Is Painter’s Tape Toxic and Flammable?


Painters tape is a commonly used for a variety of crafts and home improvement tasks, but some users are concerned that it might be toxic or flammable. These qualities would make it dangerous to use in certain circumstances despite its versatility otherwise.

Is Painter’s Tape Toxic and Flammable?

In normal use parameters, painter’s tape is both non-toxic and resistant to flame in temperatures up to 350 degrees for 30 minutes. However, if burned over a direct flame, painter’s tape could potentially give off noxious fumes, and while it is not considered toxic, painter’s tape can irritate the skin or eyes through direct contact, which should be avoided. 

Painter’s tape is used in a variety of ways other than its intended use, but as long as you use common sense, it should never be a dangerous tool. Read on to learn more about the properties of painter’s tape and how it can be used most effectively.

Uses for Painter’s Tape

While it is used for a variety of purposes, painter’s tape is a type of tape that works with pressure-sensitive adhesive merged with an easy-to-tear paper. It is most commonly used to mask off or protect areas that should not be painted.

The special adhesive in painter’s tape is what leads to its utility, as unlike some other types of tape, this allows painter’s tape to be removed easily without leaving a residue or damaging the surface on which it is applied (at least during normal use).

Painter’s tape is available in many different strengths that are rated on a scale of 1-100 based on the strength of the adhesive. Household painter’s tape, which is the type most people will encounter in daily life or use in craft activities, is made of a weak paper and low-grade adhesive.

Uses Painter’s Tape Was Not Designed For

Some people use painter’s tape to mask off things in an oven for craft projects, but while painter’s tape is not necessarily flammable, heating it up to oven temperatures can cause it to leave behind an unsightly adhesive residue that is difficult to remove.

For this reason, painter’s tape is not an ideal type of tape for masking things off that need to be heated up.

Besides this practical point, painter’s tape is not easily flammable due to its high heat resistance, but when it does catch fire, it has the potential to give off noxious fumes. So for it to remain non-toxic, it must not be burned.

It’s Non-Toxic, But Don’t Eat the Painter’s Tape

While painter’s tape is considered non-toxic in its natural form, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for anyone to try and eat it, either to pull a stunt or otherwise.

Eating painter’s tape can cause a bowel impaction. If a toddler, dog, or small child manages to eat a small piece of painter’s tape, they should be able to pass it unobstructed, but if they eat a large amount of it, it could cause a digestive blockage that may require surgery to correct.

How to Use Painter’s Tape Safely

Painter’s tape is a very safe product and is used for all kinds of things and by children and adults alike. However, there are a few minor hazards associated with using it, and these are explained below.

Direct Contact with Skin and Eyes

When using painter’s tape, you should avoid the tape having direct contact with your skin or eyes. With regards to skin contact, painter’s tape can cause abrasion, redness, pain, or itching. With regard to eye contact, painter’s tape can cause pain, redness, tearing, or corneal tearing.

Some people may also have an allergic reaction to either the paper or the adhesive used in painter’s tape. If swelling or redness occurs, stop use immediately and consult a physician to determine whether an allergic reaction has been triggered.

Heat Tolerance of Painter’s Tape

Painter’s tape is generally flame-resistant; however, like any paper product, it should be kept away from direct flame.

While it is not ideal to use painter’s tape in an oven scenario because of the residue it can leave behind when heated up, painter’s tape is safe in an oven of three hundred and fifty degrees for up to thirty minutes.

Just because painter’s tape is flame resistant doesn’t mean it should be subjected to heat, however. When burned, acrylate polymers off-gas fumes that could be dangerous if inhaled. If painter’s tape is used in an oven for a short time, the area should be very well ventilated.

For taping projects that require heat resistance, it’s better to use a sort of tape that is designed to withstand high temperatures. For this purpose, Kaplon tape (which is used by NASA in space engineering projects) is a much better tape for oven-based projects and woodburning/welding.

