How Important is Masking Tape in Different Applications

It would be hard to name a consumable item that’s more common than ordinary tape. You can find a roll of it in any residence or business, being used for everything from sealing holes to holding up ceilings. It’s even accepted as a contemporary art medium, with creations in tape regularly featuring in upscale galleries and integrated into interior design layouts.  

Tape’s long list of applications comes from its contradiction of qualities. Any of a thousand combinations of backings and adhesives can result in a tape that is simultaneously strong enough to make temporary repairs to commercial aircraft, delicate enough to be used for children’s arts and crafts, yet still easy enough to remove without permanently damaging either surface that it’s being adhered to.

More than any other type of tape, however, masking-type tapes possess a list of qualities that have been optimized for the broadest range of both home and industrial uses. Whether it’s for light-duty attaching, medium-duty bundling, or high-temperature painting, you can be sure that there’s one made to fit your needs. And when it comes to masking-type tapes, no one makes them better than 3M.

masking tape 3M

3M Tape for All Purposes

In the century that’s passed since 3M first patented masking-type tape, the company has gone on to develop an entire family of paper-backed tapes and adhesives to protect, splice, and ultimately mask all kinds of surfaces without harming them. Today, 3M’s family of colour-coded industrial masking tape is regarded as the best in the world for both general and performance usage. If you want a tape that has a high initial bond rate, adheres and conforms well to all types of surfaces, and is easy to remove, 3M tapes are the best choice.

It’s important to remember that not all masking-type tapes are the same, though. 3M makes a few of them, and if you’re looking for one based strictly on its performance attributes, there are a few factors that you need to consider, including:

·   The backing material. Crepe, kraft, and flatback paper are the most common backing materials used in 3M masking tape construction.

·   The adhesive. Rubber and solvent-free rubber adhesives can vary in their tensile strength and removal qualities.

·   The temperature. Depending on their use, some tapes are designed to endure a wider range of temperature extremes than others.   

The state of the adhering surface and environmental conditions will also affect how you can expect a masking tape to perform. Texture, roughness, contours, and even the length of time the tape needs to remain attached can all have an effect on how well it handles, so you’ll want to make sure you understand your performance requirement thoroughly. And once you know precisely what you need, you’ll discover how easy it is to buy masking tape that’s perfectly suited for any purpose.

101+ for Any Purpose 

3M’s 101+ is a general-use, tan-colored tape that used a rubber adhesive on a crepe backing. With a total thickness of 5.1mils and a tensile strength of 22 lbs./in., this is the classic, cost-effective masking tape that’s good for the full list of light duty, indoor applications, including:

·   Sealing and wrapping;

·   Marking; and,

·   Temporary holding.

Sold in rolls that range from 18mm x 55m to 48mm x 55m, it’s the cost-effective workhorse tape that’s used in most light industrial, shipping, and retail environments for non-critical jobs where adhesion surface temperatures won’t exceed 66°C.


201+ for Smooth Finishes 

3M’s 201+ is also a tan-coloured, crepe-backed tape, but uses a solvent-free rubber adhesive that’s suitable for surface temperatures up to 93°C and made for easy, no-residue cleanup after removal. These qualities make it good for light and medium-duty industrial applications such as construction, warehousing, and shipping, for tasks such as:

·   Bundling;

·   Labeling; and,

·   Identifying.

At only 4.4mils thick and with a tensile strength of just 19lbs./in., 201+ is slightly thinner and less robust than 101+, but can quickly make up for it with its ease of use. It’s sold in the same sized rolls as 101+ though, and is readily used on jobs where a smooth, conforming finish is needed.

301+ for Strength

301+ is the first member of 3M’s lineup of true performance tapes. This yellow, crepe-backed tape also uses a solvent-free rubber adhesive, is sold in similar lengths as 101+ and 201+, and sticks instantly to metal, rubber, glass, or plastic surfaces. With its 6.3mil thickness and good conformability to irregular surfaces, 301+ is especially good for:

·   Industrial and mid-temperature paint masking;

·   Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) activities; and,

·   Marking and colour coding stone and pavement.

301+ doesn’t leave any adhesive residue behind, resists paint bleed-through, and is designed to adhere to surface temperatures up to 107°C. It’s this high-temperature resilience that qualifies this tape for a range of specialty environments where tougher masking tapes are preferred.

401+ for Perfect Painting

401+ is a high-performance 3M tape that allows users to create the sharpest lines and edges for detailed paintwork and other masking jobs. This green, crepe-backed tape is treated with a heat-resistant saturant that allows it to work in temperatures up to 121°C – the ideal range for paint baking and powder coating applications.

Its 6.7mil thickness and solvent-free rubber adhesive are also highly conformable, making it ideal for irregular shapes and detailed surfaces found when custom painting:

·   Cars and trucks;

·   Emergency and first response vehicles; and,

·   Aircraft.

In short, if you’re looking for the optimum, bleed-resistant 3M adhesives for fine paintwork, this is the tape you want. It’s sold in standard 3M-sized rolls, and it costs a little extra, but the difference it’ll make in how your paintwork turns out is going to be immediately noticeable.

401+ for Perfect Painting

401M Makes it All-in-One

401M is a special, natural rubber 3M adhesive tape made from a 9mil, green plaid kraft backing that’s been double-coated with a rubber adhesive and a paper release liner. Like other 3M rubber adhesive tapes, 401M also has incredibly high initial adhesion and great holding power in spite of being hand tearable. 401M also offers a degree of UV and solvent resistance than other masking tapes don’t have. 

Typical applications for 401M include:

·   Mounting printing plates;

·   Splicing and core starting films and foils; and,

·   Temporary holding parts while being finished.

For all-in-one indoor use where equal bits of extra strength and stability are needed, 401M is the tape to choose from.

The Final Word

At the end of the day, when you need tape in a professional capacity, the type of tape you choose has to be determined by the type of work you’re doing. And make no mistake: choosing a tape that doesn’t have the backing, adhesive, or resistant properties you need can leave you in more than just a sticky mess. 

The 3M system of colour-coding its masking tape helps to make choosing the right tape the easiest part of your job. You simply match the tape to the requirement, and 3M’s patented quality won’t let you down.