4EvaSeal® Blog

Do’s and Don’ts When Cleaning Surfaces with Solvent

Posted by Nick Leuci on Apr 26, 2018 11:01:00 AM
Nick Leuci
Find me on:

4EvaSeal and Clean SurfaceSelf-adhesive waterproof tapes bond to substrates with greater force when the substrates are clean and dry and the tapes are applied in warm temperatures. The greatest challenge with existing materials is always how to get them clean. Outdoor substrates collect dirt that can become embedded in the surfaces. The surfaces can also be dusty or chalky from UV exposure. 

To achieve the best bonds, use the following list of materials when installing waterproofing tapes described in this blog post. However, the focus of this blog will be the solvent cleaners.


Materials needed to install waterproof tapes are:

  1. cleaner or detergent (e.g., Simple Green or 409) for removing all dirt from the repair area;
  2. scrub brushes or abrasive pads, clean water, and rags;
  3. solvent cleaners;
  4. rubber gloves, safety glasses, and respirators;
  5. a utility knife or good pair of scissors;
  6. a seam roller for the tape;
  7. a hair dryer or heat gun for cold weather repairs; and
  8. trash bags.

Materials needed to make repairs with self-adhesive tapes on single-ply roofs include

Using water and a detergent is a common method for removing heavy dirt from surfaces. Pressure washing or scrubbing with the detergent solution provides the best results.

Difficult-to-remove, embedded dirt and staining may require a more aggressive cleaner or abrasive. On nonporous surfaces, a solvent cleaner is often used.

The most common solvents used for cleaning are:

  1. mineral spirits or paint thinner,
  2. acetone,
  3. xylene,
  4. toluene,
  5. MEK, and
  6. alcohol

Which solvent works best?

The first step to determining the most appropriate solvent is to check the waterproofing tape data sheet or manufacturer’s instructions. Often, the manufacturer has completed extensive testing to determine what works best so you don’t have to.

When this information is not available, the installer will need to determine the best solvent to use for cleaning. The following is some general information regarding each of the solvents listed above to help you decide.

Mineral spirits or paint thinner – Never recommended for cleaning a surface because it can leave an oily residue. Good for cleanup of tools and equipment. May not be available in areas with strict VOC regulations.

Alcohol – Common for cleaning a surface (often included with products in the form of alcohol swabs). May not be available in areas with strict VOC regulations. Typically not used for cleaning tools and equipment.

Acetone – Good for cleaning substrates. Mildly aggressive; can damage surfaces. Good for cleanup of tools and equipment. VOC exempt solvent; widely available.

Xylene and Toluene – Aggressive solvents for cleaning; may damage plastics or paints. Good for cleanup of tools and equipment. May not be available in areas with strict VOC regulations. Xylene and Toluene are very similar solvents.

MEK – Very aggressive solvent for cleaning; may damage plastics or paints. Good for cleanup of tools and equipment. May not be available in areas with strict VOC regulations.

All these solvents can soften or damage surfaces, but the aggressive solvents like xylene, toluene and, MEK are most likely to create problems.  Anytime solvents are used for cleaning, they should be tested in small inconspicuous areas to determine if they will cause damage.

Here are some tips for solvent cleaning:

  1. Use small amounts of solvent on a rag; do not over apply or saturate the surface.
  2. Replace soiled rags so as not to spread dirt around.
  3. Use only in a well-ventilated area.
  4. Wear solvent resistant gloves and an appropriate respirator to avoid breathing fumes.
  5. Allow the solvent to completely evaporate prior to installing the tape.


It is always recommended that you test the bond strength of the repair. Follow the instructions from the following blog to learn how to test adhesion on your project: Read the blog here.

Take the following precautions when using solvents:

  • Test the solvent with plastics and paints to avoid damaging the surface.
  • Do not use mineral spirits or paint thinner for cleaning the surface prior to the tape’s installation.
  • Do not over apply the solvent; doing so will create a solvent-rich environment for the tape.
  • Replace soiled rags with clean ones when solvent cleaning.
  • Use proper personal protective equipment and proper ventilation to avoid injury, fire, explosion or death.

Here are some final recommendations.

Make sure the waterproof tape selected for the repair is suitable for use on your application and is designed to provide a long-term watertight seal. Less expensive repair tapes, flashing tapes and waterproofing tapes often provide inferior performance and limited bond strength or lack of UV stability.  Choosing the right waterproofing tape is equally as important as the surface preparation.

Want to know more about how to use 4EvaSeal waterproofing tapes for roofing repairs or to receive a sample to test adhesion to your roof?  Click here

4EvaSeal Free Sample Banner

Topics: Surface preparation, waterproofing tapes, 4evaseal blog