The Best Way to Remove Reflector Tape

You need just a few tools and between 1 hour and 2 hour’s time to remove the reflector tape completely and perfectly! The most important tool is a power washer with a highly directional spray and enough power to chip off the old reflector material. We already own one, but you may need to borrow a friend’s or rent one from a local tool rental shop. You probably do not want an electric power washer, as they are intended for smaller jobs. A decent gas powered pressure washer delivering at least 2,000psi should work fine. 

[WARNING: If you have never used a pressure washer before, be careful! Do not aim it towards anyone or anything that you do not want to hit with the force of 2,000 pounds of pressure focused like a laser. It will harm a person or animal, and it can remove paint from your bus if it’s not well-adhered to the surface underneath.]

Start at one end, of a tape and work your way to the other end removing all of the reflector material. It’s okay if you leave some of the white backing, but remove as much as you can. You don’t want big pieces of backing material, just little bits that aren’t worth trying to hit with the pressure washer.

Once you have removed all of the reflector and backing, let your bus dry for a day or so. At this point you should have only the reflector tape’s adhesive, which will feel slightly tacky and not smooth. The next day (or as soon as your bus is sufficiently dry) use a thin, flexible paint scraper, some paper towels, and Goof Off Adhesive Remover in a spray bottle to spray sections of tape. Wait a few minutes—long enough for the Goof Off to work, but not long enough for it to evaporate) and use the paint scraper to gently scrape the adhesive from the surface. Remove as much as you can on the first pass, and then follow with a second pass in case you missed a few spots. You’ll know if you missed a place because the surface under the paint scraper won’t be smooth. Finally, wipe the surface with a paper towel, again checking for rough spots. If the entire area where you just removed the adhesive is smooth, then you’ve done your job and can move onto the next section.

Our bus is 33’ long, and it took me a little more than an hour to remove around a hundred linear feet of tape. It took around 30 minutes to remove the adhesive and make the surface smooth and ready to paint!

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