What Is Pressure Sensitive Tape?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Pressure sensitive tape adheres to a surface without requiring a treatment such as heating or spraying with water. The earliest versions of this product were made for medical use, where surgeons wanted adhesive tapes for quickly attaching bandages and holding tubing and needles in place. A wide range of products are available for applications like taping down electrical cords, repairing damaged books, and attaching posters to windows. Numerous manufacturers make pressure sensitive tapes and they are readily available at hardware and home supply stores.

Man with a drill
Man with a drill

This design includes a solid backing coated with adhesive. The tape is naturally sticky and adheres with light pressure. Some are designed to release easily without leaving residue, depending on the surface, while others are meant to provide a more permanent adhesive. Pressure sensitive tape can also be reinforced with string or netting to help it withstand strain; packaging tapes, for example, may be strengthened so they don’t rupture under the weight of a heavy box.

Adhesives and backings are carefully designed to allow manufacturers to coil them in a quick-release roll. The sticky material doesn’t adhere or leave a residue on the backing, so people can easily pull off as much as they need. Tape backings can include plastics, fabrics, and paper for various applications. They may be treated to resist moisture or provide features like changing color to indicate if the tape has been exposed to high temperatures, moisture, or specific chemicals. Users can quickly attach pressure sensitive tape to a variety of surfaces without needing to apply chemicals, heat, or other processing methods to activate the adhesive.

Specialty products can also provide archival protection. Regular pressure sensitive tape may be acidic and can damage delicate archived materials. Specialty products for art projects and restorations are designed with a neutral pH so they won’t damage papers, fabrics, and similar components. They can be used for mounting, making repairs, and packaging up materials for storage and shipping and are available through art and archival suppliers.

The best choice of pressure sensitive tape for a job can depend on the circumstances. Tough reinforced products may be needed for situations where the tape is likely to be strained, while clear varieties may be helpful in cases where people want to make the tape less visible. Color-coded options for tagging or labeling are also available, along with products like double-sided tape that has adhesive on both sides of the backing.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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