Wetting Application Tape to Get a Better Release

This week’s tip came to mind because of a call we received from a customer who was using our EnduraLite reflective tape. The customer was having trouble with bubbles after the application tape was removed. Removal of the transfer tape stresses the connection between the newly applied vinyl and the substrate, contributing to bubbling.

The trick is getting the tape off without putting so much stress on the vinyl. To do this, you have to reduce the tape’s adhesion to the vinyl without reducing the vinyl’s adhesion to the substrate. I suggested that the customer try wetting the application tape first, and they reported that it solved the problem. So here, for everyone’s edification, is the wet tape/ dry vinyl application method.

  1. Transfer the graphic to the substrate dry. (In this case, dry means without using application fluid between the vinyl and substrate. Reflective vinyl should always be installed dry.)
  2. After the graphic is mounted, wet the application tape – preferably with SureGlide or RapidTac – before removing it from the vinyl graphic. Apply the fluid liberally, then squeegee the fluid onto the tape to weaken the tape’s adhesive. The fluid permeates the tape’s paper face stock and begins to soften the tape’s water-based latex adhesive. That makes it easier to remove the tape without weakening the fresh bond between the vinyl and the substrate.
  3. Remove the tape by peeling it back at a 180° angle (back against the surface) rather than pulling upward at a 90° angle. This further reduces stress on the connection between the vinyl’s adhesive and the substrate, reducing the likelihood of bubbles. The result is a bubble free installation! This technique is especially helpful when applying standard calendared vinyls to automotive glass and corrugated plastic sign blanks.

(This tip doesn’t work as well with clear tapes because clear tapes are manufactured with a plastic face stock instead of paper, so any application fluid applied to the back of the tape cannot reach and soften the adhesive.)