Choosing the right floor marking tape and visual cues for dark and low-light areas is integral to ensuring safety and visibility in various lighting circumstances. The options for industrial-duty floor tape include reflective and glow-in-the-dark products that may often be used interchangeably but also offer unique benefits. Learn when to use glow-in-the-dark tape versus reflective tape, and the differences between these practical products, in this helpful guide.

Why Use Glow-in-the-Dark or Reflective Tape

Glow in the dark and reflective tape allow you to meet or exceed OSHA, ANSI, and other standards by ensuring any required or recommended floor markings remain visible in dim or dark areas. These heavy-duty tapes can be used beyond industrial facilities and warehouses to enhance safety or convenience in: 

  • Office buildings
  • Schools
  • Multi-family residential buildings
  • Hotels
  • Theaters and auditoriums 

Our collection of industrial-grade tapes can be used on more than just the floor. Install glowing or reflective tape to indicate handrails, changes in incline, or low-clearance overhead hazards and to bring attention to forklifts, storage carts, and other machinery.

Glow-in-the-Dark vs. Reflective Tape: What Is the Difference?

The difference between glow-in-the-dark and reflective floor marking tape lies in how each product interacts with light. Light bounces off reflective tape’s shiny surface, making it easier to see the object or space to which the tape is affixed. In contrast, glow-in-the-dark or photoluminescent tape “charges” by absorbing energy from natural or incandescent light, then emits that stored energy when it’s dark.

Which Product Is Best for Low-Light Situations?

Glow-in-the-dark tape requires either natural or incandescent light to charge, so it should be used only in areas that are lit on a regular basis but may become dark after sundown, during a power outage, or during an emergency. It will not work in areas that stay dark, such as closets, and is less visible in dim conditions than totally unlit spaces.

In dim or lowly light spaces, reflective tape may be a good option, but it also relies on light to work. When light hits the tape, it is reflected back at the lightsource. This luminance provides better visibility of edges, hazards—and, in the case of reflective safety gear, people. Because a light source is required—like a flashlight, headlamp, or headlights—reflective tape isn’t an appropriate solution in spaces that are entirely dark, however, illuminated signage may be appropriate in this environment.

For more help making a decision, consider these points when choosing between glow-in-the-dark and reflective tape: 

  • Retroreflective tape features a specialized surface that makes it ideal for supplementing existing markings and bringing attention to potential hazards, such as those indicating fall risk or low overhead clearances. Because reflective tape amplifies even small amounts of light, it helps draw the eye to potential danger. 
  • A glow-in-the-dark coating can be added to many Superior Mark™ tapes, allowing you to adhere to OSHA or ANSI standards while increasing visibility in unlit areas. 
  • Because it remains visible even in the event of a power outage, glow-in-the-dark tape is the best choice for marking emergency exit routes, especially along dark stairwells, windowless workspaces, and interior hallways. 
  • The required choice for marking vehicles, trailers, and other machinery, reflective conspicuity tape is also preferred for highlighting barrels, traffic cones, and traffic barriers.
  • Use reflective tape to enhance visibility and convenience in storage closets or other dark, windowless spaces: Mark the edges of power outlets, light switches, and other essential utilities so they’re easier to spot when the lights are low. 
  • For temporary markings, consider your primary purpose: Glow-in-the-dark tape may be better for providing visual cues for crowd control, while exits, bathrooms, or aisleways may be better marked by easy-to-spot, attention-grabbing reflective tape.
  • To enhance safety and reduces fall risk on stairs, platforms, and loading docks, use glow-in-the-dark anti-slip tape.
  • Gaffer tape is still the preferred choice for on-stage use in theaters and concert venues, but glow-in-the-dark tape is suitable for backstage applications, from identifying storage areas to directing performers to the desired locations. 

The best choice between glow-in-the-dark and reflective tape often comes down to the specifics of your situation. Each type of tape is available in a variety of colors and sizes with options for indoor and outdoor use. Consider your options for glow-in-the-dark tape versus reflective markings, then make a decision on which product best serves your purpose. For more ways to use industrial floor-marking tape to increase the functionality and safety of your space, explore our Resource Center.