Ingredients in Painter’s Tape

Painter’s tape consists of two primary ingredients:

  • Polyacrylate adhesive
  • Paper

Polyacrylate adhesive is an adhesive made of acrylate polymers, which are known for their resistance to breakage and elasticity. Acrylate polymers are used in a variety of other commercial uses other than painter’s tape such as:

  • Nail polish
  • Acrylic paints
  • Acrylic fibers

The heat resistance of polyacrylates is pretty high, which is why painter’s tape also has a high heat resistance, but on the flip side of that, its cold resistance is very low. This is why painter’s tape tends to get brittle in cold temperatures.

The type of paper used on the outside layer of painter’s tape is a weak, thin paper. This is both to make the tape easy to tear as well as increase its heat resistance by increasing the ratio of heat-resistant adhesive to flammable paper.

The thinness of painter’s tape also makes it easier to activate its pressure-sensitive adhesive.

Alternatives to Painter’s Tape for Masking Painted Areas

There are several things that can be used as an alternative to painter’s tape when trying to paint something. Here are some quick alternatives for people who hate to use painter’s tape for painting projects:

  • Frog tape: Also known as “green painter’s tape” as opposed to the ubiquitous blue ScotchBrite roll that is most commonly seen in home improvement projects, frog tape is similar to painter’s tape, but it bonds with latex paint to prevent bleeding.Frog tape features patented paintblock technology that forms a barrier against paint leaking up underneath the tape, creating a crisp, clean line every time.
  • For a quick fix while trying to mask during a painting project, get a thin piece of cardboard and hold it up to the edge. This will block off part of the area and allow you to paint around it.Be careful though, as this is about as half-baked as it sounds, and if you aren’t precise, you could have bleeding beneath the cardboard and uneven lines. So paint lightly if you decide to use this method.
  • Angle brush. A sharp angle brush can allow for very straight lines that preclude the need for masking.However, you have to have a good brush (one that has been thoroughly used will probably not have a clean end and may lead to imperfections in the paint), and you will need to keep your hands steady at all times.
  • Paint edgers. Paint edgers work well to keep clean lines on straight walls without painter’s tape, but if your walls aren’t perfectly straight due to age or settling, paint edgers can be difficult to use because they depend heavily on straight angles to work.
  • Freehand it. If you don’t want to use painter’s tape you can always freehand your paint job with some practice and a careful brush. It’s prudent to keep a wet rag handy so that you can correct any mistakes you make.While free-handing a paint job is not typically as accurate or gives the same level of straight lines you can achieve with masking tape, for paint jobs where detail is not as important, it can be an option to save time and money.
  • Artist’s brushes. Artist’s brushes can have very sharp edges and come in small sizes, so if you want precise straight lines without using painter’s tape, they afford the user more control than larger paintbrushes.Of course to achieve good results with artist’s brushes you’ll have to paint carefully, which may defeat the purpose of not using painter’s tape if you skipped the step just to save time on a project. You’ll end up using the time having to paint more slowly anyway.
  • Masking liquids. Rather than use a painter’s tape to protect areas you don’t want paint on, you always have the option to use a masking liquid such as Peel-Tek.Masking liquid can be brushed onto any non-fibrous household surface that needs to be protected while painting indoors. Examples include stucco, wood, stone, or tile. Do not use masking liquids on carpet, fabrics, or wallpaper.Masking liquids need to cure completely before you can paint over it. This process can take less than half an hour to overnight, depending on the size and complexity of the painting project. When using masking liquid, be sure to do a spot test first.  

Masking Tape, Not the Best Alternative to Painter’s Tape

While painter’s tape and masking tape are similar weights of tape and are used in the same sorts of projects, painter’s tape is a little different.

The main difference between painter’s tape and masking tape is that painter’s tape is designed to lift cleanly once a painting project is completed, while masking tape is more likely to leave behind residue.

Painter’s tapes are designed more for their ability to let go than their ability to stick, whereas masking tapes are designed for strong adhesion. This makes them suitable for different tasks.

If you are trying to mask off areas in a painting project, it is worth the trouble to procure painter’s tape that is specifically designed for the purpose; this will save you from trying to painstakingly scrape away other kinds of tape with a razorblade later on in your project for a clean result.

