When it comes to food, refrigeration protects the items from spoilage and “use by” dates help guarantee freshness. If only all products come with such clear guidelines, right? While your metal tools or hammers might be impervious to the elements, building materials like latex paint and adhesive tape can, and will, degrade over time. Tape storage is a key element in longevity. Why? Well… it all comes down to how the tape is made.
A Closer Look at Adhesive Tapes
Pressure-sensitive adhesive tapes are only possible by chemistry, which in and of itself is always vulnerable to physical and environmental stressors. Materials like natural rubber used in the adhesive, or certain resins utilized in pressure-sensitive adhesives, can have their bonds broken by the effects of oxygen, as well as exposure to extreme heat, and from natural and artificial light sources. These reactions organically continue over time which can often cause changes to the tape’s adhesive properties.
But that’s just one example. Adhesive tape degradation comes down to four simple causes:
Applied Stress: mechanical, electrical, radiation, or other stresses.
Temperature: the higher the temperature, the more rapid the change.
Environment: can be the gases, liquids or solids that come in contact with the object.
The overall effects of these three types of changes are governed by how long each condition exists. In other words, they are all dependent upon Time, the fourth controlling factor. For tape, ageing is particularly impactful as chemical changes gradually occur between the several components of the tape itself.
Makes sense, right?
While tape manufacturers may add antioxidants in addition to heat and light stabilizers into their various formulas to offset the effects of ageing, these do not protect a tape’s reliability indefinitely. Like using sunscreen at the beach, these are temporary measures. Only longer-term solutions will deter the degradation process.
To avoid the natural course of chemistry undermining the integrity of any tape, the first step is to always follow the manufacturer’s suggested storage and use. Proper storage not only extends the shelf life of your tape but ensures its effectiveness and gives you the best value for your dollar.
The Best Tape Storage Tips
So how can you keep your tape inventory at the same optimal quality as the first day it is delivered to the job site?
- First, you should store tape somewhere away from the light, particularly windows. Ultraviolet light can even penetrate the packaging with time.
- Then, you should store the tape in a cool place; the cooler the better, preferably 60°F/15°C or cooler.
- Also, make sure to keep it dry. Even the presence of moisture in the air can contribute to a chemical reaction. Just take it out of storage a day or two before you need it to let it recover to room temperature.
- You should also store your tape in such a way that you know when each lot was delivered so that you can use the oldest tape first.
- Find out from your supplier what a safe height would be to stack the cases of tape and the skids on top of one another. Certain tapes can be crushed and badly damaged when the boxes are overloaded. Ideally, the storage should be on racks and take up just one skid.
- Besides proper stacking and cool, dark, and dry storage, best tape storage practices dictate rotation of stock to yield the best value out of your adhesive tapes.
4 Tips for Storing Tape in Your Truck
While certain jobs call for specific tools, it’s always useful to keep the basics on-hand. Maybe you have a go-to tool kit or maybe you keep your supplies in your truck box. Either way, it’s worth looking into how you store your tape on the go.
Understand each tape’s properties. Read the manufacturer’s specifications and recommended tips for tape storage. Some tapes are designed to stand up to high heat temperatures. Therefore it’s adhesive will fare better in your truck over a long summer of 90°+ days than standard duct tape will.
Avoid exposure to direct sunlight. Do not leave your tape near the window where it can soak in UV rays for a prolonged period of time. Ultraviolet light can affect the chemistry of a tape’s adhesive and cause it to become hard and brittle.
Be mindful of temperatures. Try to avoid both extreme heat and cold. High heat can melt a tape’s adhesive and cause it to become a sticky mess. At the other extreme, if left in your truck amid freezing temperatures tape’s adhesive may become too brittle to work. Ideally, tape should be stored in a cool, dry location. This isn’t always possible to try to keep tape stored somewhere else other than your truck when outside temperatures get to extremes. If that is impossible, keep only the amount you will use in a day in the truck and keep restocking as needed.
Have a system for cycling your tape. No matter how well you take care of your tape, you cannot maintain its reliability indefinitely. The best solution is to cycle your tape. Devise a labeling system so that you use the oldest tape first.
If you aren’t sure how old your tape is, test it first. There’s a great post about testing tape quickly in the field here.
While tape doesn’t get better with age when left to its own devices, paying attention to the variables that maintain a product’s integrity will ensure it is ready to use when needed.