What Tape Is Safe for Car Paint?
Painters tape, which is made of plastic and not paper, is a popular choice for those looking to protect their vehicles from chips and scratches. You’ve probably seen it in automotive stores or even a mall kiosk, but don’t be fooled by its availability: this essential household item comes with some surprising warnings you need to know before using it on car paint.
Here are some basic things to keep in mind when choosing whether you should use tape on your car paint:
- The adhesive on the back of the tape must be safe for a vehicle’s paint.
- Masking tape is typically made of paper, which can cause damage to surfaces if exposed to sunlight for too long. When exposed, paper masks—or “chips”—can actually peel off the surface more easily than regular old plastic stickers might.
- Painters tape doesn’t stick as securely as vinyl tape—which usually works better on smooth plastic surfaces like car windows and kitchen appliances. In addition to that fact that it only sticks well on smooth pieces, painters tape can also get stuck under an already-applied decal (if used alone), potentially making it difficult or impossible for an auto painter to remove the decal if necessary.
- Masking tape is made of crepe paper and is the cheapest of all the automotive tapes. You can also use it to paint your walls, hang posters and even secure boxes when moving. It’s not safe for car paint unless you’re painting something like plastic or metal that won’t be harmed by the adhesive residue left behind. Masking tape can be used on windows if you are careful about pulling it off slowly at a 45-degree angle. It can also be used on rims and chrome as long as you remove it carefully.
Painters tape is a low tack masking tape designed for delicate surfaces. Many painters use painter’s tape to make crisp, clean edges when painting, and it is also commonly used to mask off areas that need to remain unpainted. You would think that this type of tape would be safe for all surfaces, but in reality painter’s tape could leave a residue or damage your car paint if it sticks too firmly to the surface and cannot be easily removed. All brands of painter’s tape are not created equal, so sometimes it is a matter of trial and error when selecting which brand works best on your vehicle.
We recommend Frog Tape. It’s been tested by Painting Contractors Magazine as well as Consumer Reports, and has proven itself superior to other brands in terms of how easy it can be removed without leaving residual adhesive behind. One drawback is that Frog Tape does tend to cost more than other brands (in the neighborhood of $6-$8 per roll), so you may want to look into whether there are coupons available before purchasing. Make sure you buy Frog Tape in the “Delicate Surface” variety; otherwise, you’ll be purchasing a higher-strength version that may cause more damage than help.
When it comes to painting straight lines, frog tape is your best bet. The key here is timing: frog tape is designed for use on dry, clean surfaces, so don’t apply it to a freshly painted wall (wait at least 72 hours). Also keep in mind that some surfaces are more sensitive than others. Walls with wallpaper should be avoided, because the adhesive can damage the paper; walls with exposed brick or a concrete facade will also be susceptible.
If you’re unsure of your wall’s sensitivity, you can test frog tape by leaving a strip on the wall overnight—if there’s no damage when you pull it off in the morning, you can proceed with painting! You’ll want to remove the tape right after finishing up your last brushstroke (you don’t want any wet paint seeping underneath), and wash any excess paint off as soon as possible. If left too long, water-based paints will stain or degrade the adhesive while oil-based paints will harden and become more difficult to remove.
Vinyl tape is the most common kind of tape. Vinyl tape can be used for a wide range of outdoor and indoor applications, and is also commonly used in automotive applications as well.
It is important to note that vinyl tapes are not specifically designed to be paint masking tapes, meaning they would not be the best option when it comes to masking your car.
While vinyl tape may protect against scratches, using a proper paint masking tape will help prevent any damage from occurring in the first place!
Each has different properties and each is good for different purposes.
Painters tape is the go-to tape for any time you need to cover up paint. It’s strong enough to support heavy objects such as buckets, tools, and equipment without tearing. In this case, it’s best used on the sides of a bucket so your paint doesn’t drip off into the lids when you’re filling it up with water. For smaller jobs (such as taping off areas for a repaint), painters tape is often preferred over masking tape since it’s easy to remove and reapply.
Masking tape is another favorite of many homeowners. This stuff comes in 2″ wide rolls and can be easily cut or torn into any size needed; unlike painters tape, it can also be removed by peeling or pulling it off cleanly—and unlike painter’s tape, masking tape sticks well enough that you don’t have to peel it away carefully in one piece like a bandage. Still, painters tape is better at covering large areas than masking tape; since its adhesive strength isn’t great when wet, painting over exposed areas with painters tape would allow more paint to bleed through if the surface area was too big for painters tape alone.