Cool Alternative (and Non-Toxic) Uses for Painter’s Tape

Painter’s tape isn’t just good for masking off areas to protect them from paint. Painter’s tape can also be used for a variety of purposes that neither increase its toxicity nor its flammability. Here are some of the various ways you can use painter’s tape around the house:

  • Map out furniture placement. Painter’s tape is a good way to figure out where you
    want your furniture to go based on its dimensions without actually having to move around heavy furniture.
  • Use painter’s tape as a chip clip. Painter’s tape forms a better seal than traditional chip clips and is easily replaced, where chip clips tend to break easily, and there never seems to be enough of them. Painter’s tape is a cheap and practical solution to this problem.
  • Test rug sizes. Rugs are large financial investments for a house and deciding what size will fit your space best from an interior design perspective is not easy. To figure out what a rug will look like compositionally in a space, lay down the tape to see if it would look right.
  • Use as labeling material. Painter’s tape makes a good label for many different kinds of materials, and especially for containers that are intended to be used as a temporary container for a specific kind of thing, such as storage bins.Painter’s tape is both easy to write on in marker and also comes up easily without leaving an unsightly residue and can even be cut with scissors to make smaller labels.
  • Group framed artwork or photos on a wall. Especially with groupings of many different photos or framed pieces, it can be difficult to visualize what a wall feature like this will look like once it’s put up.Laying out the wall with masking tape to show the different sizes of the photos and artwork will give you a better idea of how to organize your grouping.
  • Hang party or holiday decorations. For temporary get-togethers like Christmas or birthday parties, painter’s tape is a great way to hang up garlands or other decorations without damaging the walls.You can also use painter’s tape to label disposable cups at a party, so you don’t have fifty half-empty cups laying around after a party of a dozen guests. With a painter’s tape label, each person knows which drink is theirs.

Tips and Tricks for Using Painter’s Tape in Home Painting Projects

For painter’s tape to be used most effectively for its intended purpose, there are several tips and methods you can utilize in order to get the most out of this ubiquitous household tool. To use painter’s tape most effectively in home painting projects, use the following tricks:

  • Always start with a clean surface. Painter’s tape depends on a clean, smooth surface to adhere correctly, so if you’re going to line your baseboards or crown moldings with painter’s tape, you better clean them first.Baseboards and crown moldings are one of the least often cleaned areas of a home, and they are often sporting months of accumulated dust and grime. If the surface is just dusty, wiping down the area you intend to mask with a wet rag is enough.However, if your masked area is also greasy (such as the baseboard that might be found in a kitchen) you’ll need to wash the area with a phosphate-free detergent solution.Because painter’s tape won’t adhere correctly to a wet surface, you must wait until the area is completely dry before proceeding to use it.
  • Using a painter’s tape application can speed up the process. Tape applicators such as the ScotchBlue Painter’s Tape Applicator is specifically designed to help you use painter’s tape most effectively by using an adjacent plastic surface as a guide.Roll the tape applicator along the molding, wall or ceiling crease to apply the tape. Then use the tape applicator’s cutter feature to slice the tape at the end.
  • Press painter’s tape down firmly to create a tight seal. Painter’s tape uses pressure-sensitive adhesive so the harder you press it down, the tighter of a seal you create and the less likely paint is to bleed under your tape. The best way to press painter’s tape down evenly without air bubbles is to use a putty knife or similar flexible tool and run it carefully along the tape until it is lying completely flat, with no bubbles or creases.However, be careful not to press the tape down too hard, or this could make taking it up more difficult later on.
  • Protect your walls and floor when you paint. When you paint a ceiling, you’ll want to drape a lightweight, protective plastic sheeting over your walls to prevent drips or runs. This is especially important if you are putting any kind of spray texturing on a ceiling.Use painter’s tape to secure plastic up on the walls, and regardless of whether you are painting the ceiling or walls, you should also use it to put protective plastic sheeting down on the floor to prevent drips and spills.Spending just a few minutes setting up a painting area with painter’s tape and plastic sheeting in this way can save you hours of hassle and heartache later on if you accidentally kick over a bucket of paint or step in a painting tray.

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