Applying and removing reflective tape and conspicuity markings

Instructions on best practices for applying and removing reflective tape.

How do I apply reflective tape? (four steps)

To ensure the durability, strong adhesion and effectiveness of your reflective tape, it’s important to correctly apply the reflective tape to your vehicle, equipment, or property. Proper application also helps to ensure that your warranty is valid.

  • Clouds in the sky
    Step 1: Check the weather

    For optimum adhesion and durability, 3M reflective tapes should be applied when the temperature is between 50°-100°F (10°-38°C).

    If the temperature is above 100°F, take care to avoid pre-adhesion. If the temperature is below 50°F, heat the application surface using portable heaters or heat lamps, and store the markings in a hotbox to keep them above 50°F.

  • Tools for applying reflective tape
    Step 2: Get the right tools

    Here are the tools you’ll need to apply your reflective tape:

    • Scissors or utility knife with a sharp blade for cutting.
    • Squeegee or roller to apply pressure across the surface of the reflective tape. The 3M™ PA-1 Applicator is recommended.
    • Rivet tool, such as an Osborne Arc Punch #149, if you’re going over rivets. You can also cut around rivets.
  • Cleaning and prepping surface for tape
    Step 3: Prepare the surface

    For proper adhesion, clean any surface where you’re applying reflective tape:

    1. Wash surfaces with detergent and water to remove dirt and road film.
    2. Flush washed area with plain, clean water to remove detergent. Soap film can inhibit adhesion.
    3. Wipe using a lint-free paper towel saturated with non-oily, quick-drying solvent, such as isopropyl alcohol, acetone, or 3M Prep Solvent 70.
    4. Immediately dry surfaces with clean, dry, lint-free paper towel before solvent evaporates completely, paying close attention to rivets, seams, and door hinge areas.
  • Applying reflective tape to truck
    Step 4: Apply the reflective tape

    To apply the reflective tape:

    1. Remove the liner and position the reflective tape on the application surface.
    2. Tack down lightly to hold the reflective tape in position.
    3. Use your hand to press the reflective tape onto the application surface.
    4. Using your 3M PA-1 Squeegee (or other applicator) press the reflective tape down using firm, overlapping strokes.
    5. If there are hinges, latches or other hardware, cut the tape about ⅛ inches back to avoid buckling.
    6. To apply over rivets, apply the reflective tape over the rivet using firm pressure. Leave a bridge over the rivet head. Use a rivet punch to cut the tape around the rivet. Remove the tape over the rivet head. Squeegee around the rivet.
  • Example application video: Series 913

    Watch the video to see how to apply our conspicuity tape and reflective markings.

  • Watch the video to learn how to apply conspicuity tape on a vehicle

How do I remove reflective tape? (three steps)

3M reflective tapes are easy to remove. Follow these simple steps to remove reflective tape from your vehicles, equipment, or property:

  • Tools for reflective tape removal
    Step 1: Get the right tools

    Here are the tools you’ll need to remove your reflective tape:

    • Single edged razor blades
    • Handled tool to hold razor blades
    • Safety glasses
    • Solvent resistant protective gloves
    • Absorbent paper towels
    • Recommended solvent, such as isopropyl alcohol, 3M Citrus Cleaner, brake cleaning fluid, or paint remover (on non-painted, bare metals)
  • Removing reflective tape
    Step 2: Remove the reflective marking

    To remove the reflective marking:

    1. Use handled tool containing a new single edged razor blade to lift an edge of the marking. Change razor blades frequently, as a sharp blade delivers best results.
    2. While keeping the edge of the razor close to the surface of the substrate, begin to work the razor from side to side in small strokes in the direction of removal.
    3. Pull the loose marking with minimal tension from the substrate at an angle of approximately 45 degrees while working the razor back and forth.
    4. If markings break away from the substrate, keep repeating steps one through three above.
  • Removing reflective tape adhesive
    Step 3: Remove the adhesive

    To remove the adhesive:

    1. Spray solvent onto the adhesive residue.
    2. Let the solvent soak on the adhesive for three to five minutes.
    3. Use a sharp razor blade in a handled tool to scrape off adhesive.
    4. Wipe residue off razor onto paper towel.

    It may be necessary to repeat the above steps several times to remove all adhesive. All adhesive residue must be removed before reapplying markings. Substrate must be cleaned with alcohol using one towel to clean and another to wipe away residue before reapplying markings.

  • Example removal video: Series 983

    Watch the video to see how to remove our conspicuity tape and reflective markings.

  • Watch the video to learn how to remove conspicuity tape from a vehicle

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