All you need to know about Duct tape

What is duct tape?

Duct tape

Duct tape, also called cloth tape, is a long-lasting adhesive tape that can be easily torn by hand.

It’s suitable for indoor and outdoor use thanks to its strength and water resistance. It’s available in various widths, lengths, and colors – with the most common colors being black, silver, and clear.

There’s even duct tape that glows in the dark, which is useful for crafts, Halloween decorations or locating items in dark settings. As well as this, there’s double-sided duct tape which is coated in the adhesive on both sides. This is ideal for sticking two objects or surfaces together without making holes or the tape being visible.

Duct tape can have different grades, which help determine the applications it should be used for. The grade refers to how the tape is made – so the type of adhesive used and the strength of the cloth backing. The strength of the cloth backing depends on the number of threads it has, with more threads making it stronger and therefore more difficult to tear.

It was originally called duck tape because during World War II the US military needed waterproof tape to keep moisture out of ammunition cases. Johnson & Johnson manufactured the tape and, because of its water resistance which emulates water off a duck’s back, it was referred to as ‘duck’ tape.

Duct tape (also called duck tape, from the cotton duck cloth it was originally made of) is cloth- or scrim-backed pressure-sensitive tape, often coated with polyethylene. There are a variety of constructions using different backings and adhesives, and the term ‘duct tape’ has been genericized to refer to different cloth tapes with differing purposes. A variation is heat-resistant foil tape useful for sealing heating and cooling ducts, produced because the adhesive on standard duct tape fails and the synthetic fabric reinforcement mesh deteriorates when used on heating ducts.

The History of Duct Tape

In 1943, Vesta Stoudt had a job in a munitions factory where ammo cases were sealed with paper tape and melted wax. Worried the cases were too hard to open on the battlefield, Stoudt proposed a fix: Use waterproof cloth tape instead.

Johnson & Johnson adapted surgical adhesive tapes to Stoudt’s specifications, and soldiers nicknamed the material “duck tape” in reference to its ability to repel moisture “like water off a duck’s back.” (They also dubbed it 100-mph tape because it could hold together a speeding jeep!)

Following World War II, duct tape began to catch on in the U.S. as a handy tool for home construction. People were using it to hold metal air ducts together, so the company rebranded the product as “duct tape” and updated it with a matching silver color made from powdered aluminum.

Thus, duck tape became duct tape

How Does It Work?

Duct tape relies on what’s known as a pressure-sensitive adhesive (PSA) for its inherent stickiness. PSAs are soft polymer blends that exploit van der Waals forces to join two objects together. The strength of the bond is due to the fact that the adhesive is hard enough and its viscoelastic properties are powerful enough to resist flow when stressed. This is not the same as the mechanics of structural adhesives like, say, Elmer’s glue. Those adhesives require the evaporation of a solvent to create a chemical bond.

Interestingly, its namesake usage (“duct”) is one of the few things that duct tape isn’t recommended for. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory conducted tests in 1998 to see how well different types of tape performed at sealing ducts, and, compared to the other products, duct tape was the clear loser.  Using duct tape on actual ductwork is now considered a code violation in many buildings.

Mythbusters has devoted three entire episodes to exploring some of duct tape’s most extreme applications. The team was able to successfully use duct tape to patch a damaged airplane fuselage, construct a functioning cannon, build a usable bridge, and lift a 5000-pound car. Of the 18 myths they tested, only one was busted (turns out you can’t use duct tape to barricade a car driving at 60 mph)

What is duct tape used for?

After the war, it was realized that duct tape is great for sealing joints in heating and air conditioning ductwork. That’s when the color changed from army green to the silver color most commonly produced today.

Duct tape has now become multipurpose and is used for general sealing, patching holes, packing boxes, and repairs. Some duct tape can also stick to rough and uneven indoor and outdoor surfaces such as wood, stone, plaster, brick, and metal.

As well as these common uses, there are some other interesting applications for duct tape – some of these are listed below.

Health and fitness

  • During exercise, duct tape can be applied to blisters and sores for protection.
  • To help improve accuracy when using a punching bag, stick squares of duct tape on as markers.
  • Duct tape can be used for a genuine Royal Marine exercise. Simply hold a large roll of duct tape out to one side until it’s impossible to do it any longer, and then repeat with the other arm.


Home repair

  • If a screen is broken, keep insects out by covering any holes with duct tape until it’s been fixed or replaced.
  • Before removing a broken pane of window glass, criss-cross duct tape over the pane to help prevent it from falling apart when being replaced.



