Peel Test

Materials needed:

  1. 3M #230 Drafting Tape, 1 inch width (do not substitute)
  2. Test Target. Open and print the target on a laser printer with at least 300 dpi resolution (set options to enhanced, and/or fine, and/or dark); the objective is to get solid, uniform blackness. Use the Adobe Portable Document Format version of the target: (target.pdf).
  3. Archival quality copy paper that meets the requirements of ANSI/NISO Z39.48 standard permanence of paper for publications and Documents in Libraries and Archives (available from NISO), and/or ASTM D3458 Standard Specification for Copies from Office Copy Machines for permanent Records (available from ASTM), should be used. For choices, see Guidelines for Preservation Photocopying of Replacement pages.


  1. Turn on the machine. When it is ready, copy the test pattern onto XXV Xerox bond paper or equivalent. The original test pattern should be housed in a polyester sleeve for protection. When removing it from the sleeve, the operator should avoid touching the black areas to prevent finger printing.
  2. Pull one inch of tape out from a roll. Do not cut or tear the tape yet. Fold the tape back (sticky side in to make a one-half inch non-sticky tab. Now, pull off three more inches of tape and cut or tear next to the roll. You should have a piece of tape, including the tab, that is about 3 1/2 inches long.
  3. Apply the strip to the copy of the test pattern so that it covers as much of the black ring as possible.
  4. Rub the tape flat onto the test pattern five or six times with all four fingers. DO NOT use your thumb or fingernails, repeat DO NOT use your thumb or fingernails.
  5. Now, fold back the free end of the tape - that is the tab that you made - so that it lies flat against the rest of the tape. peel the tape strip off the paper by sliding the free end of the tape over the rest of the tape while holding it flat against the page. This is an 1800 peel angle.
  6. Look at the adhesive side of the tape strip. If the curved image of the test pattern can be detected at all, (that is, if any black image has transferred to the tape,) the copy fails the test.
  7. Two out of three tests which show no transfer indicate that the machine is making archival copies.

Note: This web version was prepared in 1999, based on:

Norvell M.M.Jones, Archival Copies of Thermofax, Verifax, and Other Unstable Records, Technical Information Paper Number 5, Published by the National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC, 1990: 29 pages.

This version does not contain the preface regarding Technical Information Papers in general and the background study: GPO Jacket No. 484-988, Final Report, Archival Xerographic Copying, by Sylvia S.Y. Subt and John G. Koloski (August 25, 1987): 20 pages.