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Adam's FAQ - What kind of tape should I use to mask off trim?

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  • Adam's FAQ - What kind of tape should I use to mask off trim?

    More good information from Dylan @ Adam's!!

    The latest in my series of FAQ threads, addressing our most common questions and concerns with aspects of detailing.

    To many new detailers and detailing enthusiasts there can be a number of processes or steps that seem confusing or are easily misunderstood. One area for confusion is masking and taping. For someone whos never performed serious paint correction before or ventured into higher level detailing taping up parts of your car seems a little strange. Some people take it too far (see below)... while others probably could take it further.

    The latest in my series of FAQ threads, addressing our most common questions and concerns with aspects of detailing.

    A vehicle, especially late model cars and trucks, features a massive variety of finishes, surfaces, materials, and components - each requiring its own unique approach to cleaning and care. As such it becomes important in some cases to avoid getting products intended for some uses on materials they're not designed for. We've all experienced that annoying wax stain on a rubber seal or jammed a bunch of polish into that crevice and it seems almost like there is no way to get it out. These are situations where a little work with masking tape in the beginning pays off with time savings in the end.

    There is no 'one size fits all' answer here, but you should always approach masking from a standpoint of preventing as many possible issues, without creating so much work for yourself that you add more work than you save.

    TRIM - Mask off window trim where it meets paint. This will allow you to work right up to the very edge of the paint while polishing or waxing without fear of staining with residues or creating a mess to clean up later. It also prevents oxidized rubber transfer to your pads/applicators that causes staining.
    GAPS - Any area that you feel might become a spot where product could get trapped and you can't easily avoid should be taped off. Panel gaps, areas around complex handles, tail and head lights, etc. If its easy enough to simply avoid these areas or clean them after the fact don't feel taping is required, but if it is an area where if product were trapped you'd spend time cleaning perhaps a few moments to cover that spot is a wise choice.
    VINYL ACCESSORIES & PPF - Many factory cars include vinyl stripe or accent packages. Also many owners opt to install clear protective films on the front end of their cars (PPF). These surfaces have a very well defined 'edge' that can trap polishes and waxes, those products then make these lines very visible and unsightly. Residues trapped in these spots can be very difficult to remove so tape is an excellent way to save time/effort. Matte and satin vinyls can be easily stained or damaged by polishes and waxes, so it is key to prevent contact with those surfaces by masking.
    BADGES & EMBLEMS - Just as much as you want to prevent product caking up along these parts, its also key to protect your foam polishing pads. Many badges feature sharp or hard edges, so while the badge might survive a hit from a pad or applicator, the pad or applicator may not. Losing a chunk of your polishing pad in many cases can lead to other issues.

    PEELING OR FAILING PAINT - If your car has an area that has been damaged or neglected and the paint has begun to bubble, peel, flake, or look excessively thin its best to avoid masking so the adhesive does not cause or exaggerate the damage.
    PINSTRIPES OR OVERLAYS - If you've had a pin stripe artist lay a design on your car that is OVER the top of the clear coat its best to avoid masking these. In some cases, if a section of the stripe is not fully adhered the tape can pull the stripe up. The same is true for overlays, silver/gold leaf, and other accents applied OVER the clear. If these areas have been applied then a clear coat has been laid over the top they are safe to tape off, otherwise use caution and avoid them.

    Tape is tape right? WRONG! The choice of tape on the store shelf today is as complex and varied as its ever been and its key you select a tape that is appropriate as well as safe for the surface you're masking. NOT ALL MASKING TAPE IS APPROPRIATE FOR DETAILING! Be sure to choose a masking tape that is low tac, designed for delicate surfaces.

    Avoid tapes with chemical edge additives (examples - 3M edgelock tapes, frog tape, etc) These tapes feature a chemical additive that reacts with moisture to form a barrier and prevent 'bleed' when painting. This is a great and handy little bit of chemical engineering when you're painting a bedroom, not so much when you're detailing your car.

    Below is an example image of these edge protecting additives reacting with a rubberized trim piece. This symptom can potentially be seen on any rubber, plastic, or vinyl trim and in some cases staining may be seen on single stage, lacquer paint, and some gelcoat finishes. Trim will appear 'swollen' and applications of dressings or protectants to the effected area will not adhere.

    Choose tapes like Adam's Professional Detailers Masking Tape feature:

    Super low tac adhesive for delicate surfaces
    No chemical edge additives that can stain trim or paint
    Coated outside to remain slick under abrasion from polishing
    Reusable after multiple applications
    Semi-transparent on contact to make masking easier


    TRIM - in most cases trim staining from edging chemicals is simply a matter of removing the additive from the surface and getting it out of the materials pores. Use a degreaser like Adam's All Purpose Cleaner and a microfiber towel to scrub the surface clean. A few repeat applications might be necessary to remove all the residues. Follow up with an application of a quality, water based, trim dressing like Adam's Super VRT to restore an even look and protection.

    PAINT OR GLASS - Use a 50% diluted mixture of isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol and a microfiber towel to remove surface residues. If staining remains a light polishing might be needed to remove the issue. A fine grade polish like Adam's Fine Machine Polish is often all that will be needed. Be sure to follow up with an application of your preferred wax or sealant to restore protection.