Duct tape

Duct tape
A roll of glossy, gray duct tape.

Duct tape, or duck tape, is cloth- or scrim-backed pressure sensitive tape often sealed with polyethylene. It is very similar to gaffer tape but differs in that gaffer tape was designed to be cleanly removed, while duct tape was not. It has a standard width of 1+78 inches (48 mm) and is generally silver or black but also available in other colors. Permacel, formerly a division of Johnson & Johnson, originally developed duct tape in 1942 during World War II as a rubber-based adhesive tape with a durable fabric backing that resisted water[citation needed] for use as sealing tape on ammunition cases.[1] Because of these properties, it was also used to repair military equipment quickly, including jeeps, firearms, and aircraft.


Common uses

Duct tape is commonly used in situations that requires a strong, flexible, very sticky tape. Some have a long-lasting adhesive and resistance to weathering.

A more specialized product, commonly known as gaffer tape, is preferred by gaffers, as it does not leave a sticky residue when removed. It comes in matte black, and is more easily torn into thin strips for precise application.

Duct tape, in its guise as "racer's tape", has been used in motorsports for more than 40 years to repair fiberglass bodywork. Racer's tape comes in a wide range of colors to help match it to common paint colors.[2] In the UK, it is usually referred to as "tank tape" in motorsports use.[3]

Duct tape is not intended to be used for sealing ductwork. Building codes usually require a special fire resistant product, often with a foil backing and long lasting adhesive.

Usage in spaceflight

Improvised wheel fender extension via duct tape, Apollo 17.

NASA engineers and astronauts have used duct tape in the course of their work, including in some emergency situations. One such usage occurred in 1970, when the square carbon dioxide filters from Apollo 13's failed command module had to be modified to fit round receptacles in the lunar module, which was being used as a lifeboat after an explosion en route to the moon. A workaround used duct tape and other items on board Apollo 13, with the ground crew relaying instructions to the flight crew. The lunar module's CO2 scrubbers started working again, saving the lives of the three astronauts on board.

Ed Smylie, who designed the scrubber modification in just two days, said later that he knew the problem was solvable when it was confirmed that duct tape was on the spacecraft: "I felt like we were home free", he said in 2005. "One thing a Southern boy will never say is, 'I don't think duct tape will fix it.'"[4]

Duct tape was also used aboard Apollo 17 to improvise a repair to a damaged fender on the lunar rover, preventing possible damage from the roostertails of lunar dust as they drove.[5]

Usage on ductwork

To provide lab data about which sealants and tapes last, and which are likely to fail, research was conducted at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Environmental Energy Technologies Division. Their major conclusion was that one should not use duct tape to seal ducts (specialty tapes are available for this purpose). (They defined duct tape as any fabric-based tape with rubber adhesive.) The testing done shows that under challenging but realistic conditions, duct tapes become brittle and may fail.[6] Commonly duct tape carries no safety certifications such as UL or Proposition 65, which means the tape may burn violently, producing toxic smoke; it may cause ingestion and contact toxicity; it can have irregular mechanical strength; and its adhesive may have low life expectancy. Its use in ducts has been prohibited by the state of California[7] and by building codes in most other places in the U.S. However, metalized and aluminum tapes used by professionals are still often called "duck/duct tapes".

Usage in Military

In military circles, there is a variant known as "shooters tape", typically olive-green, known for its resistance to oils and greases.[citation needed] In the US Submarine fleet, it is called "EB Green," as the duct tape used by Electric Boat was green.[8] It is also called "duck tape", "riggers' tape", "hurricane tape", or "100-mph tape"[9][10]—a name that comes from the use of a specific variety of duct tape that was supposed to hold up to 100 miles per hour (160 km/h) winds. The tape is named so because it was used during the Vietnam War to repair helicopter rotor blades, thus earning the name 100-MPH tape.[11]

Alternative uses

Christmas light-impregnated duct tape space suit costumes used by Chicago based rock band Ophur.
Model ship made with unusual materials: rolled-up tubes of paper, Express Mail labels, and duct tape.
During the week prior to the traditional USC-UCLA rivalry American football game, the Tommy Trojan statue is covered in duct tape to prevent the spray-painting of rival UCLA's colors on the statue.[12][not in citation given]

Duct tape's widespread popularity and multitude of uses has earned it a strong place in popular culture, and has inspired a vast number of creative and imaginative applications.

Duck Products, the manufacturer of Duck brand duct tape, annually sponsors a competition that offers a college scholarship to the person who creates the most stylish prom formal wear made from Duck Tape.

