This is a blog post that’s a whole year in the making. Last year I put 10 different types of tape on a junk fender I had lying around and waited until this year to take them off to see how cleanly any of them came off.
This was only a test of their affect on the paint, not a test of their holding power over time. I left the fender in my back yard through summer heat, rain, a western New York winter, several thaws and freezes. Unless I had put the tape on my car, I didn’t test what affect wind, water, and salt spray does to the tape.
First, here is a picture of what it all looked like when I first put them on. From left to right, top to bottom, the types of tape I put on are office tape, electrical tape, vinyl tape, packing tape, blue painter’s masking tape, yellow automotive masking tape, cheap colored Duck brand tape, gaffer tape, Gorilla tape, and a medium strength level of grey duct tape.
After a year, this is what the tape looked like. There was very little peeling of any of the tapes, probably because they weren’t subjected to wind and water spray. Most of the tapes look like they’ve either shrunk or the adhesive has leeched out a little. None of the tapes seemed to fade except for the yellow tape, which was now pretty white. Now on to the individual results after I removed them.
I was able to peel the tape off fairly easily, but it left the majority of its adhesive behind. The adhesive did come off fairly easily with some solvent, however. I don’t really expect people to try to hold their cars together with office tape, but it’s definitely not a good choice if you want it to last and eventually remove it.
The electrical tape came off very cleanly, only leaving adhesive residue on the sides. It was also fairly easy to clean off.
The vinyl tape ended up very similar to the electrical tape, with very clean removal, except for a couple spots including where I paused while peeling it off. The residue cleaned off similarly to the electrical tape.
The packing tape did not want to come off well at all. It would just tear into shreds as I removed it, so I couldn’t easily get it all off. If you ever have to hold something onto your car with packing tape, don’t plan on getting the tape off.
Blue Painter’s Masking Tape
Blue painter’s tape is designed to come off cleaning without damaging the surface, and despite not being designed specifically for cars and for staying on for extended periods of time, it did come off pretty well. Some of it did get left behind, but I was impressed by its performance.
Yellow Automotive Masking Tape
This was one of the worst. I was barely able to get any of it off, despite the fact that it’s designed for cars. The blue painter’s tape worked much better.
Colored Cheap Duck Brand Tape
I was sure that this was going to be the worst, because I see people using colored duct tape to try to discreetly repair their cars, and then I see the tape peeling off leaving destroyed paint. Maybe if this had been on a car that drove for a whole year and through winter it would’ve been different, but it came off very cleanly with only a small amount of residue that cleaned off decently.
Medium Strength Duct Tape
After the surprise of the cheap duct tape coming off pretty cleanly, I thought that the higher strength duct tape might come off nicely as well. I was completely wrong, with this being the worse one, leaving all the adhesive behind. The only way I could remove it was with a razor blade and then solvent on what was left, but you really don’t want to try to use a razor blade on your paint.
The Gorilla tape came off pretty well considering how sticky it is. It did leave some adhesive residue behind, but nowhere near as bad as the duct tape.
Last but not least is the gaffer tape, which came off very well, which is what I expected. Gaffer tape is designed for use in theater and movie production instead of masking tape or duct tape, because it’s strong but comes off cleanly.
Holding parts of your car on with tape, even temporarily, is not the best idea, especially if you want it to not damage your paint. But if you have to, here is a ranking of the tapes I used, based only on how well they came off. This doesn’t say anything about how well they hold when put under the stress of driving conditions. From best to worst:
- Gaffer Tape
- Electrical Tape
- Vinyl Tape
- Gorilla Tape
- Colored Duck Brand Tape
- Blue Painter’s Tape
- Packing Tape
- Office Tape
- Yellow Automotive Masking Tape
- Medium Strength Duct Tape
This was an interesting test to run, and I hope there was at least something learned from it. I learned that I still love gaffer tape.
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That’s a fun and informative experiment, thanks for the info Dan. I don’t foresee myself taping a car, but I was still interested by the results!
Great to see the ranking. I wish the scotched tape was also ranked. And an experiment for only a day duration, if any of them will harm the paint.
If by scotch tape you mean office tape, that’s in there. For only one day I wouldn’t think there’d be too much risk for damage for any of these, based on what I saw here, especially if kept dry.
Can I just express appreciation for this experiment? We’re all currently in the heart of the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s become the trend to do Car Parades for birthdays. I used regular masking tape for some banners for a parade I attended, and while I just yanked off the banners when I got home, there’s still some tape snippets and residue on my car I need to get to. I think the masking tape i used (regular beige masking tape) would be most similar to the blue painters tape. The fact that you could remove after a year makes me more confident about not getting to it for just a week. Hopefully it won’t be to tasking but this helped me feel better about the removal going well. Would you recommend using dish soap or regular car wash to remove residue? Thanks again for doing this experiment, I hope that many people read this since the parades are a thing (for) now.
Thanks for reading! This has actually been one of my most popular posts of all time, and I have seen quite a few views in the past few months, so this may be a reason for it. As for removing the residue, I’m not sure what the best way to get it off would be, but dish soap is definitely something you can try. If you happen to have isopropyl alcohol, which is hard to come by these days, that’s another possibility. Let me know how it turns out.
Hey this was SUPER helpful and there hasn’t been anything else similar to it online as far as answering the question of whether tape will damage the finish/paint on a car, just wanted to say thanks so much for the post! Very much appreciated!
Thank you for your post. To be clear, I can safely Gorilla tape flags, signs, whatever to my car for a parade and safely remove a few hours later without damaging the paint on my car?
Short term usage in good weather should be fine.
Absolutely brilliant!. I didn’t expect an internet search to come up with anything so useful. I have a car with a sun roof which leads to an internal leak during very heavy rain because the drain route can’t cope with the volume of water coming through the seals. I have decided that the puddles in the foot well must stop and intend to apply tape over the sunroof edges to keep the rain out. It is a last resort having repeatedly clean out the drain pipes. I will now use your research to choose a suitable tape.
Well done and thanks.
Same situation. VW moonroof leaking, water getting in to floor of car. Dealer wanted $1200 to fix and replace the 4 drains. No thanks. I would rather tape it closed.
This is exactly what I was looking for! Thanks so much! Sounds like a fun experiment!
This article was very helpful! Thanks for putting it together.