas for many applications, we’ve found that the problem is rarely the tape alone.
According to Risa Edelstein, ECHOtape’s Director of Marketing:
“Nine out of 10 times, when customers say, ‘Your tape is not working,’ the problem is not the tape. 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.”
Since there are so many factors that go into the effectiveness of tape, we created a checklist to help you troubleshoot your sticky issues.
Why Your Tape Doesn’t Stick – A Checklist
Has The Same Tape Worked Before?
If you used the same type of tape before and it worked, but now it doesn’t, then consider what has changed. Are the conditions different – colder, wetter, hotter? Did you apply it differently?
This should be the first step in diagnosing why your tape isn’t sticking.
Is The Tape New?
If the tape is new and it isn’t sticking, it might 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 oil free. When in doubt, wash the surface with rubbing alcohol and dry it thoroughly with a soft cloth.
Was It The Surface Texture?
Do 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 minimal 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 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 designed explicitly for recycled cardboard.
Could The Tape Be Too Old?
Like most products, adhesive tapes will deteriorate over time and lose their adhesive properties. Does your problem disappear when a fresh roll of tape is used? If not, it’s time to toss out that old tape.
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 necessary 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 contamination? For example, if you recently worked on a car engine or used hand cream, you could be adversely affecting the surface. Clean your hands a try again.
How to Make Tape Stick Better
If you’re struggling with duct tape that isn’t sticking, or any other type of tape for that matter, there are a few steps you can take.
Clean the Surface
Tape works best when the surface area is clean, meaning 100% free of dirt, oil, and debris. You want to eliminate anything that can get between the surface and the tape in order to create direct contact with the adhesive.
Use the Right Tape
Tape is extremely versatile, but that doesn’t mean that one kind of tape can handle every type of job (although duct tape comes close). When you have a project that requires joining two surfaces, make sure to use the right tape for the job. For instance, if the surface is not very smooth, use a tape with a thick adhesive.
For more information, check out our guide to choosing the right tape.
Store Your Tape Properly
Store your tape at room temperature, away from light and moisture to prolong its longevity. Tape stored in wet and hot environments will degrade much faster than properly stored tape. Cold temperatures can also dry of the adhesive, rendering the tape virtually worthless.
Use New Tape
If your old tape wasn’t stored properly, or if it’s very old, it’s time to pick up a new roll. Just like anything, tape isn’t invincible to the effects of time. And double-sided tape is twice as susceptible, so it needs to be replaced more frequently.
Check the Temperature
If the tape or the surface is too hot or too cold, it won’t stick. If it’s sweltering outside, wait until the evening when it cools down to apply the tape. If it’s too cold, try to warm up the tape and the surface before application.
Clean Your Hands
If your hands are greasy or dirty, they can disrupt the adhesive bond of tape. If you recently worked with oil or apply lotion, grease can get on the tape and ruin its stickiness.
Likewise, dirt and mud can get between the surface and the adhesive and disrupt the bond.
Our motto at ECHOtape is: When in doubt, test it out! Start by simply using a different roll of tape – preferably the same kind, but from a different batch – to determine if the problem persists.
It’s all about experimenting and problem-solving.
If you’ve gone through our checklist and tried everything we suggest to make tape stick better, give us a call! We might have a suggestion that can help you get the job done.