A medical study by Adam Doorn announced on major news networks on October 15, 2002, stated that application of duct tape can be used as an effective treatment for warts.[13] This treatment is often called by the name duck or duct tape occlusion therapy. A more recent study claimed to have cast doubt these findings, pointing out the original researchers didn't actually examine participants to determine if the warts were in fact gone, but instead phoned participants and asked.[14] In the 2006 study of 103 children [Haen et al.], duct tape did not perform significantly better than a placebo. This study compared clear duct tape, applied six nights a week to corn pad placebos, which were applied one night a week. In a study released in 2007, a study among older adults found duct tape helped only 21% of the time and was no better than moleskin, a cotton-tape bandage used to protect the skin. However, researchers used transparent duct tape that unlike the grey duct tape does not contain rubber. "Whether or not the standard type of duct tape is effective is up in the air," said Dr. Rachel Wenner of the University of Minnesota, who started the new study as a medical student. "Theoretically, the rubber adhesive could somehow stimulate the immune system or irritate the skin in a different manner."[15] The Wenner study was published in the March 2007 issue of Archives of Dermatology.

As a quick fix, duct tape can be used as a temporary bandage, until proper medical treatment and bandages can be applied to a wound.[16]

Recently, duct tape has proven the most effective fix to Apple's iPhone 4 dropped call issue, even over Apple's own rubber case.[17]

In popular culture

The Duct Tape Guys (Jim Berg and Tim Nyberg) as of 2005 have written seven books about duct tape. Their bestselling books have sold over 1.5 million copies and feature real and unusual uses of duct tape. In 1994 they coined the phrase "it ain't broke, it just lacks duct tape". Added to that phrase in 1995 with the publication of their WD-40 book was, "Two rules get you through life: If it's stuck and it's not supposed to be, WD-40 it. If it's not stuck and it's supposed to be, duct tape it". Their website features thousands of duct tape uses from people around the world ranging from fashions to auto repair. The combination of WD-40 and duct tape is sometimes referred to as "the redneck repair kit".

The Canadian sitcom The Red Green Show's title character often used duct tape (which he dubbed "the handyman's secret weapon") as both a shortcut to proper fastening as well as for unconventional uses. The series sometimes showcased fan duct tape creations. The series had a feature film based on it entitled Duct Tape Forever and several VHS/DVD compilations of the show's use of the tape have been released. Since 2000, series star Steve Smith (as Red Green) has been the "Ambassador of Scotch Duct Tape" for 3M.[18]

The Discovery Channel series MythBusters has featured duct tape in a number of myths that involve non-traditional uses. Confirmed myths include suspending a car for a period of time, building a functional cannon, building a two-person sailboat, and constructing a bridge that spanned the width of a dry dock. In the episode "Duct Tape Plane", the MythBusters repaired (and eventually replaced) the canopy of a lightweight airplane with duct tape and flew it a few meters above a runway.


The origin of the name of the product, "duck tape" or "duct tape", is the subject of some disagreement.

One view is that it was called "duck tape" by WWII soldiers either because it resembled strips of cotton duck (canvas) or because the waterproof quality of the tape contributed to the name, by analogy to the water-shedding quality of a duck's plumage. Under this view, soldiers returning home from the war found uses for duck tape around the house where ductwork needed sealing. Other proponents of this view point to older references to non-adhesive cotton duck tape used in Venetian blinds, suggesting that the name was carried over to the adhesive product. The Oxford English Dictionary says that perhaps "duct tape" was originally "duck tape". This view is summarized most notably in a New York Times article by etymologist William Safire in March 2003. Safire cites use of the term "cotton duck tape" in a 1945 advertisement for surplus government property.[19] The Brooklyn Daily Eagle uses the term "duck" in 1902 quotation for "100,000 yards of cotton duck tape" being used to protect the cables of the Brooklyn Bridge.[20] Thus a fabric duck tape was available to which an adhesive could have been added.

In any case, whether it is an error or a preservation of the original usage, the term "duck tape" is often used for the product today.[21] Duck Tape is also a brand name for this product in some countries.

Different meaning in Australia and New Zealand

Australian "duct tape".

The term duct tape can lead to confusion between people more familiar with the North American usage of the term and those from regions such as Australia and New Zealand, where a completely different type of tape is often sold as duct tape, as shown right. Australian duct tape is the same in feel and material to electrical tape, but much wider. Cloth backed tape like in America can also be sold under the name duct tape in addition to the non cloth backed variant.