  • If there isn’t a handy parachute cord available, lengths of twisted duct tape can be used as a cord or rope in an emergency. Twisting duct tape like this can also make a clothesline.
  • Preserve food by resealing packets or cans with duct tape.
  • In an emergency, duct tape can be used to make a sling, secure a splint, bandage a   wound, or wrap a sprained ankle.


Can duct tape be used as electrical tape?

Electrical tape is pressure-sensitive tape used to insulate materials that conduct electricity, particularly electrical wires. It stops the electrical current from accidentally passing to other wires, which could create a short or even cause an electrical fire. It also prevents possible electrocution in case live wires are touched.

Electrical tape may look like any other kind of tape, but it has very distinct benefits which make it unique. It’s designed to be non-conducting and usually doesn’t harden quickly like duct tape, plus it stays well secured in common wiring applications.

It can also be removed more easily than duct tape and is more stretchable, which makes for a tighter hold on electrical wires.

Electrical tape is safer as it’s intended for use with electrics, and so duct tape shouldn’t be used for these types of tasks. There’s a wide range of electrical tapes to choose from which make it easier and safer to work with electrics.

How is duct tape made?

Duct tape is typically made from three different layers. The top layer, which is exposed, is made from a plastic called polythene. Underneath that, there’s a middle layer made of fabric, while the bottom layer is rubber-based glue.

To make duct tape, the fabric is covered in melted polythene, which protects it from moisture and erosion. The polythene coating is flexible enough to allow the tape to stick to uneven or rough surfaces.

Unlike other tapes, the fabric backing gives duct tape strength while still allowing it to be easily torn by hand.

Is duct tape paintable?

Duct tape is designed to be moisture and water-resistant, meaning if it’s painted it will look patchy, and eventually the paint will peel or flake off. The paint will also form in the lines and texture of the tape and leave an uneven finish.

Will duct tape damage car paint?

Getting rid of the duct tape residue from the paintwork of a car can be difficult because the glue it’s made with is very durable and therefore quite hard to clean off.

If the adhesive is stuck to the metal surface, there are ways it can be removed while avoiding scraping or scratching the paint when cleaning it off. Outlined below is one method of removing it.

Start by getting the following items:

  • A bucket of hot water
  • A washrag
  • A clean, soft cloth
  • Commercial solvent/degreaser
  • An old gift card or credit card

The first step is to soak the glue left on the paintwork. Hold a wet washrag over the duct tape residue for a few minutes to help loosen it, then wipe off as much of the glue as possible. The longer the duct tape has been stuck on the car, the more difficult it can be to completely remove the glue.

Choose a solvent that is suitable for use on cars, then apply with a clean, soft cloth. This will chemically break down the bonds between the glue and the metal of the car.

Refrain from using products such as nail polish remover or acetone to remove the glue, as these products could take off the top layer of paint. Also, don’t use WD-40 as this could cause an oily residue to soak into the paintwork, which is potentially even more difficult to clean off.

Use the edge of an old credit card or a gift card to carefully scrape off any remaining glue. If it’s still needed, then reapply a final coat of degreaser and follow any instructions it comes with to remove any last bits of residue.

Using Duct Tape for Ducts

Duct tape can be used for sealing gaps in the ductwork to reduce air leaks, however, it should only be a short-term fix. If the tape is left on too long, it won’t seal leaks effectively, and heated and cooled air will be lost through the gaps.

So while duct tape is useful for a quick and temporary fix, over a long period it will lose its sticky qualities – especially in a humid environment such as ductwork.

Can duct tape catch on fire?

The mesh fabric used to make duct tape is flammable, however, it’s also coated with polythene which isn’t flammable. As rubber isn’t flammable either, this means that the glue used on duct tape is also safe from fire.

So while it isn’t a flammable product, extreme temperatures will make it difficult for the glue to effectively stick to a surface that is too hot or too cold.

7 Types of Duct Tape — Are You Using the Right One?

Duct tape

1.   General Purpose

With a low fabric count, a thin polyethylene film, and a low weight adhesive, general-purpose tapes work well enough for odd jobs where long service life isn’t necessary.

2.   Industrial Grade

With industrial-grade tapes, the fabric and polyethylene are upgraded, so the tape becomes more of a “workhorse” with added adhesive coating weight. One popular variation is a multi-colored industrial tape that is used to seam and hold carpets at exhibitions, where the adhesive must be removed cleanly.

3.   Professional Grade

Sometimes called “contractors’ grade” these tapes offer more of an upgrade to the components of the industrial-grade tape for added strength, adhesion, and durability.

