You might need to remove old butyl adhesive from your old Toyota Forerunner that developed a leak, your RV that needs a better seal around the air conditioner, or to replace insulation. Cleaning off old tape or sealant will help you ensure a good seal and protection for whatever project you are tackling.
The good news is that butyl tape is an extremely flexible and effective adhesive. The bad news is that it can seem tricky to remove.
How to Clean Off Butyl Tape Effectively
The key to cleaning off butyl tape is a little time, the right tools, and a little elbow grease. But back up….what is butyl tape?
What is Butyl Tape and How is it Used?
Butyl tape, made from a rubber-like compound, possesses waterproof and corrosion-resistant properties. A butyl rubber compound is formed from the combination of isobutylene and isoprene. There are four types of butyl adhesives:
- single-sided tape
- double-sided tape
- butyl sealant
- butyl patty
Using butyl flashing tape is easy, especially with single or double-sided tape. Because of its flexibility and strong adhesive, it works well around windows, roofing, pipes, insulations, and on decks. A relative newcomer in the adhesives market, butyl continues to expand its uses, especially because it can be applied on many different surfaces. It is well known for its impressive elasticity and adhesion. However, because of its stickiness, it can be difficult to remove. You will likely have to make several attempts to remove butyl tape entirely.
How to Remove Butyl Tape: a Step-by-Step Guide
To remove butyl tape, begin with the right tools. Here’s what you’ll want to have handy:
- Putty knife (a plastic putty knife can also work)
- Adhesive remover (see more on this below)
- Water, dish soap, washrag, and dry cloth
The following four steps will guide you through the removal process:
- Scrape off the butyl tape. Loosen the corner edge with a putty knife. Soak a rag in hot water with a dollop of dish soap. Put the cloth on the tape edge to help loosen the adhesive, prying more tape up as you go.
- Apply the adhesive remover. Next, apply a quarter-sized drop of a commercial adhesive remover product on a soft cloth. Rub the remover onto any remaining adhesive and allow it to soak for five minutes or as directed by the manufacturer.
- Remove leftover pieces of tape. Use the water-damp rag to remove the adhesive still in place.
- Clean the surface. Repeat the process until the adhesive is removed.
Will Mineral Spirits Remove Butyl Tape?
Common paint thinner (mineral spirits) is a solvent that can be used to remove butyl adhesives. However, it does leave an oily residue, which means more cleaning. Thus, an adhesive remover is a better choice. Xylene and toluene are aggressive solvents for cleaning, but they may damage plastics or paints. Be sure to never use a solvent in an enclosed space.
Wondering what adhesive remover is best? There are several options on the market, including Goo Gone, 3M General Purpose Adhesive Remover, and Custom Shop Restoration Grease and Wax Remover. As you compare, consider the type of mess, the surface material, and the stated uses for the adhesive remover. Be sure to read all manufacturer’s recommendations.
Here are the main types of adhesive removers:
- Citrus-based removers (like Goo Gone, is best for common household messes)
- Soy-based removers (good for tacky bonds)
- Solvent-based removers (strongest on the market)
- “Greener” adhesive removers (more environmentally friendly)
How Do you Remove Butyl Tape from RV Windows?
Butyl tape can help create a handy DIY fix for an RV. Owners can use it for minor installations and fixtures in the RV like the air conditioning unit, windows, and more, much like silicone caulk. For example, it can form a gasket to create a better seal.
But can you remove it from RV windows? Yes, and you can use much the same process as above. Acetone, found in most nail polish removers, is often used with a razor blade to remove adhesives (like an old inspection sticker) from glass. However, removing butyl will take a bit more work.
Beware of heat guns, which can cause damage. Please set it to a moderate level and hold it a few inches from the surface of the butyl adhesive. The heat will cause the tape to shrink and loosen, but be sure to avoid heat near any plastic surfaces. If you are trying to remove adhesive from fiberglass, follow these directions.
Removing butyl tape takes a little patience, but soon you’ll have a nice clean surface ready for a new application.