See also


  1. ^ "Genericide: When a Brand Name Becomes Generic". Age of Persuasion. CBC. http://www.cbc.ca/ageofpersuasion/episode/season-5/2011/05/06/season-five-genericide-when-a-brand-name-becomes-generic-1/. Retrieved 14 May 2011. 
  2. ^ Racers Tape Products
  3. ^ Demon Tweeks website
  4. ^ Associated Press article, referring to the use of duct tape on Apollo 13.
  5. ^ "Lunar Dust and Duct Tape". Apod.nasa.gov. http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap040417.html. Retrieved 2009-07-21. 
  6. ^ "Sealing HVAC Ducts: Use Anything But Duct Tape". Lawrence Berkeley National Lab Energy Performance of Buildings Group. 1998-08-17. http://www.lbl.gov/Science-Articles/Archive/duct-tape-HVAC.html. 
  7. ^ "California Energy Commission Title 24 of the Building Energy Efficiency Standards". Energy.ca.gov. http://www.energy.ca.gov/title24/changeout/. Retrieved 2009-07-21. [dead link]
  8. ^ "The EB-Green myth - Topic". community.discovery.com. 2011 [last update]. http://community.discovery.com/eve/forums?a=tpc&s=6941912904&f=9741919888&m=55619699301&r=15719659801#15719659801. Retrieved 30 June 2011. 
  9. ^ Airlift Technologies supplier of tape under this name
  10. ^ The Medical NBC Battlebook USACHPPM Tech Guide 244 (May 2000) p 1.13
  11. ^ Vietnam Stories, Army Times (September 1993)
  12. ^ Rajan Menghani, Pranks of the past, present, The Daily Bruin, December 01, 2005.
  13. ^ "AAFP tips page". Aafp.org. 2003-02-01. http://www.aafp.org/afp/20030201/tips/8.html. Retrieved 2009-07-21. [dead link]
  14. ^ "Efficacy of Duct Tape vs Placebo in the Treatment of Verruca Vulgaris (Warts) in Primary School Children". Archpedi.ama-assn.org. 2006-11-01. doi:10.1001/archpedi.160.11.1121. http://archpedi.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/160/11/1121. Retrieved 2009-07-21. 
  15. ^ "Study: Duct tape wart cure overstated". Usatoday.Com. 2007-03-19. http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2007-03-19-duct-tape_N.htm. Retrieved 2009-07-21. 
  16. ^ "archive of defunct About.com Frugal Living Page on Duct Tape". Web.archive.org. 2006-04-29. Archived from the original on 2006-04-29. http://web.archive.org/web/20060429023929/http://frugalliving.about.com/cs/tips/a/ducttape_2.htm. Retrieved 2009-07-21. 
  17. ^ "iPhone duct tape fix". cnn.com. 2010-07-13. http://www.cnn.com/2010/TECH/mobile/07/13/iphone.4.duct.tape/index.html?hpt=C1. Retrieved 2010-07-13. 
  18. ^ 3M Canada Press Box
  19. ^ "The Way We Live Now: On Language; Why A Duck", New York Times, March 2, 2003. Retrieved April 17, 2008.
  20. ^ "Brooklyn Daily Eagle". http://eagle.brooklynpubliclibrary.org/Default/Scripting/ArchiveView.asp?skin=BEagle&AppName=2&GZ=T&BaseHref=BEG%2F1902%2F11%2F21&PageSize=3&enter=true&Page=15.  21 Nov 1902 "Considering..that 100,000 yards of cotton duck tape must be wrapped around the cable with neatness and exactitude, it may be imagined that this method of cable preservation is quite expensive."
  21. ^ Contractor School Online. "Contractor School Online – Contractor Glossary of Terms". Contractorreferral.com. http://www.contractorreferral.com/glossary/index.php?letter=D&limit_index=570. Retrieved 2009-07-21. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • duct tape — by 1943; see DUCT (Cf. duct) (here in the electrical wiring sense) + TAPE (Cf. tape) …   Etymology dictionary

  • duct tape — duct′ tape [[t]dʌk, dʌkt[/t]] n. bui a strongly adhesive silver gray cloth tape, used in plumbing, household repairs, etc • Etymology: 1965–70 …   From formal English to slang

  • duct tape — n. a very strong adhesive tape with a waterproof backing, used to seal ducts, hoses, etc …   English World dictionary

  • duct tape — duct ,tape noun uncount strong and very sticky cloth that is often used for covering cracks or holes in pipes …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • Duct-Tape — Klebeband ist eine Sammelbezeichnung für ein oder beidseitig mit Haftklebstoffen beschichtete, streifenförmige Trägermaterialien, z. B. aus Kunststofffolien bzw. schäumen, Papier, Metallfolien oder Textilgewebe. In der industriellen Fertigung… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Duct Tape — Klebeband ist eine Sammelbezeichnung für ein oder beidseitig mit Haftklebstoffen beschichtete, streifenförmige Trägermaterialien, z. B. aus Kunststofffolien bzw. schäumen, Papier, Metallfolien oder Textilgewebe. In der industriellen Fertigung… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Duct tape — Klebeband ist eine Sammelbezeichnung für ein oder beidseitig mit Haftklebstoffen beschichtete, streifenförmige Trägermaterialien, z. B. aus Kunststofffolien bzw. schäumen, Papier, Metallfolien oder Textilgewebe. In der industriellen Fertigung… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • duct tape — noun a wide silvery adhesive tape intended to seal joints in sheet metal duct work but having many other uses duct tape holds the world together • Hypernyms: ↑adhesive tape * * * noun : a wide cloth adhesive tape originally designed for sealing… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Duct tape — Le Duct Tape est un type de ruban adhésif. Il est imperméable, souple, inextensible et possède un fort pouvoir adhésif. Il résiste à l humidité et est déchirable à la main. Généralement, on le trouve en argent et en noir mais d autres couleurs… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • duct tape — 1. noun A generally gray waterproof tape used for many purposes, and possessing nearly mythic status in American culture. It is no longer used for constructing duct work, as building codes require more advanced products. Son, it’s time you… …   Wiktionary

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