4.   Gaffer’s Tape

Typically, gaffer’s tape is matte black for minimal light reflection and is used in movies, television, and photo studios to temporarily tape cables to the floor or light fixtures to vertical posts. This type of tape needs to be able to be easily torn by hand and remove cleanly.

5.   Amazing duct Tape

Amazing duct tape is used to attach protective polyethylene film over doors and windows during house construction prior to spraying the outside walls with stucco. Designed to be used outdoors for several days at a time, stucco duct tape must be able to resist the ultraviolet of the sun’s rays during that time – and not come apart from the vinyl window frames.

6.   True Duct Tape

This one lives up to its name – duct tape is truly intended for sealing air ducts. Duct tape must be permanent and able to withstand the prolonged heat and air pressure for the lifetime of the duct. It may even need to be flame retardant to meet some building codes. Duct tape is the true top of the line, a high tensile, hardworking tape.

7.   Coated Cloth Tape

  • A roll of coated cloth tape has gone with every U.S. manned space launch, and is also commonly known as “Mission Tape.” This tape played an essential role in the construction of the carbon dioxide absorbers which saved the lives of the three astronauts in the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission.
  • With such a wide variety to choose from, start by considering exactly what you expect your tape to do. Then, evaluate the right polyethylene/fabric backing judged by tensile strength, as well as the right adhesive coating thickness, judged by adhesion level, for the best performance with the lowest cost.


Common Adhesive Problems

Duct tape

Believe it or not, standard-issue duct tape is not as versatile as you think. It has its uses—making permanent repairs on the spot —but the following is a list of surfaces that are problems for duct tape.

  1. Wet surfaces: While duct tape is water-resistant, it should only be used for emergency leak repairs. Prolonged submersion in water will cause the adhesion to peel away.
  2. Hot surfaces: Surfaces that reach temperatures over 140°F cause the adhesive to soften, lose its strength, and slip from the attachment.
  3. Cold surfaces: Similarly, duct tape does not work well in extreme cold. Freezing temperatures cause the adhesive to harden which diminishes its sticking power.
  4. Surfaces with Prolonged Exposure to UV Light: UV light can break down the tape’s adhesive bond over time. If you need the tape to remain exposed to direct sunlight, it’s best to use a product that’s been specially treated for UV protection.
  5. Uneven Surfaces: Duct tape has trouble sticking to rough surfaces such as concrete and stucco. Because it has a thin adhesive layer, this specialty tape is only able to make contact with the high points of a surface, which produces a weaker bond.
  6. Dirty Surfaces: In order to achieve maximum adhesion, surfaces must be clean, dry, and dust or oil-free.
  7. Corrugated Cardboard: Don’t use duct tape to seal cardboard boxes. These porous surfaces contain many small fibers on the surface that break away and cause the adhesive bond to fail.
  8. Materials with Low Surface Energy: Materials, like Teflon, have low surface energy, which means it prevents the adhesive from “wetting out” or spreading out to form a strong bond.
  9. Painted Surfaces: Applying duct tape to a surface that’s been painted or treated with another sealant means that the tape is only adhering to the surface layer and not the actual substrate.

When Duct Tape Fails:  6 Reasons To Choose A Different Tape

Duct tape is often cited as being the top go-to, all-purpose repair tape. It can do anything from patching to joint sealing to bundling lumber. However, this versatile tape does have its limits. Here are the top six conditions where duct tape falls short and what you should be using instead.

1.   Heat

  • Despite its name, regular off-the-shelf duct tape is not a good choice for sealing or repairing heating and ventilation ducts. The heat softens the adhesive, causes it to lose its strength, and slip from the attachment. It also carries no safety certification, which means it may burn and produce toxic smoke. As an alternative, consider All-Purpose Aluminum Foil Tape, which works up to 248° F and is flame-retardant

2.   Water

  • Duct tape is water-resistant, not It will work in a pinch until a more permanent solution can be applied, but over time the adhesion will peel away when completely submerged in water.
  • Consider  All Leak Repair Tape instead;  a permanent adhesive that forms a watertight seal and works in both extreme heat and cold.


3. Temporary Repairs

Think twice about using duct tape for temporary uses such as sealing a windowpane or hanging plastic sheeting. In certain situations, it makes an excellent stopgap until a more permanent solution can be applied. But this type of adhesive will leave behind a sticky residue when removed.

A better option would be All Purpose Repair Tape, which  maintains a strong grip while removing cleanly from any surface


4. Uneven Surfaces

Standard duct tape has a thin layer of adhesive so it adheres best to smooth, even surfaces. Applying it to rough or irregular surfaces means the tape will only make contact with the high points thereby lessening the strength of its bond.

Consider Outdoor Stucco Duct Tape; a thicker layer of adhesive means it’s able to connect with more surface area and maintain a stronger hold.


5. Cold

If you’re working in cold conditions, repairing vinyl siding or refrigeration hoses, duct tape is not the answer. Extreme cold hardens the adhesive and diminishes the sticking power of existing duct tape. And if you are applying the tape under cold conditions, it may not stick at all.

We have a number of cold-weather solutions, but All Weather Repair Tape lasts in temperatures as low as -30°F!


6. UV Light

Over time exposure to sunlight will cause duct tape’s adhesive to dry out and become brittle or delaminate. For outdoor projects that require tape, it’s best to choose one that’s been treated to resist the effects of ultraviolet light, like Premium Grade Stucco Duct Tape.

Everything You Need to Know About Duct Tape

We all know that duct tape is the solution to most DIY fails, but that is hardly everything you need to know about duct tape! It’s barely the limit of what it can do. Yes, that metallic, sticky, glue-smelling tape you always keep on hand has a whole world of applications, always handy to have in your toolbox.

Known for its durability and strength, the humble duct tape has its origins in WW2, when Revolite developed it with rubber-based adhesive and duck-cloth backing, to be used for ammunition cases together. This is, arguably, where it gets its reputation for durability because the cases would need to be held together for extended periods of time. It eventually found its way to the common market and the rest is history!

Here are a few other things you need to know about duct tape.

Not All Duct Tapes Are Created Equal

You read that right. There is no ‘standard model’ duct tape. For example, removable duct tape has a strong adhesive quality but does not leave a sticky residue when removed. You can use this for home decorating, temporarily holding up portraits while you’re arranging them, or even holding things together until you can get them fixed. There’s also a glow-in-the-dark version! Cool, right? Imagine laying down some duct tape as a middle-of-the-night pathway so that you don’t have to turn on the light!

NASA Astronauts Use Ducts Tape While in Space

NASA and duct tape has a long, wonderful history together. In 2017, astronauts used duct tape to affix a new fender to the Apollo 17 rover. If you look it up on the NASA website, you’ll be able to see a grey cross that holds up the four maps from which the fender is made. Going further back, to 2006, Astronaut Piers Sellers suggested using multipurpose adhesive material to fix safety-jet backpacks (those cool backpacks you see when astronauts do a spacewalk). As these jet backpacks are used to propel the astronaut away from an emergency, you can imagine how detrimental it can be should one of them break. The specific brand of tape they use is Kapton tape, which they use to secure the latches in place. It’s a little more slippery than the duct tape you or I would use, but it’s just as strong.

Duct Tape Has a List of Medical Uses

If you suffer from warts or verrucae, you probably already know this one. Applying a layer of duct tape to the affected area for up to six days, followed by soaking and treatment with an emery board, helps speed the process of healing. Additionally, duct tape can be used as a makeshift plaster for blisters. Adding a piece of paper between the blister and the tape creates a barrier between the blister and the elements if you happen to have forgotten to pick up some plasters for your home first aid kit. Finally, if you have a splinter, you can use duct tape to lift the splinter out of your skin. Side note: this trick doesn’t just work with duct tape, but any tape!


Duct Tape Can Be Used for Craft Projects

You may have seen the craft videos doing the rounds on social media, which show you how to make cool things out of household items. One of the most famous uses for duct tape crafts is the infamous ‘duct tape wallet’ is achieved by layering the tape up on top of itself and folding it intricately to produce a wallet. There are countless online tutorials for duct-tape constructions, such as Batman masks, bouquets of flowers, and even items of clothing. Because it is abundant and affordable (depending on where you are and which brand you get), duct tape can be used for a further variety of crafts such as those listed above, as well as clothing, jewelry, and gifts!

10 Durable Facts About Duct Tape

Duct tape can be found in the toolbox of any self-respecting handyman, but the versatile product’s potential extends far beyond home repairs. From its origins in the military to its popularity with NASA, here are some surprising facts about the reliable adhesive.


  • Before the invention of duct tape, packages of ammunition that were sent to the military were sealed with wax to keep their contents waterproof. The cardboard flaps were held shut with a strip of paper tape with a tab hanging loose that would allow soldiers to rip open the boxes in a hurry. Because this type of tape wasn’t very strong, the tabs would often tear off in their hands and leave soldiers struggling to free their ammunition in the heat of battle.
  • Hoping to solve the problem, Vesta Stoudt, a mother of two Navy sailors and a worker at the Green River Ordnance Plant in Illinois, wrote to President Franklin Roosevelt with an idea:
  • “I suggested we use a strong cloth tape to close seams and make a tab of same … I have two sons out there somewhere, one in the Pacific Island the other one with the Atlantic Fleet. You have sons in the service also.  We can’t let them down by giving them a box of cartridges that takes a minute or more to open, the enemy taking their lives, that could have been saved.”
  • Roosevelt passed along the letter to the War Production Board in Washington, D.C., who contacted Johnson & Johnson to develop the product. The result was a strong, waterproof tape that soldiers could still tear apart with their hands in a pinch.



Since its origins, the tape has consisted of three major components: a bottom layer of glue, mesh fabric, and a polyethylene plastic coating on top to keep it water-resistant. According to Johnson & Johnson, soldiers nicknamed the material “duck tape” in reference to its ability to repel moisture “like water off a duck’s back.”


While many adhesives, like Elmer’s glue, need to undergo a physical change in order to stick to something, duct tape works a little differently. Its stickiness is created by a pressure-sensitive adhesive, or PSA, which is a soft polymer blend that employs van der Waals forces to attract two surfaces. These intermolecular forces are weak on their own, but with enough of them, they are capable of supporting very heavy loads (this is the same principle that allows geckos to stick to walls).

“Other adhesives, like glues and epoxies, are liquid when you apply them, but they react chemically and harden,” Costantino Creton, a materials scientist at the School of Industrial Physics and Chemistry in Paris, told Chemical and Engineering News. “PSAs have no chemical reaction. They don’t change at all. They are in the solid-state when you apply them, and they stick in their solid-state.” This makes duct tape the perfect option if you’re looking for a super-strong adhesive that’s also removable.



Following World War II, duct tape began to catch on in the U.S. as a handy tool for home construction. People were using it to hold metal air ducts together, so the company rebranded the product as “duct tape” and updated it with a matching silver color made from powdered aluminum.

Today, its namesake usage is one of the few things that duct tape isn’t recommended for. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory conducted tests in 1998 to see how well different types of tape performed at sealing ducts, and, compared to the other products, duct tape was the clear loser. “Of all the things we tested, only duct tape failed. It failed reliably and often quite catastrophically,” Max Sherman, one of the researchers, told Berkeley Lab Research News. Using duct tape on actual ductwork is now considered a code violation in many buildings.



Following an explosion aboard the ship’s service module, the three members of the Apollo 13 crew transferred to a lunar module designed to hold two people for 36 hours. They had to find a way to last more than twice that long, and the biggest threat to their survival was the carbon dioxide being created by their own bodies. While they had plenty of square carbon dioxide filters on board, they were incompatible with the lunar module’s round holes. Engineers at NASA devised a solution that involved using cardboard, plastic bags, space suit components, and duct tape that was kept on board to create an adapter that would filter out carbon dioxide. This hack ultimately saved the astronauts’ lives.

This wasn’t the only time duct tape proved to be useful in outer space. The tape has been stowed on board every NASA mission since the early Gemini era. Some of its handy applications include making emergency rover repairs, fixing leaky pipes, and keeping items secure in zero gravity.



Hospital-acquired infections account for 99,000 preventable deaths in the U.S. each year. In order to safely fight infection while saving doctors time and effort, the Trinity Medical Center system of hospitals in the Midwest came up with a rather simple solution. They used duct tape to mark 3-foot-square “safe zones” extending from the doorway into a patient’s room. This allowed physicians to casually converse with their patients without having to change into full sterile gear every time they wanted to check-in. Research shows that the duct tape idea saved the hospital system $110,000 a year and 2700 hours of staff time.


Mythbusters has devoted three entire episodes to exploring some of duct tape’s most extreme applications. The team was able to successfully use duct tape to patch a damaged airplane fuselage, construct a functioning cannon, build a usable bridge, and lift a 5000-pound car. Of the 18 myths they tested, only one was busted (turns out you can’t use duct tape to barricade a car driving at 60 mph).


Since 2005, Avon, Ohio has hosted an annual duct tape festival dedicated to celebrating “duct tape, its enthusiasts, and its wacky and fun uses.” The event features duct tape sculptures, a duct tape fashion show, and a parade of giant floats constructed using duct tape.


Specialty varieties of the product include outdoor duct tape, double-sided duct tape, glow-in-the-dark duct tape, and nuclear-grade duct tape (the latter is certified for use in nuclear power plants).


Amazing brand duct tape offers a rather unusual scholarship to high schoolers who are willing to get creative with their product. Every prom season, they call upon students to design and create their own suits and dresses for the big day using duct tape. The winning couple of the “Stuck at Prom” competition is awarded a $10,000 scholarship each along with an additional $5000 for their high school.



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